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Should the bathtub trip lever be up or down to drain? If you have ever seen that little lever in a bathtub, you may wonder what it really is. Those are the trip levers and their positioning – up or down – matters for the function that they are serving.
Whether your bathtub has a strainer or a stopper, that trip lever basically works the same no matter what style of tub that you have. By moving it, you adjust the height of a weight that is connected to the lever, usually through a series of rods.
Here is all you could want to know on the matter, from proper positioning to installation and more.
Should the bathtub trip lever be up or down?
The bath trip lever is attached to weights which controls how the bathtub drains water. When the trip lever is down the weights are lifted which allows for the water to drain. When the trip lever is up, the weights are lowered which stops the water from draining.
Remember that the lever is tied to weights, usually a few rods, that control whether or not the drain is open or closed.
Those weights have to be activated one way or another to work properly. To get the drain to close, keeping the water in the tub, you would need to switch the lever upwards.
On the flip side, lowering the lever has the inverse impact. When the lever is lowered, the weight is lifted and the drain opens up. Keep in mind, however, that there are exterior stoppers that can be placed over your drain.
In that case, even when the drain is open, it won’t drain the water out because the stopper is in its way. No matter how you cut it, the positioning of the lever makes an impact.
If you are trying to keep the water in the tub, you need to make sure that lever is working properly. Otherwise, you may go to flip the drain shut only to find out that it isn’t doing its job.
The way to defeat this is through effective installation. Most of the time, fixes can be made by adjusting the linkage to a more suitable length.
How to Install a Tub Drain Trip Lever
Let’s say that you are replacing your old tub and installing a new one. Or you may be making repairs or changes to the old one.
Whatever the situation may be, you are looking at needing to replace the drain trip lever for a new one. The process of installing a new one is relatively straightforward.
It can also control the ease in which you can open and close your tub’s drain. The good news is that even if it isn’t installed properly, you can go back and make adjustments accordingly.
Start by unscrewing and removing the overflow cover that is already in place. If there isn’t one, don’t worry; not every tub will have an overflow cover.
If you do have one, you can simply get rid of it since the lever will come attached to another cover that is the same size.
You can locate the overflow cover by looking just above the drain and right beneath the spout. Use your screwdriver to unscrew the old one and remove it.
Take a look at the lever mechanism. Depending on your tub, there are a couple of things that you may find. You should find that it has a cylindrical weight that is attached to a linkage that is ultimately attached to your tub’s lever.
You can get a visual representation of how it works here. Lowering or lifting the lever should have a corresponding reaction.
Feed the linkage and the weight into the overflow hole. Let the weight drop on its own. Then, install your lever cover onto the overflow hole.
Do so by inserting the machine screws that came with the assembly into the two holes on the inside of the overflow hole and into the cover plate as well.
You don’t have to tighten the screws fully, just make sure that they are secure enough to hold the plate into place.
Test out the lever, adjusting the length of the linkage as you need to. When the drain doesn’t have a stopper and you still can’t lift that lever all the way up, then the weight is dropping too quickly into the opening of the drain.
Take the cover off and lift that linkage out. One rod has adjustment screws and is threaded. Give them a counterclockwise turn using your pliers to shorten the linkage. Just a turn should do it. Reinstall and give it another test.
Try lowering the lever and filling the tub with a little water. You would do this after shortening the linkage just enough that you can lift the lever up entirely.
Keep an eye on the water; if it drains, go back and lengthen those adjustment screws. Having a better understanding of the adjustment screws will go a long way toward DIY troubleshooting the issue (and others related to it).
Use a procedure that is similar in nature when adjusting the linkage for your drain stopper. When you install the linkage, make sure that you screw on your cover plate and then try lowering the lever.
When working properly, the dropper should fall and the drain will seal. If it doesn’t do this, the most likely reason is because the linkage needs to be shortened even further.
Lift the lever back up all the way to verify that the stopper opens. If it doesn’t, you know that the linkage is again at fault. Make an adjustment until the tub begins to drain out properly.
When you are done making your adjustments, simply tighten the screws that hold the lever cover in place to the overflow hole.
Because of the ease of access and adjustment, you can take a look whenever you think that your lever mechanism is not properly functioning.
It really is a fast and easy adjustment or installation to make. Moreover, it will save some headaches when the time comes to use the lever.
Bathtub Trip Lever Not Working (How To Fix)
Sometimes the drain trip lever will not work properly. You will likely either find yourself in a position where the water doesn’t drain or you can’t keep the drain clogged long enough to fill the tub up with water.
The good news is that you can adjust the linkage in relatively short order. It is simply a matter of adjusting that linkage.
Unfortunately, there is no scientific way of handling it; it is a lot of trial and error. Further, you may have to remove the linkage entirely to get to the root of the problem.
Should your tub have a pop-up stopper, the linkage will connect to the handle through a spring-loaded mechanism. When the stopper does not open, you can typically lengthen the linkage – not shorten it – to fix the problem.
Really, it is a lot of trial and error with a bit of patience mixed in. The good news is that with some adjustable pliers and a screwdriver, you can fix most of these issues in relatively short order.
Bathtub Drain Lever Won’t Stay Down
If the lever will not stay down, there is an issue with the linkage at some point. Either the weight is stuck or the lever is simply detached, you will find that your tub is not draining the way that it is meant to drain.
Most of the time, you can simply tighten the linkage to the lever and go back to normal. That said, there are times when the lever system becomes damaged and needs replacing. Installation is simple (just follow the steps above) and relatively pain free.
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Hello, my name is David Zal and I’m a plumber with more than 20 years of experience based in Englewood (Florida). I like to teach normal people how to make easy fixes in their homes. I believe that a lot can be achieved just with DYI and that’s why I started this blog.