A tub stopper is removed,
cleaned, lubricated and adjusted.
Bruce W. Maki,
Tub Won't Hold Water
This type of bath tub drain stopper is quite common. There was no
brand name stamped on the metal housing but it looked familiar. I
have repaired and adjusted many Kohler drain stoppers in various
hotel buildings I have worked in, but this was the first time I had
repaired this product. The Kohler drain is similar, but in two
parts. It uses a linkage to push on a separate lever that raises and
lowers the drain plug.
The first step was to remove the screws that attach the
control knob to the tub.
Then I pulled the face plate forward. It won't move very
After taking the screws out, It took me a few minutes of
struggling to free the mechanism. I could see the linkage behind the
face plate, but the connecting rod would not move up. I pried the
link upwards with a big screwdriver. As I pried I could hear a
clunking sound from below the tub. It sounded like a metal pipe (the
tub drain line) was flexing and being hit against something hard,
probably the plywood floor.
Eventually the linkage popped free and I was able to pull
the mechanism out. It took a bit of careful flexing to get the
link rods to come out of the hole.
The entire mechanism. The cylindrical device at the bottom
is the plug that fits into a spot in the drain line and blocks
Note that the face plate is part of the tub overflow drain,
which lets water out of the tub should someone leave the faucet
running too long.
The top section of the linkage. It must have gotten bent
from all my prying and pushing.
The stopper had a lot of corrosion and gack
that probably locked it in place.
Since the stopper had been stuck in it's hole, I figured
that there might be some debris holding things up. So I got
out the drain cleaner.
I poured a couple of teaspoons into a paper cup and then
down the overflow hole.
I prefer to use crystal Drano because it is effective and cheap.
After dumping in the crystals, I poured in a cup of water, according
to the instructions.
I used a paper cup because I could fold it to form a sort
of funnel to make sure the Drano got down the hole and not
between the tub and the metal overflow tube, which could cause damage
to anything under the tub, like the floor structure. After letting
the caustic solution work for about five minutes I flushed the
overflow tube with six or seven cups of water.
I cleaned up the dirty surface of the stopper and applied
some petroleum jelly (Vaseline).
I noticed that the length adjustment was not locked in
place. (The nut should have been tight against the U-shaped
metal bracket.) So I tightened it.
I put the mechanism back into the overflow hole...
and re-installed the screws. I had to struggle with the
linkage to get the stopper to slide into it's place.
It turned out that the Vaseline was absolutely necessary. It took
several minutes of pushing and wiggling to get the stopper to go all
the way in.
This is the position of the lever when the stopper is
plugging the drain. When I started this repair, the lever
would not budge.
Once the stopper was seated properly, I moved the lever up
and down repeatedly, about 30 times, to make sure it would
operate freely. A couple of times the mechanism jammed,
which led me to believe that the linkage was too short
and the stopper was catching on the edge of it's hole.
So I removed the mechanism again and made the connecting
rod longer. I loosened the lock-nut with a small wrench and
turned the threaded rod until it was a half inch longer.
Note the slight differences in these two before and after
pictures. Then I tightened the lock nut.
||I lubricated the control knob by putting some
Vaseline on the tip of a small screwdriver and applying it to
the swivel point. I also lubricated the stopper a second time.
An better lubricant for this purpose is silicone grease,
which is a slimy, water-proof goo that looks like silicone caulking
but does not harden. (It is not the same as WD-40, which runs
off in a few days.) I did not have all my plumbing supplies with me,
so I had to use Vaseline.
After putting the mechanism back in place, I filled the tub
to make sure the stopper would hold water.
If the stopper linkage was too short, it won't hold
If the linkage was too long, the control lever won't
move all the way up, or the water may drain slowly because the
plug is partly blocking the drain.
Some Notes: I have adjusted dozens of Kohler tub drains,
but I have never seen one get stuck like this product, because the
actual stopper is right at the tub drain hole, and can be simply
The Kohler link mechanism looks like this one but has a big coil
spring on the end, instead of the cylindrical plug. The spring
pushes on lever that acts like a see-saw and lifts the stopper up.
The Kohler drain stopper can be confusing because if the
stopper is slipped into the drain while the link rod is down,
the stopper lever gets caught in the coil spring, and then nothing
seems to function right.
I would bet that the Kohler design is more prone to clogging
because there are several parts in the stream of water, and they
tend to collect hair and then soap residue, but overall their
product is very good.
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