Bathtub clog at internal stopper

We have a bathtub with a hidden stopper (Price Pfister), the sort where you just flip a lever up or down to close the drain, but the actually stopper mechanism is hidden inside. Recently, it has started draining slowly, so we did the usual plunger routine - no help, and then the snake routine. I discovered after removing the internal stopper that the drain started working again. However, I can't find any sign of a clog around the area where I think the stopper would be sitting.
So here's the question. Why would this happen, and how can I fix it? I'm considering just tightening the turnbuckle so that the stopper doesn't go as far down, and that may well work, but it doesn't explain why things changed - unless it's possible for the turnbuckle to just loosen over time. And, of course, I can always leave the stopper out, and use an oldfashioned rubber drain cover for the rare times we need to fill the tub.
Many thanks,
Gary
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Does the problem return when you put the drain back together? You may have washed the clog down the drain when you pulled it apart.
NJBrad
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wrote:

Yes, it does return. I'm wondering now whether it isn't just that the spring mechanism on the lever is weakening, so that the plug hangs too low. That seems more likely than the connecting bars stretching. I'm going to really tighten up the turnbuckle (in lieu of trying to find a replacement lever mechanism), unless anyone else has a better idea.
Many thanks,
Gary
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Lowes has the levers for about $5.
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