Owning a home is the American dream, but there is one aspect for which I was not prepared: Toilets. Over the last decade, at four homes, I have repaired countless flush valves and spent hours “working the plunger”. I had resigned myself to this plumbers work until an episode of NPR Science Friday introduced me to a clog-resistant commode. I have now purchased and installed two American Standard Champion 4 toilets, and am pleased to say they are indeed a vast improvement.
Note that this review differs from my typical electronic gadget and enterprise IT focus. Although certainly possessed with high technology, modern sanitary plumbing is a topic that not all readers are comfortable with. I have been promising this post all year, and feel it is finally time to get it done. As with my robotic cat box review, I shall endeavor to use as many euphemisms and synonyms as my thesaurus will allow!
The Problem with The Potty
Sanitary plumbing is perhaps the most important invention of the modern world, and has likely saved more lives than penicillin. But many cultural taboos regarding “what goes on in the loo” prevent us truly from celebrating this achievement. The fixtures in the water closet have become familiar and mundane, at least here in the West, and are often overlooked until they are no longer functional.
“Potty time” is a private moment, and no one wants to be known as “the clogger”. It comes as no surprise, then, that the cause of plumbing issues usually remains a mystery. Most blockages require only a few pumps on the plunger, but others can be puzzlingly challenging. Despite my frustration, my own hangups always stop me from asking the obvious question, “what did you do in there?”
So it often falls to me (the father, husband, and homeowner) routinely to unclog and clean up whatever mishaps occur behind closed doors. Interestingly, unlike so many other hands-on maintenance areas, fathers and sons do not regularly “passed the plunger” and transmit repair guidance between generations: It took me many years to realize that plungers work on suction not compression!
Toilets stink past the clogs, however. As is often the case with commodity components not selected by the end user, a race to the bottom has drastically affected the quality of toilet parts. Cheap flaps, flimsy arms and plastic chains, and shaky, sticky floats are all too common. Every home I have purchased still contained the original “builder quality” porcelain, and I was forced to replace the guts of almost every privy!
Behold the Champion!
Although most crappers are crap, plumbing companies like American Standard are hard at work innovating to eliminate the excrement. The current champion is fittingly called the Champion 4, and I have purchased, installed, and tested two examples of the type.
The Champion is engineered to reduce the most common causes of clogs, and it has proved effective and “hands-off” in my real-world testing (which is a good thing). There is nothing particularly radical about it; American Standard simply optimized the fluid dynamics. This increased water flow is remarkable: The Champion flushes just about anything, as shown in this irresistibly campy video:
Seriously. Sliders and water wigglers and chicken nuggets? It must be weirdly fun to be a potty engineer!
I snapped a few photos of the key optimizations as I installed my second Champion.
The upshot of these optimizations is easy flow, and this means cleanliness. This thing really runs smooth!
No Tools Installation?
It must be hard to sell large, expensive plumbing components at retail. After all, nearly every home comes equipped with cheap bulk fixtures and most homeowners aren’t aware of the benefits of an upgrade. Even those who want something better might be put off by the prospect of monkeying with this particular piece of equipment.
American Standard does what they can to market and promote the Champion to consumers. There are an array of videos on YouTube, and these glowing white pieces are given prime placement at retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s. My little ones just love playing with the potties when we pass through the plumbing section of the store!
One consumer-friendly element of the Champion is the bold claim on the carton: No Tools Installation! I suppose this is meant to reassure buyers that they can handle the task, but it’s pure marketing. After all, anyone likely to tackle some heavy plumbing work probably already has a reasonable tool assortment, and anyone without tools really shouldn’t attempt this task!
Let’s be clear: It does require tools (and parts!) successfully to install a Champion toilet. Sure, certain tools aren’t needed as some parts are optimized. But this claim is simply untrue.
I used the following tools and parts when swapping out an old builder-grade bowl for this new fancy-pants perch:
- A large, long flat screwdriver is a must to secure the bolts holding the tank to the base while loosening or tightening the nuts. It’s also required to install the seat.
- A ratcheting socket set is handy to remove the tank and floor bolts.
- A small “Channellock”-type wrench is very helpful for the water lines.
- Speaking of water lines, the Champion is so tall I had to replace the existing line with a 20″ replacement.
- A putty knife is handy when cleaning up the old wax ring (easily the nastiest aspect of this install!)
Note that this is one mighty chunk of porcelain. If you’re doing the install, make sure you’ve got sufficient upper body strength (and a healthy back) to heft some serious weight. And wear something you don’t mind getting “soiled” when pulling out the retired recliner…
Experiencing the Champion
In regular use, the Champion excels without calling much attention to itself. There is no bidet, music player, or power seat. It just sits in its corner and effectively does what it does.
Installing a Champion eliminates many crappy situations:
- No more plunger – seriously! My crummy crappers required too-frequent assistance. The Champion requires none at all, and I’m able to remove “the suction cup” from public areas of the home.
- Houseguests seem to have special trouble in unfamiliar surroundings, and this leads to horror all around. No clogs means no overflow, which saves face as well as hard wood floors!
- Turbo-hydro-self-cleaning? I can get behind that!
But not everything is glorious when you invite a Champion into your home:
- This is one tall stool, so the younger folks might have issues climbing aboard. This is ironic, since they’re the prime villains in “The Battle of What Did You Do In There?” Happily, my little ones are big enough to sit in comfort.
- That big valve requires some serious pull to activate, and the little lever doesn’t use physics to its advantage. It took a while for the little folks to get the hang of hammering the handle down hard enough. There’s no way a tiny tot could manage it.
- The Champion ships with a thin, hard seat with a flimsy lid. Strangely, one (from Home Depot) came with a slick “soft-close” mechanism while the other (from Lowe’s) bangs down with abandon, even when you’d like it to remain aloft. Many folks will just replace the seat with a classier circle.
The American Standard Champion 4 really is as effective as the company promises, eliminating one of my least-favorite homeowner tasks – plunging clogs and cleaning “overflow”. Although the product isn’t perfect, it’s well worth the cost since it reduces plumber house-calls, embarrassing situations with houseguests, and nasty rubber-and-wood tools laying around. It’s a slam-dunk!
- Works as advertised, flushing clean without clogs
- Fairly straightforward to install (with some tools and help lifting)
- Reasonably inexpensive and available at most home improvement stores
- Requires a new water line and install tools (contrary to claims)
- Tough for small children to use (tall seat and flush lever requires lots of force)
- Uniqueness raises concerns about long-term availability of replacement parts
✌Matt Leib☯ says
I’ve actually installed two of these in my house. Work like a charm.
I’ve installed two as well, had them for almost two years. Both work great and I love the right height feature. The only real issue I have is the flimsy handle, it isn’t very well designed and feels cheap.
Michael Kantowski says
Thanks for the detailed rundown on this product.
Ok, I’ve had one for about 7 years.
My old style valve broke, they sent me a new style.
Could not get the new style to flush good!
Had to double flush almost every time.
Here, I notice, the diagrams on the instruction manual are wrong.
The side view shows the vent tube next to the flush valve.
But on the top view, it shows the vent tube away from the flush valve.
Well, I had mine set up like the side view diagram.
And guess what, you have to have it on the right side, when facing the tank.
If you have it on the other side, the water flow blocks the venting!
I’ve seen videos of people with it next to the flush valve, which is incorrect!
Mine works like a champ now!
Just my 2 cents!
I think American Standard should get there diagrams correct on placement of the new flush valve!
Chloe Benson says
Wow! What a great article! I have been doing my research, lots of it, on the American Standard Champion 4 and I really wish I would have come across this post about 15 articles ago, could of saved myself a lot of time and reading!
The 1.6gpf version is slowly being replaced with the 1.28gpf version. The newer one does not have as good a bowl rinse. The rim jet holes should be cleaned monthly with a pipe cleaner or bit of wire, especially with the $199 no-tools kit toilet from Big Box.
The PRO model is very similar but uses a metal lever. There are several styles available from AS; one is a bit longer and will give you a better toggle: less effort to push the lever down.
you might want to buy a real good toilet brush as the bowl rinse is pretty much nonexistant and needs to be cleaned after every poop!
In September, I bought a house built in 2003, for the view, not the porcelain throne(s). I a mine of the ” infamous” cloggers as I certainly use way too much Charmain. Thanks to my home inspection, I talked the buyers into allowing a $500 plumbing allowance for several small leaky issues and noticing the tile was wet around the Master bath toilet albeit the owners claimed they retiled the floor and replaced the potty seals one year ago. I had to get the Big Fancy Plunger out of the attic and had to ” suction” about 3 times per week. The ” good ole plunger”, recommended by a local friend was definitely the best of the best of ” Local Talent”! He told me that by the time he pulled out the old crapper to find the base leak issue, it would cost me $$$ of labor and unknown parts. He told me for about $200 for the new super toilet it would resolve the plunger issue as well while ” down under” the floor. All in all, the new toilet only cost me about $50 -$60 more in what I would’ve paid for the entire job. I call mine the MOTHER FLUSHER!
As a single Mom, I’m the one that was unclogging my 13 yo daughters potty at 6:15 am this morning. She freaked out! Forgot my words of wisdom. Forgot where the shut off valve is located and where the plunger is stored. Really? Hmm, I might be calling back the awesome ” local talent” who’s wisdom and experience was worth his weight in well, more-than-porcelain!
Forgive my minor typos last post as this didn’t allow me to correct. ” sellers” as I was the home ” buyer”. The Champion 4 with the soft close lid from HD is what my plumber purchased for me. I’ve been using it over four months without needing the plunger. I have never flushed cat litter in the past but I DO NOW ON A DAILY BASIS. We scoop and flush the ” tidy cats ” flush able once or twice daily for two cats. I’ve never had a problem.
This toilet is TALL. I’m 5’7 and my feet barely touch the floor. The handle is Small, Sharp ended and takes slightly more effort but isn’t difficult. It isn’t self-cleaning but seems to need less cleaning attention or ring-around-the-water-line than any other toilets I’ve ever cleaned. (With the exception of the out-house in which I was potty trained as a toddler and I’m Not joking). I just opened up a new eye-doctor clinic and will install this same toilet ( unless there’s a shorter version) because life is too short for plungers and mopping up overflows.
I highly recommend the Champion 4!
Ken E. Fosdick says
I just installed a new Champion 4 and for some reason I have to hold the handle down to cycle through a flush. If I push the handle down and simply let off like normal, the flapper closes and the flush is aborted. Can anyone tell me why this is happening?
Great article. I have recently started to have a problem with mine. After a year of no issues I now have to hold the handle down to get a complete flush. I called american standard customer no-service and they said that was normal! I then asked them why my other one flushes with a single press. They said over time they do that. They were unwilling to send me any replacement parts or give advice on how to fix it. I was kind of upset at that point. Will plan on calling back another time and speak to another person. Get a grip Amer. Std. your customers are the reason you are in business! Fix the problems!
We had a similar issue and it was because there is a plastic rod in there that started to flex and had a harder time lifting the plunger. Do a search for part number 7387720020A which is a medal handle and rod that will make it work great.
Paul N. says
I’m having the same issue too. I called AS yesterday about this and the customer support person had me adjust the float to allow a little more water to fill the tank. The CS person also said that there should not be any slack in the chain between the flush arm and valve. I have zero slack in the chain. I had the water level about 1/4″ below the top of the overflow tube and I adjusted it to be about 1/8″ below. It seems to flush better sometimes. But, sometimes it still doesn’t completely flush with a short press of the lever. The CS person said that if adjusting the float didn’t work, to call back and they would send me another flush valve as there no other adjustments.
Sarah Merd says
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Pro: Easy to install
1) Owned for just 8 months, have had to get a new flapper because it leaked and even after the change it still leaks.
2) Has clogged 4 times. If they want to show “impressive” videos flush down a Whole Roll of toilet paper, minus the cardboard roll of course. Golf balls are individually round and relatively easy to flush but try an oblong semi soft object like say a filled water balloon? Very misleading videos with no connection to the “Reality” of “Real” comparable usage.
I was shocked that this toilet leaked and clogged after only 8 months of usage and it’s not a cheap toilet.
I’m not making this up, I wish it worked as plunging the toilet was the reason I went out and purchased this on in the first place. 🙁
Andrew Todd says
1. I just installed ours and the lid is terrible. Its cheap and you can’t even sit on it without it sliding around. Why should I have to buy a better lid and seat IN ADDITION TO the over $200 we just spent in the toilet itself?????
2. After I got it all installed and the water turned on I checked for leaks. Didn’t see any so I flushed it for the first time and discovered right away that you have to hold the lever down until all the water is drained! Who wants to do that???? I’m fine with having to push down harder but surely they don’t expect everyone to hold it down until the flush is complete. I hate to ask but is that the way its supposed to be? I feel like the flapper should float after you push the lever like any other flapper in a toilet or that you can buy from the store but it doesn’t float at all.
Roy Rogers says
What? Amer.Standard…actually gives you a CHOICE? Weird….
Roy Rogers says
Wow…so, the “Good Ol’ Days” is now typified by 1.6 gpf (versus the newer
1.28 gpf. OK…I think I can guess where all this is going: 1.0 gpf (to be strained & re-used).
I’ve heard it said…that if we live long-enough, we will all end-up BACK IN DIAPERS.
ADD to that…Port-A-Johns (no water needed).
bluett408 . says
I have very hard well water….these flush great till minerals cling to the stem under the lift off valve and guide….the valve actually sticks up in the open position and will run till the next person finds it running and actually has to thump it so it falls to bottom and fills the tank again….is there a cure for this other then a conversion kit back to a flapper.
Installed a new Titan model last month. Have to hold down the handle for flush. Flapper has no buoyancy, it just drops back as soon as I let go of the handle. The short flush isn’t good enough, I want to get this fixed/replaced with a floating flapper, but it’s a 4″ outlet that’s raised above the bottom of the tank. Any one know a fix for this? Or is this some sort of new gov’t regulations mandating a toilet can’t run-on after flushing?
D. Smith says
After installing four (yes, four toilets in this house) American Standard Champion 4 toilets, I discovered that since they weren’t all purchased at the same time, the amount of water used has, as others have noticed, been reduced from 1.6 to 1.28 GPF and that is the overriding reason why I suspect not everyone is happy with the flush and find a second flush necessary at times. It frustrated me until I realized the difference in the amount of water being used to flush. There is an easy fix but it means using a little more water with each flush but in my view, it’s a small price to pay to keep everyone happy.
Simply purchase a plastic pipe (I picked one up in Lowes that fit perfectly) and cut a length about 2 ” long. You must purchase the right size and then insert it into the overflow tube and the tube will be retained within (inside) the overflow tube. Now you can adjust the water level back on your fill valve back up to the original 1.6 GPF again depending on the length of your plastic insert. In my view, I suggest the water level should not/not be raised above the Styrofoam liner. Once you do this, it is highly unlikely you will have any further “double flushes”. Yes, the trick is to find a pipe that fits snugly inside the overflow tube but you can try various tubes on a store model to ensure it’s what you need. To be sure, simply measure the inside/inside diameter of the overflow tube and get a pipe with the exact same OUTSIDE diameter and voila – your flushing problems will disappear. Expansion/contraction will allow for insertion. My overflow tube has a 1.25″ inside diameter and my insert pipe had a 1.25″ outside diameter. While this may sound illogical, this can be inserted without difficulty and ensures a snug fit. Enjoy.
John Sullivan says
Did you ever get an answer or fix your problem with the valve sticking in the open position? Mine does the same thing. I’ve tried to use Vaseline but, it still ends up doing it again in no time.
bluett408 . says
Yes i did…i bought a whole new unit…flapper type
This toilet has been pure misery, it brings the waste up within inches of the rim, then sucks it out with a noisy gurgle (as the trap siphons), then the biggest annoyance- NO wash out, I even tried cleaning out the jets under the rim, if you like to clean toilets, buy this one (400$ + in one piece), you can do it daily. And no, it’s not our soft water, the main toilet by some one else is perfect.
John Smith says
Leaking toilets are irritating. If the tank is refilling more often as it should then you can hear trickling sound when the water from the tank is transferred to the toilet.
Toilet repair Lookout Mountain
leon kumiega says
While it will flush anything that ends up in the water there is not enough water when flushing to rinse the bowl clean above the water line. Also the flush seal in the tank tends to blister and leak ( raising your water bill ) after only one year and that is with genuine American Standard parts , the generic ones last less than a year.