What to do when the toilet tank won’t fill

We’ve all had it happen to us. You’re in the washroom, you finish your business and the toilet handle won’t flush. It feels loose and doesn’t seem to do anything. There’s a good chance you can resolve the problem with some very simple measures that do not involve getting your hands dirty.

What to do when the toilet tank won’t fill

Getting started

The first thing to do is to listen. Can you hear the hiss of water constantly draining in the toilet tank, as if it were trying to fill? If this is the case, then there’s probably water going into the tank, but it’s not actually staying there. Try just jiggling the handle a little bit. If you hear the hiss of water get slowly lower in pitch then disappear, you’re good to go. This is because of the way toilet tanks fill.

They’re on a bob system, meaning that the water valve closes because the increasing amount of water in the tank causes a buoy-like bob to float up. It’s hinged on a stick with a chain that goes down as the water goes up, closing the valve. Sometimes the chain gets caught under the valve and needs to be jiggled out so the valve can properly close. If the jiggling doesn’t work, no worries. Just pull the lid off the tank and look at the bottom. There will be a rubber plug over a hole. Check to see if the chain is caught under it, and if it is, simply move it to the side and your issue could be resolved just like that.

Your next resort

If you see that the chain is detached, or that the plug itself has gotten damaged or unhinged, some simple repairs can quickly fix it. You may have to hook the chain back onto the valve plug, or the valve plug back onto its hinge. Take a close look to see what parts are necessary, and if you need to do so, ask at a hardware store for the right pieces. It always helps to take a photo of the apparatus with your phone to show the hardware store experts.

If these steps don’t resolve the issue, then something larger might be at work and you’ll have to call a plumber. But the vast majority of time, you can resolve this issue with very little effort and even without replacing any pieces or getting out any tools at all.

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