Fixing a Sears Kenmore Water Softener

I have been struggling with the Water Softener for a few months now. I got it fixed by Sears for about 165$Cdn two years or so ago. A few months ago, it started having problems again. So I decided to try and fix it myself.

What is a water softener?

First a little background.

In North America city water is locally produced from underground water, not from a river like in Egypt. Deep under the ground there are aquifers, and the city taps into it, treats it and make it available to the inhabitants. If the bedrock has a lot of calcium, .e.g limestone, in it, then the water is often said to be "hard water".

Hard water causes a lot of problems: dishes would look cloudy, the tea kettle will have white residue in it, soap will not rinse from your hand (no squeaky clean feeling), your hair will clump if you use soap in the shower instead of shampoo, and the water heater efficiency will decrease as the calcium from the hot water precipitates on its walls. Soap and detergent use is also increased.

How does a water softener work?

So, there is a market for water softeners in places that have hard water.

A water softener works by having a tank that is filled with salt, and a tanks full of a special resin. The resin can remove the hardness from the water, but requires that it be regenerated by washing it with salt brine during regeneration. Water softener are either demand based (after a certain number of gallons have been processed), or time based (e.g. twice week). Regeneration happens in the early hours of the morning, depending on how you set it. It goes through several cycles, which are basically:

  • Fill: Water is passed to the salt tank
  • Brining: Water is left in the tank to form brine
  • Rinse: The brine is used to rinse the resin, remove the calcium that it has removed in the past, and make it able to remove calcium again
  • Back Wash: The resin tank is flushed for residues and iron deposit
  • Fast Rinse: The resin is rinsed from all the above
  • Service: This means that the water softener is serving soft water for the house

There are many brands of water softeners out there in the market. Many are rebranded. For example, Sears Kenmore, Ecoline and General Electric (GE) are the same. Culligan is also similar.

About my handyman's skills

Before I start, I should say that I am not at all handy with maintaining a house. Part of it is due to the fact that in Egypt most people live in concrete apartments, and not woodframe and drywall houses with lawns. Part of it is that I never got the hang of being mechanically adept, whether it is plumbing, carpentry, car maintenance, and such. So, fixing a water softener, which involves mechanical, electrical and plumbing aspects is quite a challenge.


Many things can go wrong with a water softener. The basic complaint is that "there is no soft water". Another is high water level in the salt tank. Yet another is salt level that does not go down as the weeks pass.


The manual for a water softener often has some comprehensive diagnostics that can be done to see

Start with cleaning the nozzle and Venturi. This should not require any tools, and can be disassembled and assembled by hand. Take note on how things fit before you remove them. Wash the components in water. Use some vinegar. Make sure there is no deposits, salt, rust, calcium or debris.

Then check the float in the salt well in the tank. The float should be able to move up and down, and the hose should be able to inject water in the tank and suck it again.

Then shut the water supply, drain the house (open the lowest lying faucet in the house), then disassemble the cam gear and rotor from the valve head. Check all the seals and gaskets and that there is no wear on the smooth side of the rotor.

Run the diagnostics as per the manual, and make sure that the cam gear moves well. If the motor is skipping and making a clicking sound and failing to move the cam gear, then replace it.

Replacing all the gaskets, the rotor, the cam gear and the motor should solve most problems, and only cost me 74$ Cdn. That is provided that the nozzle/venturi are clean, and that there is no obstruction to the float assembly.

Check for the formation of a salt bridge, specially in humid environment. Tap the side of the tank and see if there is a hollow sound at some spot under a solid sound. Use a broom stick to break it.

Once every six months, get a water softener cleaner (basically a sulphite powder that removes iron deposit. You can buy it at Canadian Tire or other hardware stores. It is more expensive at Sears, so avoid buying it there.

Every year or 18 months, try to remove all the salt from the tank and wash it. You can use warm water, and a wet/dry vacuum to remove it.


Fixing a water softener is easier than you think. Save your money and do it yourself. Get the manuals online, go buy the parts, and do it.

The morale of the story is: If I could do it, anyone can do it.

Resources and Links

Here are some useful links with more information:



low water pressure

A plummer looked at the low water pressure coming out of the facets and also from the toilet. He said that their was resin from my water softner on the base of the toilet and in the water lines. Is their a way to fix the resin tank without buying a new water softner?

Watersoftner tank filling up

I own a 3 1/2 year old Kenmore model 280 softner.  Recently it has been filling with water.  I have had a service rep come out and check out the unit, but he was unable to find a problem.  The service call cost $75. A week after the service call the unit is filling with water again.  I found that doing a recharge removes the water to the proper level, but over a few days the unit starts to fill with water.  I have gone through the troubleshooting recommended in the owners manual and there isn't any visible problems.  Is anyone having this problem and can you recommend a solution.  I am really not interested in having to pay for another service call if I don't have to.  Any help would be appreciated.

The float should

The float should automatically shut off the water going into the fill tank when the level gets to a certain point. I would suspect that the rubber seal at the bottom of the float assembly is bad, and is letting more water get into the tank that it should. This will require that you pull out the the long pipe where the fill goes into to get to the bottom section where the valve is located.

waterin the unit

I've been having lately water finding water in the area where the salt is located. What could be the cause of this?

Salt tank full of water...

I just replaced a ten-year-old Kenmore softener because the brine tank cracked and I was concerned about it bursting and flooding my basement. I don't know how likely it was to happen, but I wasn't taking the chance.

Anyhow, after about 7-8 years, the salt tank was filling with water to the point where it reached the overflow hose on the tank. I did all the diagnostics on but did not easily recognize the real culprit: yes, the Venturi gasket was worn which meant it wasn't draining as fast as it should, yet it was still draining. The real problem is the gaskets and the plastic rotor disc in the valve head (below the motor). The plastic rotor becomes scored, the gaskets wear and water slowly drains into the tank. Replace all of the above with a gasket/rotor repair kit and, yes, the Venturi gasket too. Get a small tube of food-grade silicone grease for the gaskets and put a thin coating on the rotor too or it may bind too tightly for the motor to turn it initially. Good as new! -- or so I thought until the brine tank cracked :(

softner leaking from under resevoir

i have a stainless steel softner and it is leaking from underneath. can i unbolt the bypass valve from the tank when the valve is in the bypass without turning the water off to the house? thanks, Chris

Stuck in Backwash cycle

I have a high Capacity 70 model no. 625.348732 that is stuck backwashing. I have unplugged and reset the time and ran a manual recharge, the unit fills, brines, rinses and backwashes, then the display shows E and it stays in backwash. Any suggestions as to what might be stuck or broke?

kenmore model 625.348832 watersoftener

I'm getting an error 03 on the display. I also have low water pressure when the softener is on. When I use the bypass pressure is normal....Any ideas


do i put water on the salt in the holding tank??? need help