Water softener diagnosis FAQs © Daniel Friedman Water Softener Troubleshooting
Diagnostic FAQs about water conditioners & water softeners

  • DIAGNOSTIC FAQs for WATER SOFTENERS - CONTENTS: common water softener operating trouble diagnosis & repair questions & answers - water softener operating & repair suggestions Water softener control operating questions & problems. Water softener-caused water colors, debris, slime, odors. Problems with water softener hookup, plumbing supply, drainage, & venting.
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Water softener / water conditioner most-commonly-asked questions:

These frequently-asked questions & their answers help troubleshoot water softner problems. This article series describes procedures for diagnosing and repairing water softener or water conditioner problems including water conditioner control settings and adjustment or repair, brine tank and brine tank float cleaning and repair, and the proper amount of water softening or conditioning that is needed.

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More Water Softener Diagnostics & Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Identifying, Installing, Adjusting & Repairing Water Softeners

Note: some of these questions and answers were originally posted at our Water Softeners Home Page found at WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS.

Water Softener Control Operation Problems & Questions

Question: How do we figure out the settings for our Autotrol 255/460i water softener? Our water hardness is 30 gpg and we have 2 ppm of iron.

How do I set the regeneration push pins on my Commers Model 24C?

Water conditioner regen cycle control (C) D FriedmanWe are trying to figure out what to set our softener at. We have a 60,000 Autotrol 255/460i. Our hardness is 30gpg, we have 2ppm of iron, and we have 5 people in our home. Can you help me out in trying to figure out the capacity setting, and the salt dial? - Krystine / Deloras

Hey there, thanks for the awesome website!
I have a Commers Model 24C. The thing just isn't working at all. I think the regeneration cycle isn't set right. I have no idea what to do with the push/pull pins, or what the red arrow thingy means on the push pin area.

There is another dial that is 1-16, and I set it in the middle to 8 just now, though I have no idea what to do. Could you please tell me how to set this water softener please? Note: I have 5 people, we use lots of water, and right now it is totally hard. - Tim


Autotrol 400 control sketch Krystine, and Tim: in the article at SOFTENER ADJUSTMENT & CONTROLS we describe how the water softener is typically set based on water usage and grains of hardness, and we include tables that show suggested salt doses and recharge frequency for hard water.

In a separate article DIAGNOSE WATER SOFTENER PROBLEMS we discuss what to do if the water softener is not working.

In general, adjust the water softener capacity setting according to your manual and our examples discussed throughout the article above. If you don't have a manual for your Autotrol, let me know and I can help you find one. Autotrol water softeners are produced by GE Osmonics (see GEWater.com). A sketch of your control is shown at left.

Typically capacity for a water softener is a number from 1 to 99 kilograins.

Suppose your water conditioner capacity setting is adjusted to 30 kilograins (1st column at left side of the salt dose able).

The softener regen cycle may need to be more frequent depending on your actual water volume use - you'll know that your softener is not regenerating often enough when you can't get a shampoo lather going in the shower.

How the Push-Pull "Skipper" Pins work on a water softener regen cycle control

Water softener control pins set regen cycle time (C) Daniel FriedmanTim: about those pushpins on the water conditioner control dial:

On some water softener controls such as yours and the example we show in the photograph (above left), the push pins or levers (Autotrol manuals refer to these as Skipper Pins mounted on the Skipper Wheel) are mounted on a round dial that rotates under control of the water conditioner timer or "clock".

There may be seven such pins, corresponding to 7 days of a weekly cycle, or (on the unit above) 12 such pins, giving control of the water conditioner on a 12-day cycle.

On our photo example at left each pin inserted into the water conditioner timer dial will add two minutes to the softener regeneration cycle time.

Water conditioners (water softeners) may work differently on which way to push or pull the pin (see your manual or instructions printed right on the control cover) but on most, pulling the pin out skips that regen day or period while pushing the pin in (towards the control) means a regen cycle will occur at that day or period. The skipper pins or tabs are a small metal tab mounted on the control wheel. When a pin is pushed in (towards the control), as the dial is rotated by the timer, the tab comes into contact with a mechanical switch that actually starts a regen cycle.

Culligan water softener control dials (C) D FriedmanSo on a 7 day control you can have a regen cycle every day (push in all the pins) or every other day, or once a week, etc. The 12-pin dial is allowing you to set the regen cycle less often, to as little as once in 12 days. Below, using an older Culligan water conditioner illustration as a model we illustrate:

  • The salt dose (the green arrow in our illustration at left) which may be your other "dial" on your machine) (on machines that have that control) is set depending on water hardness. To change the salt dose you'll have to loosen a setscrew. See How Much Salt to Use in a Water Softener for details.
  • The water softener regen cycle frequency (the blue arrow in our illustration at left, which is one of the dials on machines like yours) is set depending on the rate of water usage in the home. Using more water means you need to run a regeneration cycle on the water conditioner more often.
  • See Water Softener Regeneration Cycle for details, or try setting your machine to every other day (as you have 5 people in the home, using a lot of water) and see how that works.
  • A clock dial or timer adjustment (the red arrow in our illustration ) allows you to set the timer for your equipment to the right time of day or night. Your machine will work regardless of whether it really knows what time it is, but setting it to the correct hour and AM or PM will allow the machine to perform its regen cycle late at night when no one is running water.

Even without the instruction manual (I'd ask the manufacturer to send one if you don't have it), you can figure out which way the push-pull pins operate by manually rotating the dial. You'll see that a pin trips the softener to run through a regen cycle as you rotate the dial.

Follow-up from Kristine / Deloras:

I Wrote a question on 10/20/11 about my Autotrol 255valve/400 series. That water keeps flowing out of the drain hose. The book said to change the valve stem return spring. Where do I find this spring, the manual does not show where this is located on a diagram.


Deloras or Kristine: because you are describing a water softener that seems to be stuck in regen cycle, endlessly pumping briny water thorough the resin tank, I suspect a problem in the control mounted on the softener itself, not the brine refill control in the salt tank. (If it were the brine refill control that were stuck your salt tank would fill up with water). The valve stem return spring will be inside the primary control. It is not a part that you are expected to replace yourself. You will need to contact your Autotrol dealer for service.

Question: water softener regen cycle won't stop water softener keeps on draining

I have a autotrol 255 valve / 400 series control water conditioning system. flowing water is coming out of the drain hose after regeneration. - Deloras 10/20/11



If you mean that after the water softener regeneration cycle has completed the water softener never stops sending water out of its drain hose then the control valve is stuck and needs repair or replacement. Try a couple of manual regen cycles first to see if that can free up the control valve.

If that doesn't work, see our water softener diagnosis & repair suggestions for a long-running backwash or regen cycle at Water Softener Keep Running Longer Than it Should.

See the water softener control explanation & troubleshooting guides at

Question: Lindsey Ecodyne Water softener control settings

I have an Lindsey Ecodyne Water softener and I have cleaned out the brine tank and tubing. I can't figure out why my brine tank is not getting any water? The control head has only 2 knobs. One with the days and times and the other that says extra cycle. The day/time knob says "loosen and tighten" a assumed this was to set the time and day b/c this allows you to rotate the knob. This knob also has 7 peg/buttons (at 2am) that can be pressed in an pulled out. I assumed these were for choosing what night you wanted your system to run.

I pushed 2 of the buttons in bc I need about 40000grains to refresh and it's a 20k grain tank, so i figured 2xs a week. The parts I really have no idea about are the "white plastic screw/knobs that can be screwed in and out with a wrench" Are these valves? There's one on the back side of the control head area that is just before the "out". Then there are 2 more small ones on the same side(right side if looking at it head on).

Then I also have a three valve bypass(with handles) that has been installed in the piping in the house before the 2 pipes go into the softener tank. Is there something I'm missing: tubes attachments in service position? White plastic screw looking valve adjustment? Do I need to refill my brine tank after emptying it? Any help would be great! I can send pictures if needed. Thanks - Adam 8/22/12

Reply: how to contact Ecodyne for water softener information

Adam, I'm not sure what parts you're looking at. Often a time control on some water softeners has pins or screws that are set up or down through a round rotating dial or timer face plate so that as the timer plate rotates (under clock control) as a pin encounters (or does not encounter) a trip lever it will cause the system to process a regeneration cycle.

Use the contact-us link found at page top or bottom to send us photos of the part you are asking about and we can look it up in the Ecodyne Water Softener Manual for you if needed - but we'll need the model number

Where to find Ecodyne & Whirlpool Water Softener Manuals

Ecodyne produces a range of water conditioning equipment including models sold under the Whirlpool brand as well as industrial water softeners & equipment.

For Whirlpool brand water softeners made by Ecodyne, use this contact information: Tel: 1-866-986-3223 Email: info@ecodynewatertreatment.com

For direct contact with the company and for their commecial equipment see:

Ecodyne Industrial, 1270 Frontenac Road, Naperville, IL 60563 Tel: 1 800-228-9326 (USA Only) Tel: +1 630-961-5043 Fax: 1 800-671-8846, Customer Service: 1 800-228-9326, Email: customers@ecodyneind.com, Website: http://www.ecodyneind.com/

(Dec 22, 2014) robert plumm said:
Brine in the salt tank model 300

Question: high water in brine tank

(Dec 22, 2014) jjrlam@gmail.com said:
I have an Aqua Fine metered WS. I noticed the level of water in the brine tank is about 3/4 full. I have never seen the water so high and do recall being advised the water level should not be higher than 1/4 of the tank. How can I get information on this system? I have never used regular salt and have always used pellet style salt in the system.



High water in the brine tank suggests that the float is sticking or the connecting piping is clogged.

Question: slow water flow at softener

(Dec 28, 2014) Bryan Bond (UK) said:
Regeneration programme functioning correctly
Overnight water pressure inlet fine outlet pressure low to trickle.
Cause unknown?



Sounds like a stuck water conditioner control or a clog in the control or in piping. What happens if you put the unit on bypass?

Question: water softener only works on manual regen

(Jan 2, 2015) Leo said:
Water softener does not appear to work unless I manually kick off a regeneration process. Time is set properly (and scheduled for 2:00 AM regen), if I let the scheduled process run as normal does not use any salt and we eventually will notice the water getting harder. If I manually start the process, seems to work fine.


Leo chances are the control or timer motor is stuck and needs replacement.

Question: water softener says no water being used

(Jan 6, 2015) Anonymous said:
my watersoftner is showing 0 average daily gallons


So if you are using water either the softener is in bypass mode or the meter is not working.

Question: water softener display says missed rinse

(Jan 8, 2015) Raz said:
My Callahan water softer shows missed rince



Try an extra water softener re-generation cycle run manually. If the softener continues to fail to operate automatically it needs repair, probably to the timer or control head.

Question: water softener leaked and spilled water

17 January 2015 Sam Morerod said:
My water softener overflowed and flooded a portion of my garage. How do I find "trouble shooting" directions to see if this an electrical fail or mechanical fail, and what suggestions do you have on cleaning it out?



If you have the installation/operation manual for your softener (or give us the brand and model) you should find a troubleshooting chart special for that appliance in the instructions.

I'd start by checking the brine tank float if the water overflowed from the brine tank, then I'd run an extra regen cycle to watch what happens to see where water is leaking or overflowing.

Question: salty water coming out of our water softener

(Aug 23, 2014) Len said:
For the last 2 weeks the water that comes out of my shower is sometimes salty and the ice maker is suddenly making salty ice. Is this a water softener issue?



Quite possibly.

The softener may need to be cleaned, then check the salt dose settings against the current hardness of your water.

Then run a regen cycle

Test the output water for hardness and for salt level (the hardness you can do with a home test, the salt may require help from a water test lab)

If the water is salty there may be a sticking control or valve in the water softener system.

Question: water softner regeneration cycle timer operation

(Sept 23, 2014) Brian said:
I have the clock timer setup on top of my tank with the pushpins extended to set the regeneration time. My question is, how does the extended pushpin timer differentiate AM from PM?



Pushpins indeed don't know if it's day or night. They don't really know anything.

The total circumference of the water softener timer dial will represent (usually) 24 hours and it's the position on the dial of a pin that has been pushed on that starts a regen cycle when that pin comes around past a trip lever in the control.

Typically the AM hours are on a white half of the dial and the PM or night hours are on the black half of the dial.

That's why it's also important to turn the dial the proper time of day.

Question: air discharge at faucets after installing water softener

(Mar 14, 2015) Anon said:
Just had a Culligan Medalist water softener installed a few weeks ago and since then the kitchen faucet frequently sputters- not just after regen but intermittently throughout the day. What is causing this?

23 May 2015 Pavel said:

Hey, My home faucets leak air in the first seconds when I turn the cold water on. I have a water softener control that makes a sound of a leaking water/air. I also noticed that the control stuck at "Rinse". I refilled salt and put the control wheel to "In Service". (After I put it to "In Service", the softener did nto make any sounds). After several days, I noticed that the control wheel was again in "Rinse" position and sound of leaked air/water started again. Please let me know what it can be. I really appreciate your help.



When a new water softener is installed it may be necessary to purge excess air from the resin (ion exchanger) tank of the water softener. Normally this is done as part of the water softener sanitizing procedure - a step that's appropriate when installing new equipment, after replacing resin, or when a system needs to be cleaned of a bacterial contaminant.


Leaks in the water softener piping or tubing can also be a source of air discharge at faucets.

Consider that an air leak in a softener brine tube might leak brine out and air into the softener whence it might enter your piping system; air might enter at a bad O-ring or gasket or as you'll read in the article I suggest, some other source.


There may be a water softener problem or air leak in its piping. Also search InspectApedia.com for "Air Discharge at Faucets" to read about the common sources of this trouble.

If you still have air discharge at faucets after cleaning and sanitizing the water softener, take a look at this diagnostic article for a complete list of causes of air sputting at faucets:

AIR DISCHARGE at FAUCETS, FIXTURES at inspectapedia.com/water/Air_Discharge.htm


(Apr 6, 2015) Sharon said:
Who in the Parkland, FL area services softener units monthly? Add salt, chlorine and any basic repairs.


Sorry but to avoid conflict of interest InspectApedia has no financial relations with and does not refer specific vendors of services. Try your local yellow pages or online phone directory of water softener service companies: there are doezens of them including companies who are happy to provide regular visits to check the salt level and add salt to your water conditioner.

Question: water softener salt usage rate too high

(Jan 5, 2015) John said:
Why does the salt in the brine tank go down so quickly? and What level in the brine tank should the salt be at?



Without some measurement specifics I'm not sure just how quick is "quickly" but if the salt usage rate seems abnormal to you I can suggest a couple of possib ilities:

1. there was a salt crust or dome formed in the brine tank giving a false indication of the salt level until the dome collapsed and fell-in

2. the softener regeneration cycle is set improperly to run too often or use more salt than needed

3. the softener has been stuck in regen cycle

4. the brine tank float assembly is not working properly

Question: Marlo MP 25S water softener uses too much salt

(Feb 13, 2015) Mike said:
I have a Marlo MP 25S, it will use as much salt as I put in it. If I fill it with about 160lbs is uses it in 3-4 days. At that point the water is so soft that it is dangerous getting in and out of the tub because of slipperiness. Right now I put about 20 lbs /wk in it and the water is pretty good however, that is a pain in the neck. The manual says it should use 12lbs/regeneration. I have checked and reset the floats and brine tank level per the manual.



Sure sounds as if the system is stuck in regen-cycle mode

(Feb 18, 2015) Mike said:
What is the fix for being stuck in regen-cycle mode?


If exercising the controls and running through a manual regen cycle don't fix this trouble then typically you'll need to repair or replace the control head.


(Feb 6, 2015) Anonymous said:
I have a Sears Kenmore water softener 150...the panel is showing a large E surrounded by three arrows...what is that?



Try the following: disconnect the water softener from power (unplug its power transformer from the wall receptacle). Wait for 6 minutes. Plug the transformer back in. If the error code returns then there is a defect that needs correction.

You want to pick up a copy of the owners & installation manual for your Sears UltraSoft 150 water softener. While there are companies who sell these manuals online I suggest that instead you contact Sears directly: first to be sure you're getting the correct manual and second because most likely you will obtain a copy of the Sears water softener manual for free from the manufacturer.

The manual includes a complete table of water softener error codes for your model.

Display Codes & Error Codes for the Sears Kenmore 100/150 Water Softeners

SR 22 = identifies the model as UltraSoft 100 (Press & hold the SELECT switch to display this)

SR 24 = identifies the model as Ultra Soft 150

- - = valve in service: the unit is in fill, brining, backwash, or fast rinse

- P = the valve is rotating between positions

P ---: Position switch operation. Letter = switch closed, dash = switch open. Use OFF/HOLD button to cycle the valve through its positions.

Err 01, Err 03, Err 04: motor inoperative / wiring harness or connection to switch / position switch / valve defect causing high torque

Err 05: faceplate timer (PWA)

Contact Sears at 1-800-426-9345

Contact Sears for parts at 1-800-473-7247

Contact Sears for repair service at 1-800-827-6655

Sears Roebuck & Co., 3333 Beverly Rd., Hoffman Estates IL 60179 USA.

For Sears Water Softeners that use an electronic display / program timer, if you disconnect the water softener from electrical power (un plug it) and re-connect it to power (plug it back in) you will see the Sears Water Softener model code and a test number displayed in the display window for 4 seconds. Make a note of it. On re-connecting to power you'll need to re-set the present time (you'll see the time flashing in the display) using the up and down buttons. Here are a few of the Sears Error Codes from the manual for the UltraSoft 100. Your product should be similar:

Repeated pressing of the SELECT button will cycle through TIME, HARDNESS, RECHARGE (regeneration time of day), SALT EFFICIENCY (this adjust the salt dose where the standard assumption is 4000 grains of hardness per pound of salt) [to find this setting you'll have to press and hold the SELECT button for 3 seconds or longer],

SR22 or SR24: use the SELECT button to set the present time in the display. Then use the UP or DOWN buttons to set the correct time.

HARDNESS nn (where nn is 25 for example). Use the UP or DOWN buttons to set the hardness to the hardness of your water supply in grains per gallon. If your water contains iron you'll want to increase the hardness setting:

Add (Iron ppm) x 5 to the hardness setting. For example if your water contains 2 ppm of iron, add (2 x 5 = 10) to the grains of hardness number setting.


Question: Whirlpool model WHES40 water softener repairs

15 May 2015 Kenneth Fliesser said:

I have a whirlpool model WHES40. The brine tank is filled with water.Whirlpool phone help line said I need a Rotary valve service as the hose connected to the Nozzle and Venturi housing doesn't have any suction and is peeing out water when I disconnect it from the housing? I have already cleaned the entire Nozzle and Venturiand wonder if it's really the Brime Valve assembly/float? Would like to try this fix first as the parts are expensive and the wife wants this resolved today as she fears the hard water is going to destroy her fixtures. Can you explain the exact procedure to adjust the brime valve asssembly/float. Thank you in advance.



If the brine tank float is stuck then indeed we may not get the right control over the water level in the tank. You can tell if the float is stuck: see if the vertical rod moves freely up and down. With such a high water level it should be pushing the float control switch closed.

Details about how to check and perhaps fix this problem are in a companion article in the More Reading article list (above) titled BRINE TANK WATER TOO HIGH


Try that and let us know how that works for you




Continue reading at SOFTENER OUTPUT COLORS DEBRIS STAINS ODORS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.


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DIAGNOSTIC FAQs for WATER SOFTENERS at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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