Archive for August 19, 2020

Isolation breeds self-sufficiency (sometimes)

August 19, 2020 1 comment

Remember how last week I was worried about having to let a repairperson into my apartment to fix my phone, only to be relieved when it turned out they could fix it from the building’s equipment room? Well, my relief was short-lived, because another breakdown came to my attention soon thereafter.

For quite a while now, I’ve heard an almost constant sound of water in the pipes in my apartment bathroom, and I assumed it was from somewhere else in the building, until I noticed some water leakage on the floor around the toilet. I checked the tank and saw that there was a small but constant sputter of water out of the top of the fill valve assembly. I was able to adjust the lid of the tank so the water squirting upward didn’t drip out the back, which seemed to be the cause of the water on the floor, but that didn’t solve the problem that my toilet was wasting water through this constant leak, and possibly had been for weeks, even months before I caught on.

In saner times, I would’ve gone to the office and alerted them to the problem so the maintenance guy could come fix it, but the staff of my building seems uniformly unwilling to wear masks, so I didn’t want to let any of them in if I could help it. At first I figured I could just live with the slight leak. But finally I had the thought that maybe I could do something about it myself. I found an instructional video online which showed me that the problem was probably a leaky washer in the cap of the fill valve, and that a replacement could be obtained cheaply and installed quite simply. My assembly matched the one in the video, so I turned off the water and tried detaching the cap to check the washer. I hoped maybe I could just push it more firmly into place or something and make a temporary fix, but when I put it back together, my fiddling apparently made it worse. Now there was more water slowly but uncontrollably leaking into the tank and spilling into the overflow pipe.

So I found a replacement cap and washer assembly on Amazon and ordered it, and I just hoped I’d diagnosed the problem correctly and it wasn’t a leak somewhere else in the fill valve unit, or that I hadn’t broken something else in my fiddling. In the meantime, I realized I could just leave the water supply valve turned off except when needed. That kept the problem in abeyance, and I just had to hope the replacement cap wouldn’t suffer the same delivery delays or cancellations I had with an order last month. Luckily, it didn’t. I ordered it on Saturday night and the part came an hour ago, just under four days later. Apparently it was delivered by an Amazon driver rather than the US mail; there was real-time tracking info on their site as she approached, and she called me on arrival to confirm delivery. (Her phone had a Seattle caller ID; either that was a really long drive, or it was registered as an Amazon number or something like that.)

So I picked up the part from the porch just after she left, read the instructions on the back, rewatched the instructional video, and went about the swap. I hit two snags. One was that the bit that clips the lever onto the rod connected to the float was clipped on pretty tightly, and I was afraid to get too forceful wresting them apart for fear of snapping the rod. I finally managed to pry the prongs of the clip far enough apart to slip them off the rod. Okay, so then I put it down next to the new one — and I promptly lost track of which one was the new one! Not to worry, though — back on Saturday, I’d taken a photo of the cap with my phone so I could check it against the Amazon items and make sure I got the right one. I made sure the photo was close enough to include the serial number (since I wasn’t sure if it was a more generic part number I’d need to know, though luckily it wasn’t), so I was able to tell the two valves apart by their numbers.

With that settled, I snapped the new cap into place and, with anxious anticipation, turned on the water. The tank refilled… the float rose… and the water stopped! The repair worked! Such blessed silence, at long last!

It was such a simple thing to fix, but it brought me such an enormous sense of relief and satisfaction, since I’ve been so worried about it not working. It’s a relief that my repair attempt went so smoothly and easily, that it didn’t require further effort or have any complications. And it’s satisfying to know I can handle something like this on my own (well, with a little help from people on YouTube). Sure, I had to spend money for the part and shipping, whereas the maintenance guy would’ve done it for free, but it’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make these days. (I figure the 13-odd bucks it cost is too low for a renter’s insurance claim.)

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