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How Do I Fix A Toilet That Won’t Flush?

This common plumbing problem will happen to most of us at some point, but there are simple solutions that you can do yourself to get the toilet working again without the need for a plumber.

Please note, we can only give you basic advice on this page to do the job yourself. Make sure you use the right tools and protective equipment to avoid hurting yourself or damaging your home.

The toilet won’t flush

If the water in the toilet is at its usual level but no water flows from the cistern into it, the problem is with the flush mechanism, rather than the drainage. This means you have one of the following issues:

  • A low water level in the tank
  • A faulty flushing mechanism
  • A broken handle
  • The flush link is not properly connected

Before you start, check whether your home’s internal plumbing supply is working normally; check your taps run normally and that your neighbours have running water. If not, there may be an issue with your utility supplier.

Check the water level

First, lift the lid off the cistern to check whether you have enough water in the tank. It should be around an inch below the overflow tube. If it’s lower, check the cistern inlet valve (this is the mechanism that controls the level of water in the tank). The value could have the following problems:

  • It’s touching the side of the tank, preventing it from rising
  • It’s poorly adjusted
  • It’s faulty

If you don’t hear running water when you flush, it’s likely that the mechanism is the root of the problem.

How to fix a flushing mechanism

You’ll need:

  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Sponge and bucket
  • Replacement flushing mechanism or diaphragm (if you have a siphon toilet)


  1. Take the lid off the toilet cistern
  2. Turn off the isolation valve to shut off the water. This is usually located on the water pipe which leads into the cistern. Use the flat head screwdriver to turn the screw a quarter turn clockwise
  3. Drain the water tank. You’ll need to siphon any water from the tank and mop up any remaining water using a sponge and a bucket
  4. Disconnect the link from the trip lever (which is the rod that connects to the flush handle). The mechanism will be attached via a large plastic nut under the base of the cistern. This will need to be removed so you can remove the flushing mechanism
  5. Take the flushing mechanism to a DIY store to get a new one
  6. Put the new flushing mechanism in place and hook the end of the chain to a trip lever
  7. Check that the tension feels right by working the handle or button a couple of times – not too slack or too tight
  8. Turn the isolation valve back on
  9. Replace the lid

How to fix a broken handle

The handle may have become stiff due to a build-up of limescale in which case it needs a good clean. If the handle is completely broken, it’ll need to be replaced.

You’ll need:

  • A adjustable wrench
  • A replacement flush handle


  1. Take the lid off the toilet cistern
  2. Unhook and remove the trip lever (this is the bit that connects the handle to the other parts inside the cistern)
  3. Unscrew the nut that holds the handle in place. You’ll need to turn it clockwise to undo it
  4. Remove the handle
  5. Take the handle to a DIY store to get a new one
  6. Slot the new handle into position. Slide on the nut and screw it on firmly. Tighten with an adjustable wrench but make sure not to over-tighten it. You’ll need to turn it anticlockwise
  7. Slide the trip lever back into place and re-hook it
  8. Replace the cistern lid

Check the link is connected

The link runs from the trip lever to the bottom of the cistern where it’s attached to the flushing mechanism. When it’s working correctly, the link will pull the flushing mechanism open when the handle is pressed. This allows water to flow from the cistern into the toilet bowl.

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