You’re getting ready for a shower, and the shower knob turns, but no water comes out. The water just keeps streaming out of the tap. It’s a frustrating situation, and I’ve been there too, but it’s not necessarily a reason to immediately call a plumber. You may be able to fix it yourself with no plumbing experience.
There are a few easy-to-diagnose reasons that can explain why it’s happening and thankfully they come with a few easy fixes. Even if you need to call a plumber in the end, you’ll be able to explain what you did to troubleshoot the issue and hopefully save time and money.
The first step is to determine if the problem lies in the water source or the shower.
The problem could lie with the water source, like a disconnected water line or low water pressure. Or the shower itself could be malfunctioning. You could have a clogged shower head, a shower head that you need to replace, or a damaged or malfunctioning water diverter valve.
The Reasons Your Shower isn’t Turning On
Before you attempt to diagnose the problem, I have to ask: is your water bill paid? Are there any outages in your area? Check the taps in other rooms. Can you get both hot and cold water? If there are any external water issues, they’ll show up elsewhere in the house.
For this guide, we’ll assume the water bill is in good standing, and there are no water outages because of things like construction in your area.
That leaves five possible reasons you turn the shower knob, and no water comes out (read here for other reasons why your shower won’t turn on):
- A malfunctioning water diverter valve
- A clogged shower head
- A disconnected water line
- Low water pressure
- Old shower head in need of replacement
Let’s look at these potential problems in more detail and see which one best suits your situation. Then, the next step is starting work on a solution.
The Water Diverter Valve Is Malfunctioning
There’s a good chance your water diverter valve is malfunctioning when you turn the knob, and the water pressure is lower than usual. Trickling water from the shower head is another sign of a problem with the water diverter valve.
The job of the water diverter valve is to move water from your pipeline to the shower head. Sometimes this piece will stop working. It can cause little or no water to come out of your shower head when you turn the shower knob.
Is the Shower Head Clogged?
Did you know that the more often you use your shower without cleaning it, the quicker your shower head can get clogged? This quickly leads to no water flow. Mineral deposits can form in the shower head. These deposits block the water and can cause permanent problems.
Like a malfunctioning water diverter valve, the first sign that you have a clogged shower head is that the water flows slower. It can also trickle off and on before completely stopping.
Even if this isn’t the problem, a clogged shower head is something regular cleaning and maintenance can prevent. Be aware of the changes in pressure. Cleaning the head once a month with vinegar can allow you to stop a problem before significant problems occur.
Is the Water Line Disconnected?
Sometimes water not flowing from your shower head might be because of the main water line. Your shower head may not have flowing water if there’s a disconnected, damaged, or leaking water line.
If you think you can hear water running behind your shower, read this post to discern the problem.
The Water Pressure Is Too Low
When the water pressure is too low, less water is able to come out of your shower head . You might notice the water pressure in the tap is lower than usual before you see the shower issues (if you notice there’s lower water pressure in your shower, but not anywhere else, check out this post).
The Shower Head Is Aging
When did you last replace your shower head? Plumbers recommend replacing your shower head every six to eight months.
The internal components of the shower head can deteriorate over time, causing water to back up and not flow when you turn the knob.
The build-up of calcium, rust, sediment, and other debris, can also keep your shower head from functioning as it should. Calcium, also called limescale build-up, results from calcium salts flowing through the shower faucet.
With proper care, maintenance, and cleaning, you can prolong the lifespan of your shower head. However, if the shower knob turns but no water flows, and you’ve ruled out all the other reasons, it’s best to go ahead and replace your shower head.
What’s the Next Step?
Now that you’ve identified the problem, it’s time to fix it.
Most of these fixes you can handle on your own. Hiring a professional is always a good idea to prevent further damage or plumbing issues.
Check: Is the Water Line Disconnected?
If you think there’s a disconnected water line, you’ll need to check if the water works normally in any other appliances in your home.
Narrow Down the Location of the Issue
Sometimes there may be a broken, damaged, or leaking water line. If this is the case, water may flow to some areas of the home and not others. The best thing you can do is narrow down if the problem is strictly in your bathroom or throughout the house.
If rooms aren’t getting enough water, it may be time to call a plumber and relay the information.
Check: Are the Water Flow Valves Connected?
After you’ve ruled out that the main water line is the problem, you need to check the water flow valves and water diverter valves. Most water flow valves are under the sink.
If you notice a disconnected water valve, you can turn it back on. After this, you can turn the shower knob, and everything should resume working. Be sure to look for any issues with the valve, like a rusted rubber ring or cracks. Damage to these parts can pose a more significant problem if you don’t fix them.
If you have experience in this area, you can fix the water flow valve. Otherwise, talk to friends and find a professional to determine the exact problem and replace parts as needed. The rule is to get quotes from three plumbers and then choose the one that sounds the best.
Check: How Does the Shower Head Look?
If the valves work correctly, you can move up to the shower head. A broken, dirty, or misaligned shower head won’t function as it should. The easiest way to inspect the shower head is to remove it from the wall altogether so you can get a better look. You can use a screwdriver or other tools as necessary.
Sometimes, when people install shower heads, they’re not put on correctly. You might want to remove the shower head and put it back on to ensure proper installation.
You’ll want to look at the shower head and the little holes that the water comes out to see if there are mineral deposits, rust, or other debris clogging the shower head. If there is, proceed to the next step.
A Dirty Shower Head Needs a Cleaning
After you’ve determined the shower head’s proper installation, it’s a good idea to clean it. Cleaning a shower head is much easier than you might think. Cleaning takes a bit of time, but it’s worth the effort. All you’ll need is white vinegar and a large bowl to fit the shower head in.
Remove the shower head from the wall, and then fill a bowl with white vinegar. Place the shower head in the bowl, fully submerging the component in the vinegar. Let the shower head soak in the white vinegar for two to four hours or overnight. White vinegar should dissolve all the mineral deposits, rust, and other accumulation.
The next day, remove the shower head from the bowl of white vinegar, wipe it clean, and reattach it to your shower wall. Turn the shower knob and see if that helps improve the water flow in your shower. Allow the water to flow through the cleaned head for a few minutes before stepping into the shower.
If cleaning the shower head doesn’t lead to better water flow, there may be too much accumulation of rust and debris. If this is the case, or it’s been more than eight months, consider replacing the old shower head.
There are several explanations for why your shower knob turns, but no water comes out. However, diagnosing is easy if you know what you’re looking for. Once you see the problem, you can decide whether it’s an issue you can fix.
Regular cleaning of your shower head can go a long way. If there’s a cracked line or valve, consider seeking help from a professional plumber. Either way, once you’ve fixed the problem, you’ll return to a nice warm shower in no time.