Why Has My Tap Stopped Working? Here’s Why, and How to Fix It


So we’ve all been there. Late for work, an appointment or simply just doing the dishes, you turn on your kitchen tap or get settled in the bathroom for a long soak and there’s no water coming out of your tap!


Not only does it waste our precious time not being able to get on with our day, but could also be a potential disaster waiting to happen! So what should you do?


In this article we are going to answer the question, why has my tap stopped working! And explore some of the more common tap problems, some troubleshooting tips, what to do if your tap won’t turn on or off and more.


But let’s first take a look at the short answer, then we’ll get into more of the detail and step by step process…


Why has my tap stopped working? There are a number of reasons why your tap may have stopped working. It could be a problem with your water provider. The ball valve in the cold water cistern may be stuck, you may have accidentally turned off the stopcock, it could be a spindle has become jammed or a washer needs replacing.


Now we’ve seen the brief answer as to why there might not be any water flowing through your taps. Let’s start by looking at some of the common tap problems you might encounter.


  • The cold water tap has stopped working altogether upstairs
  • The cold water tap in the kitchen has very low pressure
  • The hot water tap has stopped working
  • No hot water from the hot tap


So now we’ve seen some of the frustrating issues you may be experiencing with your tap, let’s look at some ways you may be able to solve it and get back to plentiful running water in your kitchen, bathroom, utility room or anywhere else you have a tap.

Why has my tap stopped working?

There’s a process to follow to distil down the number of reasons why your taps aren’t producing a steady flow of water, whether they’re the hot or cold taps.


It’s not always going to be a job for an expert plumber, it may be something you can deal with yourself. Sometimes the issue may not even be related to your water supply. A great many factors can lead to this frustrating issue and your first task will be to find out what’s going wrong.


Let’s take a look below at some checkpoints so you can find out the cause and potentially either do a small fix yourself or call in the services of a professional plumber.

1. Check with your neighbours

First of all, check to see if your stopcock is open, if you aren’t familiar with the location of this, get in touch with a local plumber.  Ask your neighbour about their water supply, as it could be that the problem is affecting your whole street rather than it being isolated to just your home.


If your neighbours are having similar problems, give the water company a call and tell them that your neighbourhood’s water system is not working – they should be able to advise you further from there.

2. Examine your cold water cistern

If there’s no water in the house, your stopcock is open and your neighbours aren’t experiencing any problems, then inspect your cold water cistern.


The ball valve may be stuck, in which case it will have caused the cistern to empty. If this has happened then sharply move the float arm to dislodge the valve, and then give it a thorough clean. The cold water cistern should then fill up and your taps should start working again.

3. Check your other taps

Is there any water flowing out of your other taps properly? If it seems like all of your home’s plumbing has broken down, then it’s worth checking to see that your main stopcock is open as you may have accidentally turned it off.

4. Could your pipes be frozen?

Depending on the location of the pipe, a frozen pipe can prevent water from flowing from one tap, a series of taps, or all the taps in a house.


If the cold water cistern is working properly, then check your bathroom taps and if they do not work, then the supply pipe leading from the cistern could be frozen.


If the cold water tap in the cistern is working, then press down on the ball valve in your water cistern to see if water flows into it. If it doesn’t, then the main supply pipe may be frozen


“If the cold water cistern is working properly, then check your bathroom taps and

if they do not work, then the supply pipe leading from the cistern could be frozen.”

5. Washer trouble

When the water in your tap isn’t flowing, it could be a simple washer replacement is all you need to get it up and running again.


If your washer has worked loose, it could have sealed off the water supply.


However, it’s important to understand that when washers stop being effective, they can sometimes damage internal components. So although the replacement of the washer itself is fairly easy to rectify, it’s likely to have caused other damage which would require an expert to inspect it.


Metal disc taps are prone to issues, so choosing a ceramic disc tap may prolong the life of any tap washers and are easier to maintain overall.


“However, it’s important to understand that when washers stop being

effective, they can sometimes damage internal components.”

Taps won’t turn on or off

So what if your taps simply won’t turn on or off? A worrying time when all of a sudden the expensive and crucial resource water is pouring out into your basin or bath and you simply can’t turn it off!  or you are trying to wash your dishes before settling down for the evening and the tap simply won’t turn on! What do you do? Let’s take a look below.

Tap won’t turn off

The best way to attempt tackling this issue is to turn off your mains water supply. This will immediately cut off the flow of water to prevent any further wastage of both the water and your cash!


If it’s the hot water tap that won’t turn off, you can turn off your hot water unit. However, if the cold water tap is proving to be the problem, you will need to turn off your water meter. If it’s both, then make sure you turn off both.


You could tackle this problem yourself if you have the know-how and fancy a little DIY job, or if you haven’t got the time or are unsure, then get in touch with a certified plumber.

What if my Taps Won’t Turn On?

In this case, it is often the spindle, which is the inner valve of the tap handle which can get jammed and will need replacing. Once again if you are handy at DIY it’s possible to do this yourself or to replace jammed spindles a skilled plumber will be able to tackle this swiftly for you.


Top Tip – whenever working with plumbing systems, always have a wet vac handy incase of uncontrollable leaks. This can be the difference between a damaged ceiling and managing to contain any water spills. Seriously these vacs and a big towel ready to hand can save you a lot of hassle.

And finally…

If you find yourself experiencing any of the above issues and either you are not sure where the main plumbing areas are located in your home, you’ve uncovered a major issue such as frozen pipes, flooding or aren’t able to access the source of the problem, make sure you get in touch.

If you live in the Bracknell, Reading, Wokingham or surrounding areas, we can be on hand to help with any issues you’re having with your taps, along with any other emergency plumbing repairs swiftly. Our quick response service means you will be enjoying free-flowing hot and cold water for your showers and taps again in no time.


How to fix a leaking tap –

Repairing a tap is pretty straight forward. However there are a few pointers you need to know before you get your hands dirty. Like anything with the right tools and knowledge anything is doable. I encourage you to read through this short guide to give you the guidance needed.

To start with you will need to do the following –

– Get a wide adjustable spanner, water pump pliers, flat head screwdriver and  tank bungs ( I use – Regin rad valve change kit black bungs ). And of course you will need a new cartridge for your tap. If you have lost track of the make then best to remove the cartridge to identify it. Using google, plumbing forums and suppliers to identify the type specific to your tap.

Top Tip – whenever working with plumbing systems I always have a wet vac handy incase of uncontrollable leaks. This can be the difference between a damaged ceiling and managing to contain any water spills. Seriously these vacs and a big towel ready to hand can save you a lot of hassle.

Isolate your water supply –

There are a few variations of plumbing systems. All you need to do is identify which type you have. In Principle you will either have a “Gravity” fed or “Mains” fed water supply. In some cases you can also have a combination of both where the hot water is coming from your “Gravity fed hot water cylinder” and the cold water is “Mains” fed.  This is commonly found in bathrooms although can cause issues if not installed with the correct control devices. In any case the same principles are applied. You can follow the step by step guide below which provides an easy to read summary of how to isolate your water supply.

Following which you can watch a video I have made as part of a series of self help videos to come.

Option (1)

For both “Gravity or Mains” fed systems.

There should be service isolation valves fitted in an accessible position directly below the terminal fittings or in this case basin taps. Simply turn the slotted part of the isolation valve horizontal to the pipework.

I must warn you that these kinds of valves are prone to leaks due to age and varying types and quality of the fitting. If you are unsure then best to leave them alone and move onto the next option. 

Option (2)

Surprisingly this may seem hard to believe – in actual fact in a lot and even I dare say in most situations this can be my most favorable choice. Start by running the taps, with a prepared safe access to your “Cold water storage tank” usually located in the loft. And using a couple of bungs plug the open vent pipe and cold water water outlets to the cold water storage tank. Wait for the flow to stop on your hot and cold water at your basin tap and you are ready to “Rock’n Roll’.

Warning – if you have pumped hot water from a “Gravity fed Hot Water Cylinder” ensure you switch off the power to the pump before running the basin taps dry. And then remember to switch it back on. If you had to drain the whole “Cold water storage tank” you will need to allow the gravity water to flow through to where the supplies are pumped before switching the electric back on to the pump. AS YOU DO NOT WANT TO RUN A PUMP DRY !!

Option (3)

My least favourable as could cause other issues of which one of the most common would be the dreaded “AIR LOCK”.

Isolate your cold mains supply at your internal or external stop cock – whichever one works if they work and don’t leak. Run your basin taps – once the water stops i.e has completely drained from your cold water storage tank you are good to go.

Once repairs are complete re-establish your cold mains supply. If you are lucky and the air completely clears as the cold water storage tank is filling and resupplying water flow through to your taps. You can now crack a bottle of champagne and celebrate as you have managed to bypass a world of potential problems. And I would like to congratulate you and look forward to that drink if we ever cross paths !

Option (4)

I saved the most simple one for last.

Assuming you have no accessible, reliable or working isolation valves (Only God knows why they were invented and in so many situations are unusable) – on a “Mains” pressure system which would either be with an “Unvented Cylinder” or “Combination Boiler” the following will be handy to know.

Quite simply all you need to do is isolate the “Cold water mains supply” under the kitchen sink or using the outside stop cock – whichever is easier to access and use.

Prior to working on your taps be careful to let off the pressure from the basin taps and any other taps used to drain the system. Once the repair is complete close your basin taps before turning the water supply back on. This way you can easily and gently control by re-opening the taps to clear any air in the system. Once the air has spurted out and full flow re-established you are now in business.

Top Tip – if you have a black plastic circular cover where your water meter is located outside usually in the pathway – this indicates you have a newer isolation valve. The water board takes responsibility for fitting and maintaining them. There should be a black tee piece key which slots into the water meter valve isolation slot. If it is this type out of a few other ones – turn the tee piece clockwise until fully closed. You can confirm this by releasing the pressure from your kitchen sink taps. This is also useful to know if you have an uncontrollable leak and need to shut down your whole property’s water supplies.


This is not limited to but includes Reading, Wokingham, Tilehurst, Sonning, Winnersh and Caversham.

As a locally focused home service provider we are all to well aware of the effects of hard water supplied to our customers homes. With so many products and solutions available it is difficult to make the right choice for your home and health. Admittedly I have developed a certain bias towards particular brands and designs of these solutions. Through experience of installing a wide range of filters and monitoring the success of these products I am hoping to assist the local communities understanding how to make the best choice.


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