Kenmore 38420 Water Softener Not Softening...

Old 03-25-20, 01:47 PM
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Location: Colorado
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Kenmore 38420 Water Softener Not Softening...

With everything going on in the world, it seems like my wife has fixated on all the things around the house that aren't working...and our water softener has become her main focus. I'm desperate to get this fixed. The last time I had a problem the guy that came out told me I need a new softener and I listened. Now I've had this new one for about a year and it stopped working.

This is the model / manual:

The Problem
My water is very hard - about 700ppm / 40 grains.

Some obvious things...
  • I'm measuring at the kitchen sink, using cold water.
  • Using my test device, bottled water reads 0-3 ppm or so and seem accurate. Our original water test when we bought the house was 38 grains, so again, I think the water is hard.
  • The softener by-pass value is not enabled.
  • There is no other shut-off/by-pass in the system.
  • The softener accurately shows the flow rate - when I turn on the sink, the softener knows.
  • There is salt in the tank / no salt bridge (I shoveled out a lot of salt so I can see it clearly now)
  • It's scheduled to recharge at 2am and has been running / I can do a manual recharge (takes about two hours)...but no soft water.
  • The hardness setting on the device is set correctly.
Everything seems to work, from what I can tell....I just don't get any soft water. During the recharge cycle it makes all the same noises and I can see water filling the brine tank and water rushing out the drain pipe. I took out the 'float' part and I verified that it was, in fact, floating and not not blocked. I was able to blow air through all of it too.

I took apart the nozzle and venturi and cleaned it all out. Honestly, it was pretty clean, and I put it back exactly as described - numbers up on the plastic pieces and all that jazz, then I re-ran a regeneration cycle...but still no soft water.

The timer seems to work, it does start making noise at 2am and I think the rotor motor is working correctly - I'm not 100% sure, but the stuff I found online says that the machine will display an error code if it doesn't.

Can anyone help me? Let me know if I can provide more information, if it helps I'll take pictures or film a video or whatever.

Old 03-27-20, 11:47 PM
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As an update - I've completely disconnected the tank and have taken apart everything except that motor/valve assembly but that all seems to be working. Couldn't find anything blocked up - but I did see this redish-sandy stuff all over the inside:

It seems to be all over everything - and I don't quite know what it is.

I also wasn't able to get to the resin stuff, I saw some videos on it but they were all slightly different models. I thought I could pull out this whole center piece here:

I siphoned out some of the water from the center and it is just as hard as the water at my tap...but I still don't understand why. The thing is only a year old so the resin can't be bad yet, can it? And it probably hasn't been working right for a few months.

Any help would really be appreciated.
Old 03-28-20, 03:34 AM
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Resin life depends on a lot of factors, but I would think it would last more than a year. 2-10 is the average. This page has a lot of good info on it. Resin info
Old 04-08-20, 09:53 AM
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RobDude - I saw your other thread about your Iron Filter. In that thread you said your system seemed to work, and you were curious about periodic maintenance of the Fe filter... I take it by this thread your system is putting out hard water.

Based on your photos, and my own personal experience, I would say your softener is Iron fouled. That is, the resin is clogged with iron deposits which normal salt regeneration can not remove. This is likely because your Iron filter is no longer effective. All that orange stuff plugging up your softener is iron residue. Yes your softener can clog within a year if you have high iron and do nothing to clean it from the softener.

Here's what you need to do:
1) get an accurate measurement of your Iron content. Use a Hatch HA-77 test kit. This will give you accurate hardness and Iron. The test strips really don't work well, especially for iron.

2) Try a phosphoric acid based softener cleaner to clean out the iron from your softener resin. Menards has one call Out Filtermate in a 32oz bottle for a few bucks. it will probably take the whole bottle.

3) if that doesn't work you can try a more expensive product called Crystal Clean Iron Filter in a bottle which works well for ongoing maintenance. It may or may not restore your fouled unit.

4) Replace the resin if you can't clean it. This will probably cost you 400 or so to have it done. Start using crystal clean immediately after the new resin is installed to keep it clean.

5) Or get a newer, better softener. the box store units are fine for light duty applications, but you clearly have severe duty. 40grains hardness and probably >5ppm Fe. Start using Cystal Clean immediately after it is installed to keep it clean.

6) figure out what to do with your Fe filter... rebed it, replace it, remove it, etc. right now it is probably making your water worse.

Doorman2722 voted this post useful.

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