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Trip Lever Tub Drain Won’t Stay Open: What to Do

Taking a nice warm bath can take all your stress away. But a non-functional drainage system can bring back all the stress in an instant. 

Your trip lever tub drain won’t stay open?

The reason for the tub drain trip lever not staying open varies depending on the drainage system. It can be either the horizontal rod being stuck or of the wrong length, or the article rod being too short. Adjusting the length and cleaning the system should resolve the problem.

That’s just the gist of it. The whole process is a bit more complicated. But fret not as we have gathered every detail in this article!

Trip Levers and the Two Types of Drainage System

Trip levers are placed behind the tub’s wall. Generally, they are under the faucet and are used for controlling the drain stopper. A metal plate is typically used to conceal the trip lever. 

There is usually a metal link system connecting the lever to a rod controlling the drain stopper. When the rod behind the faucet is pulled, the drain stopper goes down. 

The trip lever can operate one of two drainage systems. Them being: 

Lift-Bucket Drain

The lift bucket drain system has a vertical rod. This system has the switch seen in the bathtub connected to a vertical rod. The rod is inside the overflow drain.

The overflow pipe is placed in the back of the front wall of the bathtub. Underneath the vertical rod, there is a kind of plunger. The device is typically just a weight. 

The plunger seals the drain at the base of the overflow pipe. The lift bucket system has no pop-up stopper in it. 

Pop-Up Drain

Pop-up drains, on the other hand, have horizontal rocker arms. The trip lever in this case controls the arm. The arm operates a pop-up plug that seals the drain opening. 

The pop-up drain system has a horizontal rocker arm connected to the plunger. The plunger is basically a spring. It pushes down the rocker’s arm to push the stopper into an open position. 

The stopper is dropped down via gravity when the trip lever is moved to the closed position. Thus the drain is sealed.

What Might Keep the Trip Lever Open?

The trip lever could be open or it could stick because of multiple reasons. If yours is a lift-bucket system, the plunger could be the criminal. 

Sometimes in a lift bucket system, the plunger in the overflow tube gets caught. This stops the plunger from moving freely. 

Another possible cause for the lift bucket system might be the vertical rod being ill-adjusted. The plunger may be unable to drop down properly if the rod is not in position. Thus the drain won’t be sealed properly and the drain stopper won’t stay up. 

Pop-up stoppers may malfunction due to the horizontal rod being short or bent because of use. In this case, the pop-up stopper is unable to push open the drain. The trip lever fails to stay open and you can t open the bathtub drain.

Fixing a Lift-Bucket Drain Stopper

We already mentioned how the lift bucket to the drain stopper works and how it may malfunction. Let’s see how we can fix it. 

What You Will Need For the Repair

Gather all the tools and materials you will need before you get to work. This will help the whole process go at a smooth pace.

The tools you will need are: 

  • Screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Small scrub brush

You may also need a new plunger and linkage if they are to be replaced. 

Instructions 

With the necessary tools and materials gathered, you can finally get to work. This is a pretty simple repair process. Repairing the trip lever should not take more than 30 to 40 minutes. 

Step 1: Removing the Cover Plate & Stopper

The overflow cover plate holds on to the overflow tube using screws. Begin it by removing those screws. 

Then proceed to carefully detach the cover plate. Afterward, remove the connecting rod and plunger from the overflow opening. 

Step 2: Cleaning the Plunger

After removing the plunger you have to clean it. Remove any debris and clean corrosion. They might prevent the plunger from functioning properly. 

Clean the rust from the cover screws, if there is any. If the plunger is in too bad of a condition, it will need to be replaced. 

Step 3: Adjusting the Linkage

You might need to alter the length of the linkage. Adjusting it will lengthen the connection rod. 

Lengthening the rod will have the plunger fall deeper into the overflow tube. This will ensure that the drain seal stays open. 

Getting the length just right may require a little bit of tinkering. 

Step 4: Reassembling the Stopper

The final step is to insert the stopper and drainage linkage inside the overflow opening. Put them back into their places. Then reconnect the cover plate and the overflow tube. 

Now run multiple trials to check if the trip lever is working properly. 

Fixing a Pop-Up Drain Stopper

This section will cover the to dos for pop-up drain stopper owners. . 

What You Will Need For the Repair

Again, gather all the tools and materials you will need before you get to work. 

The tools you will need are the same. They are: 

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Small scrub brush

If the pop-up drain stopper needs to be replaced, you will have to get a new one. But you won’t know if a replacement is needed until you open the system. 

Instructions 

This process is quite similar to the lift-bucket drain stopper repair process. The time required is also around 30 to 40 minutes.  

Step 1: Removing the Cover Plate & Stopper

The overflow cover plate holds on to the overflow tube using screws. Begin it by removing those screws. 

Then proceed to carefully detach the cover plate. Afterward, remove the connecting rod and spring from the overflow opening. 

In some models, the rocker’s arm is fitted between the coils on the spring. In such cases, the drain stopper and rocker arm will have to be extracted differently. Bring them out through the drain opening to release them from the spring.

Step 2: Cleaning the Spring

After removing the spring you have to thoroughly clean it. Remove any dirt or debris you may find in the spring. 

As we are working on a bathtub, often hair and soap gradually build up. The build up could cause problems with the stopper.

Step 3: Adjusting the Linkage

It might be necessary to adjust the length of the connection rod. You will have to lengthen it. 

Lengthening the connection rod will result in increased downforce of the spring. The spring will push harder against the rocker’s arm when you use the trip lever. This will ensure the drain seal stays open.

Step 4: Reassembling the Stopper

The final step is to insert the stopper and drainage linkage inside the overflow opening. Put them back into their places. Then reconnect the cover plate and the overflow tube. 

Now run multiple trials to check if the trip lever is working properly. 

How to Replace Trip Lever Bathtub Drain?

Sometimes the issue may need you to replace the whole trip lever system. The trip lever usually has a pretty complex system, so replacing it will not be easy. But it can be done.

Necessary Tools

To make the job go smoothly, have all the listed tools ready at hand. The tools you will need are:

  • Plumber’s putty
  • Chisel
  • Rubber gasket
  • Hammer
  • Gloves and goggles 
  • New stopper and stopper body
  • Hacksaw 
  • Screwdriver 

These tools should be enough. 

Instruction 

It is time we get to how to install the trip lever tub drain. Follow the instructions meticulously as we already mentioned the process is a bit tricky. 

Step 1: Removing the Cover Plate and Linkage

The cover plate is tightened with screws. Remove the screws to be able to detach the cover. You will be reattaching the cover later, so keep it somewhere safe

The linkage is inside and you will see it after removing the cover. Pull the linkage out and put it aside safely. 

Step 2: Removing the Old Stopper and Stopper Body

It is time to proceed to remove the stopper and the stopper body. The metal ring you see surrounding the bathtub’s drain is the stopper body. 

Removing the trip lever drain stopper is pretty easy. The stopper can be either pulled or twisted out of the opening. Afterward, put on the gloves and goggles. Then remove the stopper’s body. 

Try using the hacksaw to cut out a notch in the ring. After that, dislodge the ring using the hammer and chisel. 

We highly recommend wearing gloves and goggles. They will protect you from any shard that might pop out and hit you. 

Step 3: Installing the New Stopper and Stopper Body

Once the older system has been completely removed, you have to install the new stopper drain. We recommend replacing the rubber gasket as well. 

There is a plumber’s putty on the stopper body or on the flange’s bottom. It comes in contact with the tub. Use the plumber’s putty.

Afterward, screw down the stopper with the drain. Make sure it is fitted tightly with the drain hole. 

Step 4: Replacing the Linkage and Cover Plate

In the final step, reassemble the whole system. Continue replacing the remaining linkage and the mechanism. Then finally screw the cover plate back down. 

Run and drain the water a few times to see if the lever trip is working perfectly now. If you still see problems, contact a professional. 

FAQs

How much does it cost to replace a bathtub drain stopper?

The cost of replacing a bathtub drain stopper varies. It depends on whether you do it yourself or you hire a professional. The materials will cost you around $100. While the labor cost is around $250. So hiring a professional will cost you around $350

Can a damaged trip lever be repaired? 

It is better to replace than to repair damaged trip levers. Repairing the trip lever usually will not solve the problem. Going through the hassle of repairing it yields no results. Replacing the whole trip lever is much less of a hassle. 

Can I use a plunger on a bathtub drain?

You can use a plunger to unclog your bathtub drain. A standard cup-style plunger can be used. But you have to ensure that the overflow drain has been sealed first. And the plunger will only work if the problem is due to the drain clogging. 

Conclusion

And with that, we know why the bathtub’s trip lever tub drain won’t stay open and what you can do about it. 

The solution depends on what kind of drainage system your trip lever is operating. Sometimes you might need to replace the whole trip lever. Follow our instructions properly and you shall not face any problems. 

Good luck!