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

I need a 7144960 Timer Repl

I need a 7144960 Timer Repl (PWA) for a Sears water softener model 625.3484500.

kenmorewatersoftner timer

model 625.340500 ser.22317 neew timer day dial is siszed but I can regenerate manuallysend price if you have a timer thank you.

I had problems with the

I had problems with the softener. It was not using any salt. I cleaned the head, jets and tubing. It now regenerates properly but I do not have the water pressure that I used to have. One shower at a time is okay. Flush a toilet or the second shower at the same time and the pressue goes down the drain. Any thoughts out there??

Low pressure

you might check the pressure regulator from the main water line to your home. If you have hard water & the regulator has been in service for many years it may not be keeping the pressure constant within the house lines. The usual symptoms are that the iniial turn on of the water provides adequate pressure & then the flow reduces to a lower level. The pressure has been built up over time,when the taps have not been used, but as the flow passes through the regulator it slows due to the restrictions within the regulator caused by corrosion or calcium build up.

Low pressure

Our softener was fine for about 3 years, now we have low water pressure. The water company checked the flow and replaced our meter and it is fine. When we bypass the softener, the pressure is great no matter how many taps are open. When we put the softener back into "service" mode we practically lose all water pressure. I have been told to backwash the system due to a possibly contaminated resin tank. This is because right before the presure loss there was untility work down the street on the pipes. However, backwashing has not helped. I have replaced orings, checked the float, and venturi for blockages. I am running out of ideas. Anybody else lose pressure this badly? I'm thinking I may need to replace the resin or the valve or the whole system at this point.

pressure

I've got the same identical problem with my sears softener. I backwashed last night and will check pressure tonight.

used timer card needed

The card controlling my water softener, kenmore 625.3485500, is not working properly. The card part number is 7144986. I would like to get a used one as the new ones are quite expensive.

Kenmore Water Softener Problems

Am having a water flow/pressure problem. Whan a tap is first turned on the volume and pressrue seem adequate, but the longer it is left on they both dwindle quickly. If filling up the washing machine or the tub things deteriorate to a virtual dribble comming out of the tap. If I bypass the softener there is no problem at all. Have checked the flow valve and the disperser basket that is under the main valve assembly and see no problems. Can't seem to find any trouble shooting info on this peticular problem? Any ideas would be appreciated.

I have the same problem and I

I have the same problem and I called the Sears waterline and asked them about it. I was told that over time, due to the chlorine in our tap water, the resin has deteriorated (turned to "mush") and needs to be replaced. A couple of other websites I've checked out have also mentioned that this happens with chlorinated water supplies. Basically what needs to be done is the resin tank needs to be dumped and cleaned, and rebedded with new resin. I am now in the process of trying to figure out if I'll attempt this myself or have it done for me.

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