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.

Symptoms

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.

Solutions

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.

Conclusion

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:

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Comments

Sear's Kenmore water softener

Problem
No soft water - Resulted in a small salt crystal plugging the
small orifice hole in the rubber plug below the venturi.

Solution:
Raised the suction tube for the brine about 1/2" to prevent sucking small salt particles off the tank bottom. Also I use a
1/2" plastic water pipe about 3' in length to push through the
salt when it bridges in the tank. A plastic cap can be added to
the end of the pipe for comfort in the hand when pushing down.

Have had no other problems - suggest using clear silicone grease
when seals are removed for cleaning or replaced. Silicone will not attack the rubber and deteriorate them.

Watersoftner

I have a kenmore 625.348491. We are having problems with a yellowish brown gitty substance coming from our sinks. One plumber says it is our watersoftner that needs to be replaced. Another says it is a break in a line somewhere. Has anyone ever had this problem????

You have a broken screen in

You have a broken screen in the resin tank and the resin granules are circulating through your water lines. You will have to have the tank taken apart, the part replaced, resin refilled.

Resin tank

The light brown stuff coming out of your faucet is the resin out of your resin tank. May have to look at changing the resin tank. My was changed at a tune of $417.00.

I have a Kenmore Model

I have a Kenmore Model #625348490 Water Softener and half the tank is filled with water. It seems to be regenerating properly, but water is still in the tank. Is this a venturi problem?? Thanks.

If you mean the brine in the

If you mean the brine in the tank, it should never completely go down, and then it automatically refill after regeneration of the softener. If you don't see it go down during the regeneration, then likely there is a clog in the filter screen or the venturi is plugged. I worked for a water treatment company, but never worked on any kenmores. If you can manually regenerate it, do so and watch the tank level. It should drop during the cycle. Incidentally, I would keep the salt level above the water line to insure the brine solution is fully saturated.

A Kenmore water softener is

A Kenmore water softener is a fill first softener and only keeps about 3" of water in the brine tank when it's not regenerating. If there is more than 3" in the tank between regenerations the nozzle and venturi assembly typically is plugged. View kenmorewater.com animation, trouble shooting for instructions.

water softener

most likely - yes! it cost about $13CND for the part. But before buying new, try to clean it. Go on website: www.kenmore.com they have very helpful animations for practicing. Good luck!

I have a Sears softener and

I have a Sears softener and the tank is approximately one fourth full of water, how do I repair this?

water level high

I found the bypass valve was dripping into the tank... replaced the o rings.

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