Toilets are a convenience that we all take for granted. It’s not until they stop working or break down that you realise how much you depend on them. All moving parts at one point or another degrade and need replacing and this is one job you will want to do straight away. If your push button flush is not working, don’t worry, it is a common plumbing problem that many people experience. The good thing for you is that this can be fixed by yourself at home quickly and easily saving you an expensive call-out charge.
Why Has My Push Button Flush Stopped Working?
There could be various reasons causing your push button flush to fail and if you are a tinkerer, you may want to try and find/ fix the problem but if not, it is easy enough to replace the whole flushing mechanism.
- Misalignment: Over time and with regular use, the button can become misaligned or jammed, preventing it from activating the flushing mechanism.
- Broken Springs: The springs inside the button that allow it to bounce back to its original position may have worn out or broken.
- Detached Link: The link connecting the button to the flush valve may have detached, meaning the button can’t activate the flush.
Flush Valve Problems
- Worn Seals: Seals inside the flush valve can wear out over time, causing the flush mechanism to malfunction.
- Debris or Blockage: A blockage within the valve or debris in the cistern can prevent the flush from working. This can be due to sediment, mineral deposits, or parts of a deteriorated washer or seal.
Insufficient Water Level
On more than one occasion, I have seen this one overlooked. If there’s not enough water in the cistern or tank, the flush might not have enough pressure or volume to operate correctly. Check the water inlet and float mechanism to ensure they’re functioning as they should.
Parts like cables or levers connecting the push button to the flushing mechanism can wear out or break. Over time, repeated use or corrosion can degrade these parts.
Tubes No Longer Sealed Correctly
One thing that can happen with push-button flushes is that over a period of time, the clear plastic tubes connected to the spigot can harden with age which means that there is leakage when the button is pushed. To combat this, remove the clear plastic tube (they can also be other colours) cut off around 10mm of the tube and then reattach it forming a new (hopefully airtight seal).
Another common problem is when the small plastic bellows develop a small split or crack due to age/ wear & tear. You may be able to see if this is the problem once the cistern lid is off and you push the flush button, and nothing happens because all of the air is escaping. To be sure, if you have another toilet in the house with the same flush mechanism, you could try swapping the bellows over to see if this is the problem.
If it is, swapping out the bellows is an easy and inexpensive task although if it is not the bellows or the connection to the tubing, I advise that it may be best to replace the whole unit.
How to Change a Push Button Flush
If your push button flush is not working and you have tested for both of the above issues, it is not too difficult a task to replace the whole flushing mechanism. If you need a new flushing mechanism, you can order this Houser one (Amazon link – opens in a new tab) on next-day delivery or you could pop out and pick one up from your local hardware store or somewhere like Screwfix, B&Q etc.
Note: If you have just a single button flush, it is a good idea to replace it with a dual flush as it will save you water and therefore money in the long run.
What You Need
- New Push Button Flush Mechanism
- Flathead Screwdriver
- Towel/ Rags
Step 1 – Isolate the Water Supply
The first step with all plumbing work inside your home or office is to ensure that the water supply to the area you are working on has been turned off. Along the pipework to the cistern, there is often an isolation valve that can be turned off by turning the isolation screw 90 degrees. If your cistern does not have its own isolation valve, you may have to isolate the water from the whole property. Isolation valves can be found in a few different places, but they are most likely under the sink and are often marked with a ‘W’.
When the water supply has been isolated, you can flush the toilet to drain down any water left in the cistern.
Step 2 – Open the Cistern Lid
Yes, next up, you will need to open up the cistern so that you can get to the flushing mechanism inside. Some cistern lids will simply just lift up, others will have a retaining screw underneath the flush buttons that pop out and there are some, where the outer ring will need to be unscrewed anti-clockwise.
Be careful not to open the lid aggressively as it is likely to be attached to the flushing mechanism.
Step 3 – Disconnect and Remove the Push Button
Disconnect the mechanism from the push button on the cistern lid and then undo the screw underneath holding it in place. Use this time to give the opening around the hole left by the button a good clean-up – all sorts of nasties and crud can build up over long periods of time.
Step 4 – Remove the Cistern
The next task is to remove the cistern. This is not as difficult as it may appear at first thought so do not worry too much. Firstly, ensure that you have disconnected the cold-water feed going into the cistern and then depending on the cistern, it may be attached to the wall. If it is, there are usually two screws near the top of the inside of the cistern that will need to be removed. The cistern will also be attached to the toilet bowl and underneath at the back you will find two butterfly nuts aka wing nuts.
Undo all of these and set them aside as you will need them and then lift the cistern away from the base and empty any leftover water into the toilet bowl.
Step 5 – Remove the Old Flush Mechanism
Firstly, set aside the large bolts that should slide out from behind the clamp and then remove the large rubber seat which is there to protect the porcelain parts from coming into contact with each other. (The rubber seat is also known as a doughnut). Then, using your large grips, undo the (usually plastic) large nut and set aside the metal clamp that was holding the long bolts in place.
Whoever initially installed the toilet may have added a bead of silicone around the base, you don’t need to worry about this, this is overkill and not required.
Step 6 – Insert the new Flush Mechanism
Now you can insert the new flushing mechanism. It quite simply goes in exactly the same way that the old one came out but obviously in reverse. Make sure that the rubber washer is in place and seat the mechanism, then you can add the clamp and the large plastic nut. Do up the plastic nut gently by hand at first and then when you are happy that the washer and the mechanism are seated correctly and in place, you can get your grips and tighten the nut properly which will create a nice watertight seal.
Note: When inserting the new mechanism, ensure that the clamp is the right way up so it holds the bolts in place.
Step 7 – Replace the Cistern
The easy bit… slide the head of the bolts back into place behind the clamp and replace the doughnut (you may have received a new one with your new flush) – the old one can still be used if it is in good condition, it is up to you what you choose.
Now re-seat the cistern onto the toilet bowl and tighten the butterfly nuts underneath and then reattach the cistern to the wall with the screws you removed earlier.
Step 8 – Turn the Water Back On
Now you can also reattach the cold feed to the cistern and turn the water back on. When you turn the water back on, the cistern will begin to refill with water which is normal, this also gives you the chance to ensure that you have seated everything correctly and that there are no leaks anywhere.
Step 9 – Fit Your New Button
Although there may be differences depending on the manufacturer, this will be fitted in much the same way as the one that you removed. There is usually a plastic nut that needs to come off, place the button in the hole and then put the nut back on. The nut can just be done up finger tight as it is unlikely to come loose. If you are worried about it, you could get the grips and give it a further quarter turn.
Attach the button to the new mechanism and there you have it. Easy as that.
There you have it, if your push button flush has stopped working, it is an easy fix that just about anyone can do themselves. It really is an easy job, so save yourself the cost of calling someone to look at it for you and replace the mechanism yourself. If you are more of a visual learner, I have found this great video on YouTube to help you!
Plumbing Wizard Tips
“Always ensure that you isolate the water supply before doing any plumbing work!”
“Check the tubes and bellows for leaks before purchasing a whole new mechanism!”
“Remember to ensure that the washer is seated correctly inside the cistern, this is there to keep the cistern watertight!”
“If you do order one on next-day delivery, having a bucket or saucepan handy to pour into the toilet will suffice as a flush in the meantime but that’s up to you!”
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you fix a push-button toilet that won’t flush?
If the tubes have hardened or the bellows have split, cutting 1cm off the end of the tubes or replacing the bellows will fix the problem. Failing that, the next best thing to do is replace the whole flush mechanism which is easy enough for most to do themselves.
How to remove the cistern lid with a push button?
Cistern lids that have a single push button are usually screwed into the lid. If you turn the outer ring of the push button anti-clockwise, the button will unscrew. If the button is particularly old, it may be stuck, and you may need to give it a little spray with WD40.
How to remove the cistern lid with a dual flush push button?
Some dual flush buttons screw in and others are attached via a small retaining screw found underneath the buttons. If yours is the screw type, you can unscrew the outer ring of the button to release it. If, however, there is a screw underneath the buttons, you will have to pop the buttons off to reach the screw.
Lee Pearce is not just a master plumber; he’s a veritable Plumbing Wizard. With over 30 years of experience in the trenches of pipes and drains, Lee has become the go-to sage for DIY plumbing, saving homeowners thousands in potential call-out charges. As the founder of Plumbing Wizard, he’s dedicated to demystifying the complexities of home plumbing, offering easy-to-follow advice that stands the test of time and pressure. His online blog is a treasure trove of tips, tricks, and tutorials that empower everyday individuals to take charge of their home’s plumbing health. Lee’s practical wisdom is not just about fixing leaks; it’s about imparting confidence and self-reliance. When he’s not writing or elbow-deep in a plumbing project, Lee is passionate about educating the next generation of DIYers, ensuring that practical skills are passed down and preserved.