Water Softener: Not using salt

Salt pellets can cake up and form a salt bridge inside the salt tank, preventing the brine water from reaching and dissolving salt pellets once salt underneath the bridge is used up. Problems with the water softener timer, valve motor, rotor valve or venture can also keep the water softener from using salt.

Check for a salt bridge in the salt tank by carefully poking a broom handle down into the salt pellets in the tank. If the broom handle hits a hard crust of caked up pellets before the end of the handle reaches the bottom of the salt tank, then a salt bridge has formed in the salt tank. Break up the salt bridge by carefully tamping down the salt pellets until the bridge cracks and falls to the bottom of the tank. Breaking up a salt bridge will allow brine water to dissolve the salt and the water softener will begin to use salt again.

If you find no salt bridge in the salt tank, then a component failure in the regeneration system is likely preventing the water softener from using salt. Use the diagnostic test system described in your owner's manual to check the regeneration system's components.

If the timer won't respond when you press the control keys to start the diagnostic test mode, then you'll likely need to replace the timer. An broken timer won't run the regeneration cycle that uses salt, so the salt level won't go down.

If the timer goes into the diagnostic mode but the valve motor doesn't run when activated by the diagnostic test, replace the valve motor. The valve motor positions the rotor valve that controls water flow to the salt tank for regeneration. The water softener won't use salt if the valve motor won't move to supply water to the salt tank to make brine.

If the valve motor runs but the rotor valve doesn't move, then a damaged rotor valve can prevent water from flowing into the salt tank to make brine and use salt. Replace the rotor valve if it's damaged.

Finally, a clogged venturi won't allow water to flow to the brine tank. Check the venture and clean it if it's clogged. Replace the venturi if you find damage while cleaning it.

water softener

These repairs may help solve your water softener problem

Replace the water softener valve motor

Replace the water softener valve motor

The valve motor rotates the rotor valve to perform the water softener's functions such as softening water and flushing the resin filter. A defective valve motor won't move the rotor valve. If the motor doesn't move the valve rotor when activated, replace the valve motor.

January 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a water softener valve motor

If your water softener has an ERR01 code or isn't using up salt, the valve motor might not work. This repair guide and video show how to replace a water softener valve motor in just 30 minutes.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
Read more
Replace the water softener venturi

Replace the water softener venturi

The venturi creates a vacuum that draws brine water from the salt tank into the resin tank for regenerating the resin filter. A damaged venturi won't draw brine into the resin tank. Replace the venturi if it's damaged.

January 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a water softener venturi

If your water softener leaks at the bottom of the brine tank, or if the tank is overflowing, it could be the venturi is clogged or damaged. This DIY repair guide and video show to how to replace a water softener venturi in 15 minutes or less.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
Read more
Replace the water softener timer

Replace the water softener timer

The timer is an electronic control board that lets you program the water softener. The timer also controls the functions such as water softening and flushing the resin filter. Replace the timer if it fails to control the water softener's functions.

January 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a water softener timer

If your water softener control panel does nothing when you press a button, or if the control panel won't come on at all, the timer might be broken. This step-by-step repair guide and video show how to replace a water softener timer in just 15 minutes.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
Read more
Replace the water softener rotor valve

Replace the water softener rotor valve

The rotor valve directs water through the water softener to complete functions such as softening water and flushing the resin filter. A defective valve leaks water or locks up and doesn't move. Replace the rotor valve if it leaks or it's damaged.

Clean the water softener venturi

Clean the water softener venturi

The venturi draws brine water into the resin tank to regenerate the resin filter. A dirty venturi won't draw brine water into the resin tank. Clean the venturi periodically to maintain steady brine flow into the resin tank for regenerating the resin filter.

January 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a water softener venturi

If your water softener leaks at the bottom of the brine tank, or if the tank is overflowing, it could be the venturi is clogged or damaged. This DIY repair guide and video show to how to replace a water softener venturi in 15 minutes or less.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
Read more
Symptoms for water softeners

Choose a symptom to see related water softener repairs.

Main causes: broken resin tank screen, bad resin tank seals, cracked upper distributor in resin tank
Main causes: faulty brine valve assembly, bad rotor valve
Main causes: clogged drain hose, faulty rotor valve, leaky rotor valve seals
Main causes: lack of electrical power, bad power transformer, faulty timer
Main causes: loose water line connections, cracked water-carrying components, bad rotor valve seals
Main causes: empty salt tank, salt bridge, depleted resin, clogged or damaged venturi, broken rotor position switch, failed timer
Main causes: salt bridge inside the salt tank, bad timer, valve motor failure, faulty rotor valve, clogged venturi
Main causes: broken water flow meter, faulty timer, water flow to softener is bypassed
Repair guides for water softeners

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your water softener.

How to replace a water softener rotor position switch

The rotor position switch detects the position of the valve rotor. If the rotor position switch fails, follow these steps to replace it in about half an hour.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
January 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a water softener venturi

The venturi draws brine water from the salt tank to the resin tank for regeneration. Follow these steps to replace a damaged venturi.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
January 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a water softener valve motor

The valve motor rotates the valve rotor to operate the water softener. If the valve motor fails, follow these steps to replace the valve motor.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
Articles and videos for water softeners

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your water softener.

February 1, 2018
How to read a wiring schematic video
By Sears PartsDirect staff

Learn how to decipher symbols so you can buy the right part for your problem.

January 20, 2015
Water softener common questions
By Sears PartsDirect staff

Find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about water softener repairs.

January 20, 2015
How a water softener works
By Sears PartsDirect staff

Learn how a water softener works to provide your home with soft water.