15 May Do I need original Kohler parts for my Kohler toilet?
In our previous post on toilets, we discussed how to replace the Mansfield valve seal. In this article we discuss Kohler toilets. Future articles will further discuss the inner workings of the toilet and basic repairs.
Kohler brand toilets belong in the upper echelon [read: expensive] of toilets, along with Toto, Oxo, and some models of American Standard. Yes, these toilets are more expensive to purchase, but inevitably they will require maintenance nonetheless. Leaky water into the bowl, bad flush? It may be time to replace the fill valve or flapper.
Basic toilet maintenance and repair is one of the skills that can save you a lot of money. It’s not to be macho or cheap either—I’ve seen plumbers charge $50 to $160 an hour with a flat rate house call charge on top of that! I can’t think of too many low injury risk activities a doctor can do in her free time to earn/save $100 per hour post-tax.
Kohler toilets come with Kohler parts. Each model is referenced by a four-digit serial number either etched in the porcelain or ink stamped inside the tank:
The number usually starts with either a ‘3’ or a ‘4’. You can then search on the Kohler website your model number and find the list of parts that fits your toilet. Many Kohler toilet tank lids already have a label and diagram with the basic replacement parts.
In comparison, a Fluidmaster 400 flapper and fill valve kit is only $10.
Will another brand of parts fit my Kohler toilet?
Fortunately, yes. A commonly known aspect in plumbing is that Fluidmaster actually makes the parts for Kohler toilets. Sometimes they are rebranded and built to the specs for Kohler’s requests, but the innards are the same!
My Kohler toilet uses the Fluidmaster 400A fill valve despite having a Kohler cap:
Just realize that the argument for using an alternative brand will likely save you perhaps $15-30 in a single repair—you won’t be retiring early with an equipment swap, but I can think of two reasons to do this:
- Good luck finding a Kohler fill valve at your neighborhood chain hardware store!
- The more important reason is to learn how to deal with minor handiwork yourself. There are minimal tools required to repair your toilet, there is low risk of you hurting yourself in the process, and you can probably save $200 of post-tax income by doing this yourself. Sure, you might take 3 hours to do the repair your first time, but at least you learned. I replaced my fill valve in less than 10 minutes. The replacement of my Mansfield valve seal took 5 minutes.
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