Hey! Randy

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Flush: the Happy Sound

Posted by heyrandy on May 22, 2009

The toilet broke in the main bathroom.  In America this is not a good.  We do have a spare (this is America, after all) in the power room, so total disaster was averted.  But getting the toilet fixed is not so simple.

I traced the problem to the flushing valve.  The valve design is a somewhat complex affair.  The manufacturer, American Standard, calls the valve the flushing tower.  Indeed, there is a poppet that is a cylinder.  When the lever is pulled the poppet is lifted off the seat, and the valve opens followed by the cylinder being lifted off its seat.  This allows all the water in the tank to quickly go into the bowl.  This is necessary because of the Federal regulations requiring all new toilets to use multiple attempts at flushing. This is to save water.  American Standard must not of gotten the notice since the toilet usually works the first time.   The problem is the internal poppet is connected to the cylinder  via a pair of claw-like clips.  The plastic where the clip are mounted is thin, and a clip broke off.

I put in the toilet about two years ago.  It replaced the one I bought to replace one of the two the previous home owner installed.  The first new toilet was an improvement, but it proved to clog up too often.  So off to the store to again buy a new toilet.  I bought the final one based upon the size of the trap way.  The trap way is the curved path the effluent takes as it travels toward the sewer pipe.  You can see that it is a real convoluted path if you look at the side of most toilets.  I have a lot of experience in industrial hydraulics, but I have no idea why the trap way is so tortuous.

I installed the new new toilet and put the old new toilet in the basement.  I was going  to use it to replace the power room toilet which was the same model as the old old toilet that was in the bathroom.

To find the repair part I went back to the local big box home improvement store where I think I remember buying the new new toilet.  They did not have the part because it was the wrong store.

I then went to the other store.  It was the right place, but they did not have the replacement part.  They did suggest two local giant size plumbing distributors.  I knew where one was.  It was not an American Standard dealer.

This is an example of what one of my former coworkers called “the fifty-fifty-ninety-nine-one rule”.  Whenever there is a choice between two options, ninety-nine times out of one hundred you will pick the wrong one.  While this is not technically correct, it does sound a lot better than the much more accurate 98.25 to one and three fourth rule.

Although it was not an American Standard dealer, the first giant local plumbing distributor did suggest I visit the American Standard web site.  I did.

The site was of no help on ordering the part, but it did give me the address of the other local large distributor.  It turns out that the second distributor is right across the street from the first local large distributor.  The second distributor is located in the rear of a really large building and is not readily visible from the street.

I went to the second distributor.  The man behind the counter showed me a poster with all the American Standard flushing valves and asked if I had one of these.  I said “No, I have this one” showing him the picture of the valve in the literature that came with the toilet.  He replied, “Oh, you have one of those.”  This was not a good sign.

It seems that American Standard has been having a lot of trouble with “those”.  The man said the they were out of those, but if I called American Standard they would send me one free.  He gave me their number.

It was Saturday; American Standard was closed.

On Monday I called and chose the right selection.  It directed me to the web site.

I called again.  This time I chose the ‘if you are a distributor” selection.  I got a real person.  She took my information and said the new part would arrive in 7-10 days.

After 14 days I called again.

Again using the “if you are a distributor selection”, I got another real person who told me that they were out of stock.  It would be another 7-10 days.

After 14 days I called again.  Again using the “if you…” selection, I got another real person who told me that they would send me one as soon as the shipment they received had cleared their inspection process.

A few days later a package arrived.  It was from American Standard.  Rejoice!  It was only part of what I needed.  The first real person said that she would send me the tank to bowl seal kit.  That is what arrived, not the flushing valve.

While all this is going on, the original old toilet in the power room started doing what it does best: not working.  It was constantly clogging.  Time to change it.  I went down to the nearest big box do it yourself store and bought the bolt kit and a wax seal ring.

I had brought from work a tool to cut off the bolts holding the toilet to the drain flange.  I took apart to old toilet and carried it to the garage to await garbage day.  I had mounted the old new toilet and then encountered my first problem:  the old water supply line was too short–by a quarter of an inch.

Back to the local big box.

After a little over a month from the time the main toilet failed a box arrived from American Standard.  Yes, it was the part in question.  Apparently it was no longer out of stock and had passed inspection.  The new part did not look like the old part, but it fit.

The installation of the new valve was not very difficult.  The valve was held in place to the tank with a huge plastic nut.  The only tool I had to turn the nut was a pair of 16 inch pliers.  They were left over from my days as an auto mechanic.  I used them to remove oil filters.  The pliers never failed.  They still haven’t.

It has been said that the sweetest sound heard by parents of young children is the sound of a toilet flushing.  That is certainly the happy sound in my house.

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