Repairing a Kohler “Canister-Style” Toilet

22 Jan

When most toilets start refilling periodically it normally means the flapper ball needs replaced. Just kidding, it needs TO BE replaced, what am I, from Pittsburgh? This is also the solution to a toilet where you need to hold the handle down to make it flush. A lot of people think the solution is to put a note over the toilet that says “hold handle down to flush”.
So when our toilet starting refilling sporadically I figured it was time to change out the old flapper. But when I opened it up, imagine my surprise when I saw this…

Instead of this…


As it turns out our toilet is an unusual configuration known as a canister flush valve toilet. It actually took us a while to even figure out what we had, especially because we really didn’t know what to search for. But, finally we got sick of wasting water and hearing the toilet kicking on throughout the night, and buckled down and figured it out. We figured out that there is a seal that was probably degraded and replacing it would eliminate the problem.

Once you find the seal, which we luckily found at our local Ace Hardware, it’s actually a pretty quick deal to replace.


All you need to do is turn off the water, flush to drain the tank, and then open the tank cover. Once you find the canister unit, you just give the top of the center of the unit a quarter turn counter-clockwise and lift. This YouTube video gives a very good description. The trick, I found, was that ours was a little tight and I was afraid I would break the plastic if I tried to twist too hard, so I was as gentle as possible and grabbed it low to avoid cracking it.

Then you simply remove the old gasket,


And replace it with the new gasket…


Then you just reassemble in the opposite order. I’m paraphrasing the process a bit because the video already does a great job of showing it.

The sort of exciting thing that we discovered in our research was that we were sitting on (literally, get it?) a dual-flush toilet and didn’t even realize it. It turns out that if you just briefly push the handle to flush the toilet, it only lets out about half the water in the tank, which saves water when you only had to tinkle a bit. BUT, if you blow that sucker out and use half a roll of toilet paper, you simply hold the handle down for a second or two and it uses the full tank to really send those poops on the old log flume to sewageville! I might have to write a little note above the toilet so people know about this feature… Oh, crap.


3 Responses to “Repairing a Kohler “Canister-Style” Toilet”

  1. Melinda January 23, 2014 at 10:28 AM #

    Oh boy, I’m ready to take you up on this “wild ride” next time I come visit!!

    • Jerry January 23, 2014 at 10:30 AM #

      I suggest the FastPass… Especially if you’ve had a big lunch.

  2. Not Myname February 26, 2017 at 11:51 AM #

    Thanks, that makes sense. I have a new Kohler toilet and just replaced the flush handle to match the faucet color. The chain was a bit tight and was causing the valve to leak. I added a jump ring to the leaver and got a little slack in the chain.

    While doing this, I noticed the tank was only emptying half way. Thanks for explaining the dual flush feature.

    Who knew you shouldn’t toss out the documentation on a toilet? Not me!

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