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Over the last 12 months, the toilets in my condo have becomes progressively harder and harder to flush. Once the flapper valve finally releases, they flush just fine, but it's getting them to release that's the problem. One toilet — the master bathroom — in particular is quite difficult and the bar inside the tank that's attached to the chain of the flapper valve finally snapped.

I opened up the tank to replace the flush handle and found that I don't have any of those things. No chain, no flapper valve. Instead I have this thing that I've never seen before (picture taken with new handle installed).

So my question is this: Where is that vacuum coming from, and how do I get rid of it?

toilet assembly

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There's no vacuum, the passage below is open to atmosphere via the rim wash holes. Rather the mechanism gets more difficult to operate as it ages. The upwards force applied well off center makes binding almost inevitable at some point. –  bcworkz Oct 13 '13 at 23:18
    
Time to replace it. The ersatz nylon has become rough and possibly mineralized, causing it to not slide properly. It's a design <strike>feature</strike> flaw these suffer from. –  Fiasco Labs Oct 13 '13 at 23:46
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