Are you having toilet troubles? Does it take your toilet tank ages to fill up or maybe it doesn’t get filled? If you are having such issues, then like any homeowner you are looking for ways to fix it and that’s why you stumbled on this blog post.
In this article, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of the most common reasons behind a toilet that’s not filling with water and easy step-by-step instructions you can follow to fix the problem yourself.
How Water Inside a Toilet Tank Works
The intricate yet reliable mechanics behind your toilet’s water tank enable it to function properly flush after flush. However, when something goes awry and your tank fails to fill, it helps to understand what’s happening behind the scenes.
The starting point is the water supply line, which replenishes the tank after every flush to ready it for the next one. At the tank’s base lies a pivotal player – the flapper valve. This rubber seal prevents water from prematurely cascading down into the bowl when the toilet isn’t in use. Thanks to the flapper, the tank can fill upward without leakage.
Rising in tandem with the water level is the float cup. Attached to the all-important fill valve, the float controls water flow into the tank. Upon maxing out around half an inch below the overflow tube’s rim—a journey taking 10-15 seconds—the float triggers the fill valve to halt the incoming water.
This reliable fill-flush process depends on everything working in harmony. When the tank doesn’t fill properly, identifying the disruption in this cycle is key to getting your toilet working again.
Related: Toilet Leaking From Tank bolts
Why Your Toilet Tank Is Not Filling with Water and How to Fix It
You now know how your toilet tank works. Now let’s get the problem at hand: a toilet tank that’s not filling with water.
In this section, we’ll look at the most common causes and then proceed with giving you detailed step-by-step instructions for each problem to get your water tank filling correctly again.
Reason: Faulty Fill Valve
Let’s dive deeper into the integral role of the toilet fill valve, the ultimate guardian responsible for replenishing the tank after each flush. This humble yet heroic component governs the flow of water entering through the supply line situated at the tank’s base.
Over time, the fill valve can falter in its duties due to two primary culprits:
Buildup Breakdown: Residual mineral sediment in the water supply inevitably accumulates inside the fill valve. This debris obstruction restricts the all-important water flow channels, impeding the valve’s ability to open fully and properly fill the tank.
Wear and Tear: While designed for longevity, even toilet tank parts wear out from years of use. Generally, after 5-7 years, fatigue can set in on the fill valve. Unable to close correctly, water leaks out instead of properly filling the tank.
Solution: Fixing the Faulty Fill Valve
To fix a faulty fill valve, we should first go over the problem methodically. And if we are to do that, then the first step would be to clear debris buildup in the fill valve. You can achieve this by flushing the valve and supply lines.
To do that, follow these steps:
- Turn off the water supply to the toilet tank.
- Take off the valve top and clean it to remove any debris. You can remove it by lifting the arm, then rotating the top and arm, before pressing down slightly on the cap.
- Hold a container over the uncapped valve and then flush the supply lines by turning the water supply on and off a few times. The container prevents splashing during the flushing process.
- Clean the tank using a mixture of vinegar and water to eliminate mineral buildup or debris.
Check to see if the water fills properly now. If it still doesn’t, let’s inspect the fill valve for worn-out components. To do this, simply look at the fill valve for any visible signs of damage on any of its components such as cracks, chips, or corrosion. If found, you’ll have to replace them.
To replace worn-out components, do the following:
- Purchase a fill valve repair kit with new seals, springs, and washers.
- Follow the instructions to disassemble the replace the worn parts.
- Now assemble the valve and test it to see if it fills properly.
Problem solved? Congratulations! If not then let’s look at the next reason behind your toilet tank not filling properly and how to fix it.
Reason: Toilet Float Set Too Low
The toilet tank float is a buoyant mechanism connected to the fill valve, controlling the water level by rising with it, signaling shut off when full capacity is reached. There are three predominant float types:
The floating ball style is commonly found in older model toilets, positioned at the end of a metal arm. Cylindrical float cups represent newer models, fully integrated into tank design. Some contemporary fill valves feature internal floats built directly in, no separate components are required.
Proper float functionality is imperative for appropriate tank filling, regardless of type. If positioned too low, inadequate shut off signaling leads to filling issues.
Solution: Fixing a Toilet Float That Is Set Too Low
First, you want to be sure that this is really the problem behind your toilet tank not filling with water.
For the ball-type float, check to see if the float arm and ball are sitting lower in the tank than required. For cylinder-style floats, check to see if the float itself is positioned far from the top of the tank.
Another way to check if the toilet float is set too low is to measure the water level in the tank with a ruler. The ideal water level should be about ½ to 1 inch below the top of the overflow tube.
If the toilet float is set far from the top of the tank, follow these steps to adjust it to the proper level:
Adjusting Ball-Type Floats
- Remove the tank lid and locate the metal arm with the floating ball at the end.
- Gently bend the float arm upwards to raise the ball higher in the tank. The float should be about 1 inch below the overflow tube when the tank is full.
- Some floats come with screw adjustments. So, if yours have an adjustment screw, instead of bending the arm, turn the screw clockwise to raise the float.
- Some floats have a metal rod with a spring clip that can be slid up or down to adjust the float. So check if yours uses this mechanism.
- Be careful not to bend the arm too far or apply too much force because it could damage the float mechanism.
Now test flush the toilet a few times to see if the tank fills completely before the float triggers the fill valve to shut the flow of water.
Adjusting Cylinder-Style Floats
- Find the cylindrical float cup inside the tank. It is normally connected to a vertical rod.
- On the side of the float cup, you’ll see a float clip. Pinch the clip and slide it upwards to raise the float’s position in the tank. Some floats have a dial or button that can be turned or pressed to adjust the float.
- Release the clip once the float is near the top of the tank, about 1 inch below the overflow tube.
Now flush the toilet several times to see if the float signals the fill valve to stop when the tank is full.
Note: Be careful not to raise the float too high as it can lead to overfilling the tank which will ultimately result in water spilling out of the tank.
If your toilet float is at the right height (i.e., 1 inch below the overflow tube) and it’s still not filling properly, then take a look at the next reason and how to fix it.
Reason: Leaking or Worn-Out Toilet Flapper
The humble yet vital flapper valve seals the all-important juncture between the tank and bowl, preserving water for the next flush. This rubber barrier lifts to drain the tank when a flush commences, then reseals the opening as refilling ensues.
Over time, cracks and deterioration can compromise the flapper’s crucial watertight seal. This failure enables water to continuously leak from the tank rather than properly refilling. Signs of a malfunctioning flapper valve include:
- Jiggling the handle to halt running water
- Hearing water trickle between flushes
- Excessive time (over 15 seconds) for tank to refill
- Spiking water bills
Solution: Fixing a Leaking or Worn-Out Flapper
If you have identified the flapper to be the reason behind your toilet tank not filling with water, then you have to replace it. To replace a leaky or worn-out flapper, follow the steps below:
- First, turn off the water supply at the shut-off valve, then flush and sponge out any lingering liquid. Remove the defective flapper, noting the size, shape, and attachment method for an ideal replacement. Thoroughly clean the flush valve seat of any buildup.
- Obtain a new flapper that aligns with the old one’s specifications, ensuring compatibility with your toilet model. Verify the replacement’s attachment hooks or slides correctly fit into valve openings.
- Adhere to manufacturer guidelines when installing the fresh flapper. Double-check to see if connections are completely secure.
- Restore water access and allow the tank to fill. Test with multiple flushes, inspecting for leaks. If dripping persists, drain and carefully reseat the flapper to ensure a tight seal. For continued issues, the flush valve ring may need swapping as well.
Reason: Damaged Overflow Tube
There’s a vertical overflow tube inside the toilet tank that extends from the bottom of the tank up to just below the toilet tank lid. This overflow tube serves two critical purposes:
- Prevents overfilling by draining excess water into the bowl.
- Refills the bowl after a flush to prime it for the next one.
If the tube gets cracked, disconnected, or blocked, proper tank filling is hindered. A damaged tube may leak water downward during the filling process. This constant draining impedes the tank from reaching its optimal level.
Solution: Fixing a Damaged Overflow Tube
To remedy an overflow tube issue, follow these steps:
- Turn off the toilet’s water supply by closing the shut-off valve.
- Empty the tank completely by flushing and sponging out residual water.
- Disconnect and remove the dysfunctional overflow tube.
- Inspect the flush valve area for any damage.
- Obtain a replacement tube matching the old one’s specifications.
- Clean the flush valve area thoroughly before installing the new tube.
- Apply plumber’s putty around the bottom of the replacement tube.
- Insert the new overflow tube firmly into the flush valve opening.
- Allow the putty to fully cure before turning the water back on.
- Check for leaks once the tank fills up.
- Test flush – verify proper fill level and smooth operation.
Reason: Bent or Broken Trip Lever/Chain
What’s the trip lever anyway? The trip lever is the arm inside the toilet tank that connects to the flush handle.
When you press the handle downwards, it lifts up the trip lever. Now on the other end of the trip lever, that’s where you’ll find the trip chain. This chain connects to the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank.
So how do they work together? When the flush is pressed, the trip lever pulls up on the chain which lifts the flapper to release the water in the tank into the bowl. After flushing, the flapper closes again so the tank can refill.
Now if the trip lever gets bent or broken, it may no longer be able to fully lift the flapper. And that can prevent the flapper from sealing completely after a flush. The gap created stops the tank from filling with water since water continuously seeps from the tank.
On the other hand, if the chain connecting the trip lever gets knocked off, stuck, or tangled up, it can stop the flapper from closing fully, which means your tank will have a hard time filling.
Solution: Fixing a Bent or Broken Trip Lever/Chain
To fix a broken or bent chain/lever, carry out the following steps:
- Turn off the water supply to the toilet.
- Empty the tank by flushing the toilet. You can use a sponge to soak away any remaining water in the tank.
- Remove the tank lid and set it aside. Find the trip lever on the side of the tank.
- Check to see if it’s bent out of shape or broken. If it is, you’ll have to replace it.
- Use adjustable pliers to screw the nut holding the bent or broken trip lever in place. Once it has become loose, remove it from the toilet tank.
- Carry the old trip lever to the hardware store to find an identical replacement that will fit your toilet model. Buy the one that fits.
- Install the new trip lever using adjustable pliers to tighten the nut securely. Also, make sure that it can move freely.
- Find the chain connecting the trip lever to the flapper valve. Remove the chain to inspect it.
- Make sure that it is not stuck, tangled, or caught on any other tank component. After inspection, reattach the chain.
- Turn the water supply back on and allow it to fill. Test flush the toilet to ensure that the trip lever can lift the flapper fully.
If it flushes well and fills properly now, you have successfully solved your tank’s filling problem. But if not, try the next fix.
Reason: Low Water Supply/Pressure
Before a toilet can function like it should (i.e., fill correctly), it needs enough water supply and pressure. Standard residential water pressure is around 60 PSI and most toilets need about 35 PSI to function optimally.
If there’s a low water pressure in your home then you should have it checked and fixed by a plumber. But if the low water pressure only affects your toilet, then it means that there may be a partial blockage in the supply line leading to the toilet. Sediments or mineral deposits inside the supply line can block the flow of water.
Since your toilet needs about 35 PSI to function optimally, anything below that will make your toilet struggle to get filled which will optimally result in weak, incomplete flushes.
Solution: Fixing Low Water Supply/Pressure
If you are experiencing weak water pressure in your home, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take before calling a professional:
- Check that the main water supply valve located behind the toilet is turned completely on. Use an adjustable wrench to ensure it is open fully.
- After flushing the toilet, examine if water is refilling the tank at an adequate pace.
- Remove the toilet tank supply line and flush it out to ensure no debris is blocking water flow. Reattach it securely.
Still not working? Then the low water pressure is likely due to a broader plumbing issue. Inspect other fixtures in your home – check the bathroom or kitchen to see if there’s low pressure there too.
If it’s the same with other fixtures, then it’s recommended to hire a professional plumber to fully evaluate the plumbing system in your home and identify the cause or source of the low water pressure.
As you can see, while a toilet tank that refuses to fill properly may seem mystifying at first, the problem is usually caused by one of several common issues. With a bit of focused troubleshooting and some basic tools, identifying and resolving fill problems is quite manageable as a DIY project.
We’ve covered the major culprits, like adjusted fill valves, low floats, worn flappers, and damaged overflow tubes. While parts may eventually fail due to age and mineral buildup, these toilet repairs don’t have to break the bank. In many cases, spending $10-20 on a new part beats paying for a plumber.
With the step-by-step guides provided, you can tackle most toilet tank filling problems with confidence. But don’t hesitate to call in a professional if you encounter extensive mineral deposits, low home water pressure affecting multiple fixtures, or leaks indicating a cracked tank or bowl.