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How to Fix a Toilet Handle: 4 Different Scenarios

Broken flush handles are a real pain. Unless you fix it, your toilet is unusable.

If the toilet doesn’t flush, you have a significant problem. You can live without some components in your bathroom, but not the toilet. Knowing how to fix a toilet handle will save you from a world of pain.

We show you how to replace a toilet handle and the reasons why your toilet handle broke in the first place.

Key Takeaways

  • Identify the problem: Check if the handle is loose, has a stripped bolt thread, a faulty handle arm, or a broken/disconnected chain.
  • Fix the issue: Tighten the nut and washer, wrap threads in plumber’s tape, replace the handle, or reconnect/replace the chain as needed.
  • Replace the handle: Gather necessary tools, choose the correct replacement handle, and carefully remove the old handle and install the new one.
  • Test the handle: Ensure the flapper lifts and closes properly, and the toilet flushes correctly after the repair.

How to Fix a Toilet Handle

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to replace a toilet handle, we need to identify which problem you have. The best thing you can do at this stage is to lift the tank lid and see what’s going on inside.

Loose Handle

The dreaded wobbly handle lever is one of the most common problems affecting how your toilet functions. It feels like it will come off in your hands every time you pull it.

The Problem

When you pull the flush lever, the handle moves in your hands. Something inside the tank has obviously worked loose and needs to be fixed.

How to Fix It

Lift the tank’s lid, and just inside, you will see the back of the handle. The most common problem is a loose nut and washer. Grab an adjustable wrench and tighten the nut to secure it.

If the handle sticks in the down position, it could be incorrectly installed. Loosen the nut, reposition the handle and tighten the nut.

Stripped Bolt Thread

Sometimes the cause of a loose handle is down to stripped threads. While it is advisable to replace the handle, you can perform a temporary fix.

The Problem

The symptoms of a loose handle look and feel pretty similar. The handle arm wobbles in the housing, it doesn’t spring back as it should, and your toilet won’t flush.

How to Fix the Problem

Lift the tank’s lid, and tighten the washer and nut. If they spin without gripping, wrap the threads in plumber’s tape and tighten the nut. The tape ensures that the nut and washer have a surface to grip to.

Pro Tip

If you don’t have plumber’s tape, you can use electrician’s tape instead.

Faulty Handle Arm

Maybe the threads are in good condition, and the nut and washer grip like they should? What do you do if the problem is a cracked or broken handle?

The Problem

The handle may have a crack or be entirely broken. When that happens, the toilet won’t flush. If you have a crack, leaving the problem could lead to more expense further down the line.

How to Fix It

Inspect the handle for cracks and stress fractures. Plastic deteriorates over time, leading to issues later on. If the lever handle is snapped or cracked, you will need to replace the entire unit.

Luckily, replacing the lever handle is inexpensive, costing less than $15. It’s better to remove the old handle so that you can match up your new one correctly. It’s also easy to do.

Simply disconnect the chain that connects the handle and flapper and unscrew the plastic nut and washer. The flusher unit should now come free.

Broken or Disconnected Chain

Your toilet tank has many working components. One reason why the handle is too loose could be a broken flapper chain.

The Problem

The problem could be a snapped flush chain that connects the handle to the flapper. The flapper is the component that lifts when you pull the handle to allow water to flow from the flush tank to the toilet bowl.

A broken chain means that you have a flapper that stays down, and the toilet won’t flush. The other issue could be a disconnected chain.

How to Fix It

If the chain is in good condition and simply needs reconnecting to the flapper, grab the end of the chain and hook it back on. Test the handle to see if the flapper lifts and drops after you flush.

The other issue could be an incorrectly sized chain. If it is too slack, it will affect how the toilet flushes. Luckily, you can remove individual links to tighten the slack.

If the chain is broken, you will need to order a new one and install it to the flush arm and flapper. You can buy the chains individually or as a replacement kit with a new flapper.

How to Replace a Toilet Handle

Before we get down to basics, we need to gather the right tools and materials. Planning is the foundation of any successful DIY repair task, and replacing the toilet handle is no different.

What You’ll Need

  • Pliers.
  • Adjustable wrench.
  • Towels.
  • New chain (optional).
  • New flapper (optional).
  • Replacement flush handle.

1. Choose a Replacement Handle

Ensure that you choose a new trip lever before removing the old one. You’ll need to know where your handle is mounted because some are designed for specific mounting locations.

Your handle could be on the left, right, front, or side, and even on the top of the tank. It is better to buy like-for-like and try to stick to the same brand name.

If you’re not sure what handle you have, remove the old one and match the new one.

2. Access the Toilet Tank

Lay a towel around the toilet’s base to catch drips and splashes. Lift the tank’s lid to reveal the inner components. Lay down a second towel to place the lid on safely.

3. Remove the Lift Chain

The lift chain attaches to the lift arm of the handle at one end and the flapper at the other. The chain clips onto the arm and flapper so you can easily remove it. Take a photo on your smartphone to record which hole the chain attaches to.

4. Remove the Old Handle

Using an adjustable wrench, unscrew the nut attached to the threads of the toilet handle. The nut threads in the opposite direction on most toilets, so clockwise loosens.

Take Note

If you twist the nut the wrong way, you could crack the porcelain tank, which is vastly more expensive to replace. Try using some WD-40 to lubricate the nut if it is stiff.

5. Insert the New Handle

With the nut removed, the old toilet handle and lever arm lift free. Insert the new handle into the opening once you remove the nut and washer. Now, attach the nut and washer to the threads poking through the tank.

Don’t over-tighten the nut because it could crack the porcelain.

6. Reattach the Lift Chain

Hook the lift chain onto the flapper and clip the other end to the lift arm. Use your smartphone image to reference which hole the chain was attached to. Test the handle to see if the flapper lifts and closes.

Finally, replace the tank lid.


How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Toilet Handle?

Getting a professional to replace your toilet handle will set you back $50 to $80. It is one of the most straightforward toilet repairs and can be completed in less than half an hour. With this in mind, why not complete the task yourself and save $50 to $60.

Should a Toilet Handle be on the Left or Right?

Most toilets have the flush handle on the left side (as you look at it), although you can buy toilets that have the handle on the opposite side.

Do All Toilet Handles Work in the Same Way?

Not all toilet handles operate the same. Some have lever handles, others have a knob, and some work by push button. If you have a toilet that has no chain, you will likely have a push-button flush located on the top of the toilet tank.

Get a Handle on that Handle

Toilet handle replacement is a simple task. You can complete it with minimal skill or knowledge in less than half an hour. Replacement toilet handles are cheap and readily available online and from hardware stores.

So, the next time your toilet handle breaks, grab your toolbox and get to work.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.