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The Definitive Water Softener Repair Guide

Posted by Donavan Jones on

servicing a water softener

Are You Tired Of Hard Water? Let's Get Started!

GET SOFT WATER NOW

Thank you for taking the time to read our Water Softener Repair Guide. Read through this guide completely to understand what is required to do the repair. If you feel like you need help with this project, we are just one call away.

It doesn't matter what water softening system you may have. Every system will have issues that require water softener repair. If you are doing the repair yourself then this water softener repair guide will help you greatly.

Sadly, troubleshooting your system is not always easy. Don't fret, our Water Purification guide will help you out.

Below, in our water softener repair guide, you will find a few fixes that you can try, and hopefully, they will save you from a service call.

Table Of Contents:

My Water Softener Is not Working. What Do I Do?

confused man

Test your water!

The easiest way to test to see if your water softening system is working properly is by measuring the water hardness at one of your faucets.

Before you can do that, you will need to buy a cheap water testing kit online or buy one at your local hardware store. Just follow the instructions that are included in the kit.

When you test your water for hardness you are actually testing for calcium carbonate levels. Depending on the water test kit, the concentrations may be measured in ppm (parts per million), mg/L, or gpg (grains per gallon).

Testing your water at one of your faucets is just one part of the test. The second part of the test is to get a hardness reading of your water before the water softener. You will want to see if there is a difference in hardness before and after the softening process.

Before You Start

are you ready illustration

If hard water is coming out of your system make sure to follow these steps first before tackling our water softener repair guide below.

  • Does your water softener run on electricity? Check to make sure that it is plugged in.

  • Make sure the bypass valve is not in the bypass position.

  • Look into the brine tank to see if there is enough salt. 

  • Make sure the time of day is set correctly.

  • Check the settings regarding hardness, salt and water usage for regeneration, and also regeneration time and cycle length. Adjust accordingly.

  • On metered units, is the valve registering water flow?

  • Is the unit new? Is it correctly plumbed?

  • If you have not found anything that is wrong at this point then you need to start a manual regeneration cycle and retest the output water hardness level afterward.

Is your water soft? If not then it may be that your water needs are higher than you had anticipated. If this is the case then you will run out of soft water as your system cannot keep up.

Obviously, you would want this to be fixed. You can increase the salt to get more out of your system and/or you can let your system regenerate more often for a longer period of time.

If the above did not fix your water softener issue then there is something wrong with it. It may not regenerate due to a broken timer or the brine tank is having a problem causing the resin to not fully recharge. Your water softener may also have a dirty or depleted resin bed.

Water Softener Repair Guide 101

Keep in mind that there are many potential causes for your water softener to fail and finding the problem is not always straightforward.

Water Softener System Does Not Regenerate

  • Broken Timer - To find out if you have a broken timer you need to set the regeneration cycle to daily. If the system does not recharge by the following night that indicates that the timer is broken. 

  • Misconfigured Timer - A common issue is that the timer is not configured correctly.

  • Clogged Injector/Venturi - Check if the brine injector or venturi valve is clogged, if so remove any debris or salt deposits

  • Restricted Drain Hose - Any restriction may disrupt the brine draw during the recharge process.

  • Water Level - The water level needs to be about a foot from the bottom of the tank and should be touching the salt.

  • Salt Bridge - The salt formed together to produce a salt bridge. This stops the water from reaching the salt.

  • Dirty Or Worn Out Resin Beds - Materials build up inside the resin tank over time and foul or clog the bed

  • Motor Failure - If the motor failed then replacing it is the only option.

Water Softener Diagram

If you are having problems identifying the parts this diagram may help.

water softener diagram

There Is Not Enough Water In The Brine Tank

You can only tell if your brine tank has enough water if it is running low on salt. 

Why?

A normal functioning brine tank won't fill up all the way to the top. Not even close!

Instead, the water only gets pumped into the bottom of the tank. The salt partially dissolves and the brine solution gets sucked into the resin tank for regeneration.

If you look into your brine tank and you don't see any water that's perfectly normal.

Don't freak out.

If there is not any water flowing into the brine tank then your water softener cannot produce soft water and if it is only filling up partially then the regeneration will not be at 100%.

How do you fix this?

The first thing you need to do is make sure that the brine tank float switch is straight and can move freely. If it is stuck, you need to clean all of the parts inside the brine tank. If this did not fix the problem then replace the broken switch.

Lastly, make sure the brine line and valve are not clogged. If it is then you need to soak the brine line and/or valve in hot water to help flush out the clog.

How To Drain The Brine Tank On A Water Softener

There a few ways that you can drain your water softener's brine tank. The first way is to use a bucket and scope out the water by hand.

If doing it by hand isn't for you then use a wet-dry vacuum. This is a convenient way to drain your brine tank by sucking out the water. Be sure to use a wet-dry vacuum because not all shop vacs are designed to suck up water, so make sure that you use one that works for both wet and dry applications!

The best way to drain the brine take is use your water softeners manual regeneration cycle. You can activate a manual regeneration cycle by pushing and holding the "regenerate" button to empty a water softener full of water. 

When your tank is empty, you can then push the button to skip all of the other cycles and return your water softener back to normal.

My Water Softener Is Running But Not Softening My Water

If your water softener is operating but it is not producing soft water, you most likely have one of the following issues.

Water softener setting are off

Water softeners have a control valve that dictates when the system recharges. If these settings are off, your system may not be recharging the resin beads. Your softener may be recharging while you are using the water, in which case, the water you receive may not be softened or you may have a salt taste if the water has not gone through the rinse portion of the regeneration.

What to do: Check that the correct time of day is displayed on the softeners head.


Salt bridging or salt mushing

A salt bridge is when the salt in the brine tank hardness into a dome shape that creates an air pocket between the salt and the water.

Salt mushing is when the salt recrystallizes and creates a thick sludge at the bottom of your brine tank.

Both of these situations will prevent sodium ions from recharging your resin beads. This means the resin beads will eventually stop softening your water.

What to do: To check for salt bridging. press down on the top layer of salt with a broom handle. If you can reach the bottom of the tank, you don't have a salt bridge. If you do have a salt bridge, gently break up the hardened salt.

To test for salt mushing, you will need to remove some of the salt and check for a thick layer of sludge coating the bottom of the brine tank. If there is a layer, you will need to completely clean out your brine tank and refill it with salt and water.

Too much water in the brine tank

If your brine tank has too much water and too little salt, this decreases the salinity of your recharging brine.

Lowering the salt content of the brine prevents the resin beads from fully recharging. If your resin beads don't properly recharge, they will stop softening your water.

What to do: Check the level of water in your brine tank.

Your system automatically fills the brine tank so if there is too much water, then you will need to have a professional inspect your brine tank and the float assembly for the problem.

Dirty resin bed

    Over time, iron and other hard minerals can build up in your resin tank. This makes it hard for your resin beads to soft your water supply.

    What to do: Use a resin cleaner that is specifically designed to remove mineral build up. Follow the directions on the bottle and pour the correct amount of cleaner into the brine tank.

    Fine the regenerate knob on the control valve and turn it counterclockwise with a screwdriver.

    If your resin beads are extremely dirty then you can repeat this process again

    When you are finished, just remember to turn the regeneration knob clockwise back to its original position.

    To flush out any cleaner in your system, turn on the nearest faucet and let it rub for 10 minutes.

    Water Softener Is Not Using Salt

    If the salt in the brine tank is not going down then that means no salt is being used.

    A "salt bridge" is to blame. It looks like a hard crust made up of salt. This bridge prevents salt from falling down and dissolving in the water to form the brine. Usually, the salt that is between the salt bridge and the top of the water is already gone. 

    If there is not enough salt getting dissolved then the resin cannot regenerate and will eventually stop softening the water.

    water softener salt

    You can test to see if a salt bridge has formed by pushing a broom handle all the way to the bottom of the salt tank. If you can't then you have found a salt bridge.

    With great care, you need to crush the salt bridge and all large clumps with a blunt tool. After the salt bridge is broken up you can start a manual regeneration cycle so that your water softener can recharge.

    How Much Water Should There Be In The Brine Tank?

    Should there be water in my water softeners' brine tank?

    Yes, as long as it's a post-fill system!

    As stated above, you should not be able to see the water. The only time you should be able to see the water is when the salt is low.

    If you are able to see the water that means either the brine tank is not filling or not emptying properly. If there is to much water in the brine tank it reduces the brine salinity which prevents your water softener from recharging correctly.

    Make sure that the brine float is straight and moves freely. Neither the brine valve nor the brine tube should be clogged. Keep in mind that the valve might be stuck in the open position or the assembly has a worn-out O-ring.

    Other possibilities as to why your brine tank is full of water or overflows.

    • Water Pressure - Make sure the water pressure in your home meets your water softeners' requirements

    • Clogged Drain Tubing - Make sure the drain tubing is clean

    • Clogged Injector - Make sure the brine injector isn't clogged and it is free of any debris or salt deposits

    • Malfunctioning Timer - The refill time may not be set properly

    • Blockage In The Control Valve - A blockage in the main control might cause an internal bypass. Clean it to unclog it

    Dirty Or Worn Out Resin Bed

    Your water softeners' resin bed is the heart of the system. If the resin bed is not in good shape it can lead to a range of issues such as discoloration to low water pressure.

    Why is my resin bed discolored?

    Most water contains impurities such as sediment, iron, sulfur, manganese, organic compounds or bacteria, especially in well water. These impurities can build up inside the resin tank and over time foul or clog the bed.

    Water softening systems that have been out of service for some time or that run for long periods between regenerations are affected the most.

    bacteria

    If your resin bed has gone bad due to fouling, it is often accompanied by reduced softening capacity and possibly has an unpleasant taste or rotten egg smell in the water.

    Are You Tired Of Hard Water? Let's Get Started!

    GET SOFT WATER NOW

    A fouled resin bed requires cleaning and sanitization. Consider shortening the time between regeneration cycles while lowering the salt if necessary.

    Your resin might just be worn out. This is commonplace for homes that are on city water. As you may know, city water contains chlorine and what you may not know is that chlorine can break down the small plastic beads in the resin bed. If you place a bead between your fingers and it crumbles easily then that's an indication of the resin bed going bad due to the chlorine in your water supply.

    Lastly, another way to determine the condition of the resin is to look for plastic particles in your faucet strainers and showerheads.

    If this is the case, the only solution to this is to replace the resin bed or replace the tank.

    Water Softener Resin Tank Leaking

    If you notice any signs of your water softener resin tank leaking on or around the resin tank then you need to check the tank for wet spots.

    If the resin tank is cracked then mark the place where the leak was found. Switch off the water supply to the water softener and disassemble it. Empty the resin out of the resin tank into a safe container. Next sand the marked location using some sandpaper. Now use a waterproof epoxy that handles salt well and fill the cracks. Let dry and then assemble the water softener and turn on the water supply to it.

    You need to fix or replace every piece that was leaking. We have done this numerous times and we know inspecting the resin tank is a tedious task but there really is no way around it.

    Water Softener Leaking from Brine Tank

    You will know if your brine tank is leaking.

    If your brine tank is leaking you will notice a sized leak coming from directly from the bottom or the side of the brine tank. If you just done some scheduled maintenance and removed a salt bridge, you may had accidentally damaged it.

    You can use a water proof epoxy to repair the brine tank leak after you have done the proper prep work and it is cleaned out. Use some sand paper on the leaking spot to get it ready for the epoxy. Wipe the spot to remove the debris from the sanding. Apply the epoxy direct to the damaged spot. Let dry before assembling the brine tank.

    Water Softener Bypass Valve Leaking

    You will know if you have a leaking bypass valve because you will see some mineral deposit buildup around where the leak is on the valve. If your valve have O-rings, they may need to be replaced. Some bypass valve has kits for rebuilding the valve but if your doesn't then the only choice you have would be to just buy a new bypass valve.

    Water Softener Drain Line Leaking

    Drain lines can be installed improperly or overtime they become blocked, cracked, or they can burst. Before you start, check to make sure that the drain line has proper amount of air gap and was correctly installed.

    If was properly installed then you can rule out the air gap. If you notice a trickle of water following the drain line, follow it until it stops, that spot will be where the crack or issue begins.

    You will need to check for blockages that may have caused the cracking or just replace the drain line altogether.

    Brown Water In The Brine Tank

    If there is brown water in the brine tank then that's a sign for too much rust in the feed water supply. This rust rich water mixes with the brine water to create the brownish color. 

    The obvious solution to this is to clean the brine tank. A standard water softener should be cleaned between once a year to every five years. This depends on the condition of the feed water supply.

    Discolored Water

    rusty water

    When running your water and you notice the water being brown, yellow, cloudy or otherwise discolored, this could be an indicator for rusty water, dirty salt or a fouled resin bed. Check the above sections for how to clean your brine tank.

    Water Softener Cause Low Water Pressure

    If you have low water pressure then one of the following may be to blame

    • Worn Out Or Clogged Resin Bed - A lot of the time, a drop in pressure results from resistance in the resin bed. Chlorine might have corroded it. The remains sink to the bottom of the mineral tank and form an almost impermeable layer. 

    • Resin Beads Have Clogged Fixtures - If the beads are washed out of the resin tank they can end up in and clog faucet strainers and showerheads. To get your pressure back to normal just clean all of the water outlets.

    • Improper System Sizing - A water softener that is too small in terms of softening capacity or that does not provide a high enough flow rate will either bleed hard water or reduce pressure, or both. There is not much you can do really except for learning how to size a water softener the right way when buying a new system.

    • Clogged Control Valve - Just clean to unclog.

    Water Is Slippery And Tastes Overly Salty

    If your water is extremely slippery or tastes like salt it basically means that your water is "too soft". This means that your water softener is using too much salt. To fix this just check your salt settings.

    woman reaching for a glass of water

    Another explanation could be that the drain hose or control is clogged. This prevents brine from being flushed out of the resin tank during regeneration. In order to fix the problem remove any debris.

    Water Softener Won't Stop Running

    Your water softener might be stuck in regeneration or keeps cycling over and over if the brine tank cannot draw brine from the salt tank.

    This can be caused by a clogged drain line/control, injector/venturi or brine line/valve. The valve assembly in the salt tank may not be able to move or the water pressure in your house is too low.

    A broken switch or the wrong setting controlling the regeneration cycle length could be causing the problem.

    Very High Salt Use

    High salt use may result from either having set an improper salt dose or too frequent regeneration cycles. Check both settings on the control unit.

    Yellow Resin Beads In Pipes And Water

    A cracked basket at the bottom end of the riser tube located in the resin tank might leak yellow resin beads into your house. This can happen if there is a lot of chlorine in the water supply. The high concentration of chlorine in the water can eat away the plastic of the resin beads or the resin has reached its end of life. 

    Whatever the reason, they will end up everywhere in your plumbing system, water outlets, and appliances, clogging small water lines and causing all sorts of damage.

    • Open the water softener bypass valve.

    • Drain and flush your water heater.

    • Open all water outlets including faucets and showers. Don't forget to flush both hot and cold water lines. Flush your toilets. Clean faucet strainers

    • Run all water appliances. If one of them seems clogged, turn it off, disconnect it and check all water lines for beads. Then reattach and run the appliance a second time.

    Replace any broken parts that are responsible for the mess. To replace the riser tube you must empty the resin tank first.

    shower head

    Water Softener Repair Guide Conclusion

    Testing your water before and after the water softener will give you some insight into what is going on with your water softener. If your water is hard after the softening process, then you will know there is something wrong. If you need help with the repair of your water softener we have the knowledge and expertise to perform any water softener repair, even if the water softener is not a Water Filter One brand.

    Thank you for reading our water softener repair guide and good luck repairing your water softening system.

    Are You Tired Of Hard Water? Let's Get Started!

    GET SOFT WATER NOW

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