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any water softener repair gurus here?

RRPRRP Posts: 21,297
edited 2:52PM in Off Topic
Basics: Kenmore UltraSoft 180 water softener just 18 days short of being 5 years old. It recycles based on water useage, not time. After diagnosing and correcting the fact I had a very hard and hidden salt bridge that was keeping it from working right, I now am stumped. It will create brine but will not draw the brine in for the brine rinse cycle though the brine level is visible in the tubular "brinewell". I've followed the trouble shooting guides and have cleaned the brine valve, hoses, venturi, and other suggested problem points but still it doesn't work. Now the salt storage tank is sitting there with a foot of brine. I paid $430 for it plus $140 for professional installation. So with $570 invested and it being 5 years old should I call for a Sears repairman which I assume will be at least $100 or just bite the bullet and buy another brand this time? If so any recommendations?
L, M, S, Mini
Ron
Dunlap, IL
Re-gasketing AMERICA one yard at a time...


Comments

  • Car Wash MikeCar Wash Mike Posts: 11,244
    I think most have foot valves. There is a float to. After 5 years, did the salt hardened up so bad, it cut everything off?

    Mike
  • fonemanfoneman Posts: 104
    I have that water softener and encountered the salt bridge you're talking about. It has happened a couple times. For that reason I never fill the brine tank more than half full with salt. One thing I found after clearing the salt bridge is with the float, which had salt on top of it preventing it from "floating". It is also easy to overlook the venturi which can become brittle and have a bad spot on it. I had to replace mine as well.

    My in-laws have one and had a problem. There is a rotating disk in the head that can get worn. I used some 600 and 1000 grit sandpaper on a flat surface to flatten the disk back to normal. It does not take much. The disk mates with some "O" rings to seal water flow and they can become worn as well, but may just need some silicone grease to lubricate for smooth rotation and seal.

    Good luck.
    John
  • Plumbr44Plumbr44 Posts: 212
    Ron,

    Was the condition of the brine hose good? I have seen countless times where just a small amount of air gets sucked into the brine hose, preventing brine draw. Also please check the float in the tubular channel inside the tank. Keep me posted?
  • RRPRRP Posts: 21,297
    I blew out the line and it had no obstruction. OTOH since the same line that sucks the brine back in is the one that fills it with water then I knew it was clear but cleaned it anyway. Yes the float ( a cheap piece of styrofoam had a heavy salt deposit on it which I cleaned off. Also the float travel was only supposed to be 10" but was 13" which may have been part of the extremely hard salt damn cause.
    L, M, S, Mini
    Ron
    Dunlap, IL
    Re-gasketing AMERICA one yard at a time...


  • RRPRRP Posts: 21,297
    hmmm, is that disc inside the venturi? or in the main control head? I ran it thru the other test cycles and it flushes ok - just won't draw in the brine to clean the "beads"!
    L, M, S, Mini
    Ron
    Dunlap, IL
    Re-gasketing AMERICA one yard at a time...


  • fonemanfoneman Posts: 104
    The disk that was worn is in the main control head.
  • Plumbr44Plumbr44 Posts: 212
    Is that a single tank or dual tank model? Do you know if it had an Econominder 5600 metered head on it? Any specific tech info or "sears" number might help me help you out somewhat.

    Matt the plumber
  • RRPRRP Posts: 21,297
    The Model is called a Kenmore UltraSoft 180 (625.388180). I guess you call it a single tank in that the resin tank sits inside the salt storage tank or is that called a double? I know it is a water useage metered unit, but see nothing in the manuals nor on the unit itself about Econominder or any other mfg name for that matter. Thanks for even taking this much time!
    L, M, S, Mini
    Ron
    Dunlap, IL
    Re-gasketing AMERICA one yard at a time...


  • Plumbr44Plumbr44 Posts: 212
    Before you take that head apart, I'd have a new set of o-rings on hand. I looked at the oem parts list and it's not an econominder. If it's not drawing brine, and not overfilling on brine refill, it may not be even refilling. I keep thinking it might be in the float assy, preventing water flow. Have you "babysat" it through a cycle during that refill/brine draw time?
  • RRPRRP Posts: 21,297
    baby sit it...yes and the manual says you should notice a rapid lowering of the brine, but there is no movement. When I step it through the other stages in the test cycles they all seem to work - such as flushing etc, just no uptake of the brine. I took the float assembly apart and found nothing wrong - no dirt - no blockage etc and the float moves freely.
    L, M, S, Mini
    Ron
    Dunlap, IL
    Re-gasketing AMERICA one yard at a time...


  • Plumbr44Plumbr44 Posts: 212
    Ron,

    I would say just empty the tank of water and see if it will refill the tank. I don't know that much about the Sears, other than I replace a lot of them. If all else fails, I'd say it's Obama's fault, LOL...
  • sorry i can't offer any troubleshooting advice, but if you decide to call it a day and buy a new one, take a long look at Kinetico. i am a career process automation engineer, and i abide by "the simpler the better" despite my propensity to want to overengineer anything! the kinetico regenerates based on a water-driven meter, very few mechanical parts, and no electrical parts. we have had ours in service for 12 years, on hard/cruddy well water, and all i do is dump in salt. have never had an operational problem or service call. also, due to the way it operates, it uses MUCH less salt than conventional softeners. (i'm not a kinetico dealer altho i may sound like one!)
    they are pricey, and i'm cheap, but if this one ever gives out i'll buy another one in a heartbeat.

    good luck with yours, hopefully you'll get it working.
  • RRPRRP Posts: 21,297
    yes, I've heard of that brand - sort of the BGE of water softeners, but way way way more pricey! When I first looked at them maybe 14 years ago they were over $1,600 at that time and I believe the only one at the time using the metered useage vs timer, but at that time I wasn't really needing a new softener. When it was time to replace mine (brand I forget) I was happy to learn many manufacturers had some how matched the method at a far cheaper price. Maybe my complaint here after 5 years with this Sears model supports your suggestion to bite the bullet.
    L, M, S, Mini
    Ron
    Dunlap, IL
    Re-gasketing AMERICA one yard at a time...


  • RRPRRP Posts: 21,297
    Thanks for your help though! Guess I'll flip a coin after I find out what a Sears service call will cost me and if that cost would be applied toward a new unit if it couldn't be fixed. I'm not adverse to paying for services rendered, but don't want to throw away money if these Sears units are known as lemons - which I was sort of hoping to find out as a byproduct of my post.
    L, M, S, Mini
    Ron
    Dunlap, IL
    Re-gasketing AMERICA one yard at a time...


  • Plumbr44Plumbr44 Posts: 212
    The supplier I by mine from has them for 389.00 for a 32,000 grain 2 tank with salt grid, float, and a metered head. Not Kinetco though, no electricity, but around here they go through a butt-load of water.
  • CanuggheadCanugghead Posts: 5,949
    Sorry Ron, hope you don't mind, I don't mean to thread jack but just thought I'd ask Matt a quick water softener question. Hope you can resolve your problem one way or another.

    Matt, I have a Culligan Mark 100 SoftMinder that's probably 18 years old, few years ago it was 'discharging' water non-stop but I brought it back to life after replacing the control valve assembly myself. In all these years I had my first salt bridge episode a month ago. After breaking up the bridge it's now working normally, well 'almost'. Problem is: The gallon count down based on usage that's supposed to automatically trigger the regen cycle is stuck at '160', which means I have to manually push the regen button every so often. Any expert advice you can give would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

    -Gary
    canuckland
  • Plumbr44Plumbr44 Posts: 212
    Gary,

    First thing I would check is the cable that goes from the impeller assy to the head. It probably will have a square end on it. Take the end NOT in the head out (it pulls out easy) and give it a twirl in your fingers and see if the dial turns on the control head. Hopefully the cable just wiggled itself out and is not engaged in the impeller enough. Feel free to e-mail me direct if you want.
    plumbr44@comcast.net

    Hope that helps you, let me know.

    Matt C.
  • CanuggheadCanugghead Posts: 5,949
    Thanks Matt, I'll take some photos and email you.
    -Gary
    canuckland
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