Toilet doesn’t fill problem

Toilet doesn’t fill – but will fill if I first turn off the water valve and turn it back on.

I found online instructions for cleaning the fill valve and followed that procedure but that has not solved the problem.

I have very limited handy-man skills but I have a couple of times managed to replace the entire contraption inside a toilet. This one has been in for at least twenty years. Do I need to replace the works inside the toilet or need a plumber or anybody have any other ideas?

It’s the kind with the black plastic float (Fluidmaster), not the ball on a stick type.

What happens if you push the float down a little? Does it turn on?
Regardless, assuming it’s not a problem with the shutoff valve, I’d say replace it again. It’s probably easier and almost certainly faster than trying to fix something made of snapped together brittle plastic that’s down in a toilet tank.

Besides, at 20 years old, it’s been on borrowed time for a while.
ETA, I’m sure it’s something inside the flush valve that being pushed in the wrong direction and someone gets fixed when you shut the water off and turn it back on, but that still bugs me. Replacing the flush valve isn’t going to hurt anything and will probably fix it, but if you continue to have issues, it’s probably the shutoff valve under the toilet.

Come to think of it, next time you have a problem with the toilet, shut off the water to the house and turn it back on. If the toilet starts working again, it’s the flush valve, replace it. My concern is that a seal or washer or seat inside the shut off (under the toilet) is loose and blocking the water. Turning the handle is moving it out of the way.

Completely agree with my esteemed colleague Joey P. If that flush mechanism is 20 years old you should go ahead and replace it no matter what the problem is.

I’d just buy the appropriate Fluidmaster kit and replace everything. Heck, if it has been over a year or two and there is a problem, replace everything.

I really have next to no handy-man skills and am struggling grasp the terminology.

Pressing the black float doesn’t do anything.

I turned off the water to the house (and turned if back on) and that didn’t change anything. The water in the toilet just drips very slowly until I turn the water off and back on under the toilet, then it fills back up normally.

I’m not clear on whether you mean I need to place the valve stuff inside the toilet or the valve handle “under” the toilet near the floor – it’s a flexible metal hose. Is that a DIY job or would I really be likely to cause myself serious trouble trying that?

That’s what I did first thing after I bought my house. The toilet in the master bathroom technically did refill, but it refilled veeeeeery slowly. So slowly that when when I did the home inspection the inspector thought it didn’t fill; they only way I figured out that it did was because when the realtor came back days later the tank was full again. But anyway, the inspector recommended getting what I think was called a “toilet rebuild kit”. I replaced everything inside the tank and it’s like a brand new toilet.

The ironic thing is that I got one with a special latch on the float that’s supposed to prevent the toilet from running. Sometimes that thing kicks in when it shouldn’t and prevents the toilet from filling.

You should replace the entire flush mechanism inside the tank. It doesn’t make much sense that the problem is causes by the water supply valve underneath the toilet, but the valve should be threaded onto that flexible metal hose and you could replace that also, but nothing you’ve said would indicate it needs replacement, although perhaps something is stuck in it.

Because that flush mechanism is so old it is probably the problem somehow, and even if not will be before long since it so old. So if you are going to do anything to that toilet you may as well replace that mechanism now.

Maybe if something is stuck in the water supply valve you get some weird behavior. You could turn off the water to the house, disconnect the flexible metal hose from the valve, and see if you can see something stuck in the valve as you turn it on and off. You will need to reconnect that hose with some teflon tape to keep it from leaking, so if you don’t know how to do that, or don’t even have the proper wrenches then just try to replace the flush mechanism.

Turning the water off and back on for the entire house should yield the same result as turning it off and back on with the shut off under the toilet. From the toilet’s POV, it’s exactly the same, or close to it.
That’s what I was concerned about.
When you shut off the water and turn it back on, nothing really changes. There’s still pressure on the system even when it’s off. That’s why I’m curious if the shut off valve, under the toilet, is actually the problem. Assuming it’s the kind of valve where you have to turn it a few times (as opposed to a quarter turn valve), there are some parts that can wear out, screws that can back off, rubber parts that can tear etc. Any of which can actually get in the way and block the flow of water. Often times, turning the knob on the valve will, at least temporarily, push any obstructions out of the way.

If I’m reading everything correctly, I’m leaning towards the shut off under the toilet needing to be replaced.

Sorry, lot of valves here. I’m trying to use ‘flush valve’ for all the parts inside the toilet and ‘shut off valve under the toilet’ for the valve sticking out of the wall or floor.

The flush valve can be done pretty easily, even for a novice. You said you’ve done it before.
The shut off valve, under the toilet…depends. Even if you’ve never done it, there are situations in which it’s not too difficult. For example, you have flexible hose instead of a solid tube, that makes it easier. If there’s enough copper sticking out of the floor/wall it’s not overly hard to cut off the valve and get a sharkbite fitting. No soldering, no blow torch, no tools. They just slide on. They’re a little more expensive, but plumbing doesn’t get much easier than sharkbite fittings.

You sound shaky enough that my recommendation is that you go ahead and replace the flush valve, the parts inside the tank. If you get stuck or that doesn’t fix the problem, call a handyman to come and A)check your work and B)replace the shut off valve under the toilet with a new quarter turn valve.

Take the top off the tank and flush. There are actually two places that water should be flowing: into the tank and into a tube which drains into the basin. What you describe sounds like the tube to the basin is not getting enough water.

See the picture of the tank here: On the left you see the float column. That’s where the water for the tank comes from and the float stops the water once it raises up. If you have a float bulb, it works similar. Look in the center of the tank and you see a black tube with a black hose from the fill valve to the tube. That tube is how the basin fills up. If water isn’t coming from that hose or the hose is not squirting into the tube, then the basin won’t fill with water. Sometimes that hose comes unclipped from the tube and the water squirts into the tank rather than into the basin. Another possibility is that the tube is clogged or something. If you pour colored water directly into that tube, you should see the colored water end up in the basin.

I’ve got that one as well. Going forward I wouldn’t get it a second time. It was extra work to install and I could tell while I was doing it it was going to cause problems. It’s not a huge headache, but every once in a while, I do need to open the tank and bump it so it falls.

The situations in which it would come in handy are pretty limited. If the flapper valve is leaking AND the toilet is clogged is one. Another is if the tank itself is leaking directly onto the floor.

Any other situations, while they will mean the toilet needs repairs (which will be masked by using this), only mean some water down the drain until you replace the part.

Thanks to all. I think Joey P has found the problem – not sure yet if I want to try handling it myself yet; will have to use the other bathroom while I do some research.

@Joey P
Looking at the shut off valve it is a bit wet around the metal cover around the pipe sticking up from the floor; not a lot water, just a little wetness that I hadn’t noticed before. The bottom of the tank and the pipe aren’t wet, just right around where the pipe comes out of the floor.

It looks like the pipe coming through the floor is screwed into the pipe right at floor level with what I assume is some kind of plumber’s tape. So, what are my chances I might be able to unscrew that pipe with vice grips and replace the shut off valve?

It’s probably coming from the stem. Those cheap shut off valves tend to let out a drip here and there when you turn them. Not usually a big deal, but you’ll notice it when you’re constantly going back and forth with it.
Make sure the floor under it is dry, throw a paper towel under it and check back in an hour or two and make sure the paper towel is still dry.
I was even going to mention upthread that if you keep playing with it, you’ll probably notice exactly that.

I don’t know where you live, but if it’s warm out where you are and you’ve been flushing the toilet over and over and over, it could also just be a little bit of condensation.

Can you post a picture. There’s a few different ways that valves connect to pipes with varying degrees of difficulty.
I’m guessing you’re looking at a compression fitting. If that’s what you have, you can unscrew it, take it to home depot, get one with the exact same size threads and screw it back on…in theory.
Also, do you have a second bathroom? If you don’t, I’d strongly suggest you get the parts you’ll need and start the project early enough in the day that you can get to a hardware store to get all the stuff you didn’t realize you’d need.
Plumbing projects always seem to involve at least two trips back to Home Depot. If this is your only bathroom, you don’t want the toilet out of commission until tomorrow if you can avoid it.

The whole installation was done by a local handy-man and I’m sure it was the cheapest thing possible. I put paper towel on the floor and around the actual valve gadget. Will check back in an hour to two see if the are still dry. The water valve is off now and the tank is full – not sure if I should fill or not.

Probably not condensation – I’m in PA, humidity is 30% and the heat is still on.

I had several strokes last year and can’t figure out how get a picture from my supposedly simple flip phone to the internet. :frowning: I can walk & talk & ride my bike and do most anything else but pressing buttons on the phone for anything other than making a call leaves me … … …

There is a threaded pipe just at floor level with tape around it, then about three or four inches of copper pipe, and the valve handle assembly is screwed into the top of the short pipe. Hope that helps.

Yes, I do have a second bathroom (and plenty of TP).

Even when I’ve hired plumbers and they showed up with a van full of parts they’ll still have to go out to the store for parts at least once :smiley:

Well one guy was all set, he changed the meter in nothing flat, just grabbed a piece of pipe and threaded it in his truck to make a street fitting. Took two hours for the town to get the water turned off at the street before he could start though. To sum up, I hate plumbing.

I have two suggestions:
1)Shut the water off. Take the hose that connects the valve to the toilet off. Take the hose to home depot and get a sharkbite valve that has one side that screws to the hose (you brought the hose so you get the right size valve) and the other fits on the copper. It’s probably 1/2". Get a small pipe cutter. The little tiny one. Like this or this. Attach the hose to the valve (easier to do when it’s not under the toilet), cut the copper as close to the old valve as you can, push the sharkbite connector onto the copper pipe, connect it to the toilet and you should be done. Turn the water on, check for leaks.

2)Remove the valve, and whatever comes off with it (just the valve, the valve and the copper, whatever), bring it to home depot, tell them what’s going on and they’ll get you the parts you need to get it put back together.
Two other things:
When I typed this, I realized that even if you have a second bathroom, once you remove the valve, you can’t turn the house water back on until the new valve is installed (unless you have another way to shut off water to that bathroom, which you vary well might).
Secondly, I keep saying Home Depot and if the people at your Home Depot/Lowes are helpful, that’s perfect. Otherwise find a True Value or Ace where someone will be thrilled to walk you through the project.

Also, if it’s feasible, I think your best bet is really going to be cutting the copper pipe and using a sharkbite fitting. No messing with blow torches or multiple wrenches. It just slips right on.

The city has been trying to change our meter (at my work) for years.
A while back they redid our road. Someone, while doing that, the sleeve that runs down to the valve disappeared. I called the city, spent far, far longer than I should have convincing them that, yes, the shut off really was right here, I’m positive. They tore up the road, replaced it and moved on.
When they wanted to change the meter, they found that the shutoff inside our building wouldn’t fully shut off. They went out to the road and found that the sleeve wasn’t installed correctly and they can’t get down to it with their tools. Awesome. They put in a work order to fix it and about twice a year I get a notice from the city that they’re coming out to change the meter. I stopped arguing with them, I let them come out, spend a few hours trying to shut the water off and tell me they’ll put in a work order to fix that sleeve. Never happens, I just got a mailer a few weeks back telling me they need to come out and fix the meter. This’ll be the 4th or 5th time they’ve been out.

Some water down the drain might not be a big deal where you are, but California was in the middle of a drought at the time I bought it, so water down the drain was something I was trying to avoid. IIRC it was actually marketed as a water conservation feature.

There’s nothing wet now, so at least I don’t have make an emergency call to the plumber. It appears pretty clear the problem is the clogged up shut off valve, probably a worn out seal blocking the flow.

One big complication: My house has an upstairs apartment and two mobile homes in the back yard and all of them are on the same water line; the ones out back run underground from my cellar and all are on the same meter. So me cutting off a pipe sounds like I’m gonna just wait til world settles down some. I can’t take the chance that I’ll leave four residences without water for who knows how long while I take a chance messing it up.

I really appreciate everyone’s help and advice. I think I could do the job Joey P describes but am not at all sure. Looks to risky for me so I’ll just use the other bathroom for a while until I feel ready to call in the plumber.

Thank you too much. :slight_smile:

I always forget that. Years ago, someone on the board was comparing two different dishwashers. In the pro column for one of them was that it used less water. When I looked at the specs, it used something like 4 gallons while the other used 4.2. I pointed out that less than a half gallon per cycle was going to work out to something like five bucks a year and probably shouldn’t be a deciding factor. They mentioned exactly what you said, it wasn’t about the money, it was about saving water.

I’m in Wisconsin, about a mile from the shore of the one of the Great Lakes. Water has never been an issue here. In fact, the few times we’ve had drought conditions, the news will actually explain to people how to water their grass and trees properly. Most people don’t understand that you need to leave the sprinkler in each place for two or three hours. If you move it every 10 minutes you’re not really doing much of anything.

Before starting a plumbing project where I need to turn off the water, I always fill a couple of five gallon buckets. Worst case scenario, I can flush with the water I’ve saved.