This article is for when a washing machine works OK but won’t fill with water. If you’ve come to this article because your washer isn’t filling with water – but it won’t do anything else either – you need this article – won’t start. Otherwise, read on.
Check the basics first
A common cause of a washing machine not taking any water in is either a kinked fill hose, or the tap becoming faulty. Some taps can become clogged up, others can jam inside. You turn it on but unbeknown to you, the valve inside doesn’t turn.
Another common cause is the tap getting accidentally switched off and people not realising. Other causes can be wiring faults, water valve faults, PCBs or pressure system faults. So before looking at anything on the washing machine a good engineer will always check that there is an adequate water supply to the washing machine.
Washing machine making a humming noise when trying to fill?
Modern washing machines start a cycle by energising the pump for up to 30 seconds. After this, the pump turns off and the water valve should energise to take in water. At this point, if no water comes in, carefully listen to the washing machine. Can you can hear a humming noise? One that’s not normally present?
A gentle humming from the back of the washing machine could be the water valves being energised and trying to take water in. This humming noise will normally be obscured by the sound of water rushing in. Make sure it’s definitely the valves humming.
If you can hear humming the problem might be with the water supply. If the washing machine is totally silent when it should be filling with water then there could be a more difficult problem to solve including a potential faulty fill valve.
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Make sure water is available to the washing machine
- Carefully pull the washing machine out (What’s the best way to pull a washing machine out?)
- Examine the fill hose(s) for signs of kinking (Most likely if recently installed or moved out for repair or cleaning)
- Turn off the tap(s) supplying the washing machine
- Unscrew the fill hose(s) from the water valve. Have a bucket or bowl and towel ready as there may be a spurt of water at first due to the pressure in the hose. If you get a spray of water coming out that lasts longer than a second or so the tap may not be actually turned off properly, or faulty.
- Hold the hose over a bowl or bucket and switch the tap back on to see if there is a decent supply of water coming through the hose
If there is an adequate water supply available
If water comes through the fill hose at a decent flow rate then next check the filter in the water valve on the washing machine. You can pull it out with a pair of pliers and clean it. However, this will only explain the fault if it is severely blocked up, which is rare. The picture on the left shows a water valve, which could do with cleaning, but is in no way blocked enough to cause any issues.
Be careful not to damage the filter with the pliers. The filter is often delicate and brittle. The pic shows an old Hoover water valve which has a metal filter but the majority of filters now are made of very thin and brittle plastic. If you create a hole in one – even a small hole – it can let grit and dirt through into the water valve and prevent it shutting off properly resulting in possible flooding in the future. Don’t use narrow-nosed pliers, use flat pliers, and be gentle with it.
No water coming through the hose?
If no water comes through the hose, or the flow is very slow, then the fault is in the plumbing. Check your taps. The taps with blue (and red) levers (see photo) commonly go faulty. You think you’ve switched it off or on, but only the plastic lever has moved. It hasn’t actually operated the valve inside the tap. This is typically caused when the red or blue plastic lever cracks. The valves inside these taps are prone to getting very stiff. This is usually why the plastic levers crack or break. You can usually unscrew and remove the lever, and operate the tap using pliers.
If one of those self plumbing taps that clamp on to the copper water pipes has been fitted then they can get clogged up inside. Especially the hot one. When installed they only pierce a very small hole in the copper pipe. This hole is prone to clogging up. This type of tap can be unscrewed to gain access to clear the hole in the copper pipe. If this happens to the cold supply turn the main stop tap off first! A blockage inside a hot tap would require more work if the hot water is supplied from a hot water tank.
You would have to turn off the main stop tap, and then then drain the hot water tank (unless you know where the valve is to turn the hot water off in your water cylinder). Think twice before interfering with the plumbing unless you know what you are doing. If anything goes wrong you could be in big trouble. Especially if you have to call out an emergency plumber.
If there’s a good water supply and valve filter isn’t blocked
The next suspect is a faulty water valve (or solenoid). Or maybe a faulty connection. Water valves can have a live supply to them even when not operating. So never work on a washing machine when it’s connected to the electricity! The picture on the left shows a typical set of water valves. These days it’s common to only have 1 or 2 valves.
The solenoids can be tested with a continuity test meter. Ideally take off the wires before testing. Make sure you take a photo first. It is much easier to forget where wires went than you think. Fill valve solenoids have quite a high resistance. If completely open circuit that’s the fault. All valves should have the same reading, so you may be able to compare if more than one valve is fitted. If they test out ok, and you can’t see any faulty connections then we’ve tested as far as we can for this article and it’s best to get an engineer in. The only other line of enquiry could be a fault on the pressure system but this could be difficult to diagnose. Read this article for help on how washing machines control water levels
Read on for various other related not filling faults.
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If the drum starts to turn around without any water inside
This is not good. If instead of filling up with water, the drum starts to turn back and forth like it does on wash there could be a fault on the pressure system. The pressure system is responsible for detecting the levels of water inside the drum. If it goes faulty it is possible for it to believe that water is already inside the machine. This could explain why it doesn’t take any more water in. But it can also result in the heating element being energised to heat up the phantom water. This can cause serious damage and is a potential fire risk. If you suspect this is happening turn off the washing machine straightaway. (Faults on pressure system)
If water runs into the machine but never fills up in the drum
If you can see or hear water running into the machine but the water level never rises inside the drum it could be siphoning straight out down the drain. Check this article – fills and drains at same time
Only fills on one part of the cycle
If the washing machine fills okay on one section of the cycle but not on another it is worth checking how many valves are fitted. And how many solenoids there are. Each solenoid lets water in at a specific point in the cycle. Hot and cold fill machines (rare these days) can have either the hot or the cold valves go faulty. If the cold valve went faulty (or the cold water supply had failed) water would go in on wash, but not on rinses. Another variation might be if water doesn’t get taken in on rinses, but it will go in on the last rinse where it takes down the fabric softener with a different solenoid.
No fill error codes
Most washing machines are now controlled by software programmes and produce error codes if they don’t detect the right amount of water has been taken in within a set amount of time. So you may be reading this because an error code indicated a filling fault. If so just try to work out why from the advice here.
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