Kohler K4520, 1984 Vintage, Won't Flush

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by daavewaard, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. daavewaard

    daavewaard Member

    Messages:
    45
    Location:
    California
    At the risk of initiating the wrath of the EPA, I am putting this in writing. I do hope they are not monitoring this site for people like me. I have this wonderful old 3.5 toilet and it's perfectly fine...except. In the last several years we have noted more and more cases where the flush water would spin and spin but not actually flush and clear the bowl. Yesterday I "restored" the beauty. NOTE: Most of you will understand that it's a "beauty" because it's a special order color...hence the desire on my wife's part to keep it right where it is...as a new white toilet would never do...something about matching colors...which I obviously know nothing about! But...if she wants it that way...so do I! Frankly...I can see no reason not to restore the toilet.

    Anyway... everything that can be replaced was replaced. Because of our previous experience I set the water level just as high as I could...and then gave it a try. Exactly the same spin and spin but no flush. Instead of having a spin that accelerates, this one loses momentum fairly quickly. Over the years I have cleaned the tiny holes under the rim...so I know they are open. Also...when we get frustrated...like I am right now...we grab a bucket and pour additional water in and whoosh, everything is washed away! So that tells me my waste line is clear.

    This spin and spin problem is completely random, because as soon as my wife mentions it and I go flush the toilet, that will be the time it works fine.

    Any experiences or fresh ideas you could share to help me would be appreciated. I really do want to keep my lovely wife happy. Mostly because I don't want to pay the price of a new custom color version. Thanks!
  2. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,853
    Location:
    New York, NY
    You're not violating any laws by refurbishing a 3.5 gpf toilet -- unless there's some peculiar law in California. Huh, maybe I shouldn't speak so fast. :)

    There are two things that come to mind, especially if you have success by adding a bucket of water. I assume that you slop the water in there, which produces the siphon that the toilet is looking for. I'm guessing it doesn't work anywhere near as well if you pour it in super-slowly.

    First, is the siphon jet hole (not just the rim holes) clear? That's the smaller hole at the bottom of the bowl, usually closer to you. If that, or the pathway to it in the labyrinth of molded china, is clogged, you won't get a siphon that clears the bowl. Accumulation of mineral scale or the like is one thing that can block that jet. On the rare occasion, improper plunging technique can push toilet paper or other schmutz back into that hole. That would be the first place I would look. Use a thin long brush or a gloved finger to reach in there and make sure there is no obstruction or accumulation of junk. And just monitor what happens when you flush. Does it look like there's a bunch of water rushing out of that hole to siphon the water out of the bowl?

    Second, you may not be starting the flush with enough water, although I am guessing you would know if your water spot had decreased in size. Just double-check and make sure that you have the refill hose from your fill valve pointing into the overflow riser, and daylighted above it on a clip.

    Let us know how it goes.

    PS If what you are really saying is that you don't want to give up the 3.5 because you're afraid of the low-flows, go price a Toto Drake (original version CST744S) at the local plumbing supply (or CST744E if you want to take advantage of the watersense rebates that might be available in your area for installing a 1.28 gallon per flush version). Should be available in the neighborhood of $200-ish for white, about 25-30% more for a custom color, except black which is a good deal more. That's a well-made, dependable, workhorse toilet that flushes like a dream. We have two, and love them. You can see the reviews above if you click on the green box above. (Before you actually think about replacing your toilet, check and make sure that your rough-in is 12". That's the distance from the finished wall to the center of the closet flange, which can be determined usually by measuring from the finished wall to the center of the bolts holding down the toilet.) If it's not, no worries but you will need more guidance about what toilet will fit in the space.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013
  3. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    It seems color is his main issue, and that is understandable. Hopefully there is a clogged line, or an internal clog in the toilet trap, which a plumber can probably deal with. Legally, his only restriction is he can't sell the house with that toilet in it.
  4. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,853
    Location:
    New York, NY
    That's interesting, Jimbo. Where else besides San Diego proper do you have that "upgrade upon transfer" requirement? (Looks like it's a creature of the San Diego municipal code.)

    One thing I noticed is that the poster is convinced his trapway and drain line are clear...hence the mystery.
  5. daavewaard

    daavewaard Member

    Messages:
    45
    Location:
    California
    The "siphon jet"...where are you little fella?

    Thank you very much for such a helpful and quick response. I had no idea you were waiting up late for my question. Ha! Ha! You suggested this: "...is the siphon jet hole (not just the rim holes) clear? That's the smaller hole at the bottom of the bowl, usually closer to you..." This is something I'm not familiar with, although it does make sense. Searching for it...would it be at or under the normal bowl water level? I assume it is not up high under the bowl rim, is that correct?

    In your two replies, you have understood well all my issues...I could definitely have a mineral scale issue...that's why I check the smaller holes quite regularly. As for " schmutz "...I'll keep my eye open to that possibility too!

    So the hunt is on for the "siphon jet"...high. low...where are you little fella?

    Thanks again...!
  6. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,853
    Location:
    New York, NY
    My pleasure! Thanks for the kind words.

    I tried to find a decent photo of the siphon jet, but all I could find quickly was this sorta-dumb video where a guy plugged the siphon jet with toilet paper as a test. The flush does work, but you can see it swirls for a long time before going down.

    At 15-19 seconds into the video, the videographer has a shot of the bottom of the bowl. The siphon jet is the hole closest to the front of the toilet that the guy has clogged with toilet paper. It is a hole about the size of a quarter, and faces towards the place at the bottom of the bowl where the waste will be pushed out.

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2014
  7. daavewaard

    daavewaard Member

    Messages:
    45
    Location:
    California
    Whoosh!!

    You should be the winner, or at minimum a high ranking contestant, in the "Terry Love Common Sense Award for Smartness and Cleverness"! I've watched and seen that siphon jet action before but didn't connect the dots as to how that would be the problem. I do have a scale buildup there and after working on it just a few minutes...I have successfully cleared my bowl three times in a row. More work there and ongoing maintenance may be the long-term answer I've been looking for. Small victories are still victories!

    Of course the real test will be when my wife comes home. I'll tell her you are tall and handsome but too far away for a kiss on the cheek. Very Much Appreciated!
  8. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    California state law.....has been for 20 years. And the spec now is not 1.6, but 1.28 gpf.
  9. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,853
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Thanks for the explanation, Jimbo. I knew the latter part, but not the former. My quickie research seemed to suggest that the 1.28gpf requirement was statewide but that the "replace before transfer" requirements vary from county to county (and water district to water district). Some, for example, seem to let the buyer assume the responsibility for making the upgrade within a reasonable time while other counties expressly preclude that. Regardless, I get that that's the rule in most or all of the state.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2013
  10. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,853
    Location:
    New York, NY
    DaaveWaard -- nicest compliment ever!! Glad we could help solve your problem!
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