Minerals can damage your plumbing.
It’s why many homeowners choose to use a water softener.
It removes minerals from the water which protects their plumbing and makes their drinking water pleasant.
Because a water softener uses a motor, it can sometimes malfunction.
If your water softener keeps running, then you may wonder why and if it’s broken.
We discovered 10 reasons your water softener keeps running and how to fix them.
Water Softener Keeps Running (10 Possible Causes, Fixes)
1. Water Softener Is Old
Keep track of how old your water softener is.
If it’s past eight years, then it may be time to replace it.
The life expectancy of water softeners sits around eight years.
Proper maintenance throughout its lifespan can help increase it.
However, at some point, the water softener will fall into disrepair.
It keeps running because the parts are too worn out and can’t turn it off.
Fix: Replace the Water Softener
At some point, it makes more sense to replace the water softener than to keep repairing it.
If your water softener is around eight years old, then it’s time to consider replacing it.
A new water softener won’t have the same problem.
2. Broken Water Entry Valve
Another reason your water softener won’t stop running is a faulty water entry valve.
If it breaks, then water floods the salt storage tank.
Water isn’t meant to fill this part of the softener.
It can ruin the softener.
It also keeps it running because the device is trying to soften the water.
It’s unable to do so if there’s water in the salt container.
The cycle continues until someone fixes the problem.
Fix: Replace the Lid
The valve is part of the lid on the softener.
If you replace the lid, then the valve will work again.
It’ll keep the water from entering the salt tank.
As a result, the unit can soften the water and turn it off at the appropriate time.
3. Float Valve Is Too High
The float valve is responsible for controlling how much water passes through the softener.
If the float valve is too high, then there’s a lot of water passing through the softener at a given time.
It can’t keep up with the amount of water, so it stays running in an attempt to soften it.
If you use a lot of water throughout the day, then the problem only worsens.
As you use water, it empties from the water softener.
The high float valve continues to fill itself with a lot of water that needs softening.
As more water leaves, more water comes in, and the softener struggles to perform its job.
Fix: Lower the Float Valve
Fixing this problem is easy.
Locate your float valve on your water softener.
Then lower it to an acceptable level.
You need a balance between how much water you use in a day and giving your softener a break from running.
4. Salt Bridges
One of the problems with a water softener is the consequence of using salt to remove minerals from the water.
It’s an effective method, but it comes with a serious problem.
It creates salt bridges.
A water softener operates by bringing water through its tank.
Salt releases into the water at a measured amount.
The salt and the minerals undergo a chemical reaction that removes the mineral from the water.
The water then leaves the softener and continues through your plumbing.
The problem with salt is that it also creates a salt bridge over time.
A salt bridge is a thin, crusty, layer of salt, minerals, and water.
It can line the softener and make it impossible for water to access the areas it needs to.
As a result, the water softener stays on because it thinks the water isn’t softened yet.
Fix: Remove Salt Bridges
Disconnect the water softener from your plumbing.
Then open it up and inspect the various compartments.
You’ll see a thin crust that rests on the surface of the water.
You can use your finger, a fork, or any other kind of small object to break up the salt bridge.
Remove most of it with your hand and toss it into the trash.
Take the time to clean the sides of the softener, too.
This can prevent salt bridges from forming for some time.
Once the bridges are gone, you can put the softener back together and connect it to your plumbing again.
Salt bridges can cause a lot of problems for your water softener.
Make it a habit to regularly clean the softener out to avoid those problems.
5. It’s Not Actually Softened Water
You may think the water softener is running, but it might actually be regular tap water that you’re seeing.
If the water softener is broken, then its motor may still be churning.
However, because it’s broken, it isn’t actually softening the water.
You’re seeing unsoftened water flowing through the unit.
Anything from pressure in your plumbing to old age can make your water softener break.
When that happens, you may still hear the motor running, but it isn’t actually working.
Fix: Inspect Water Softener
Check the water softener for cracks.
You can also test the water to see if there are any minerals in it.
If there are, then your water softener isn’t working.
Check your plumbing, too, to see if it was the cause of damage to your water softener.
If the water softener’s container is broken, then you need a new one.
You can replace a motor, but replacing the shell is harder and not worth it.
6. The Softener System Is Too Small
The sizing of your water softener is important.
You can’t pick just any water softener for your home.
It needs to be the right size.
The amount of water that you use is how you determine the softener’s sizing.
If you use a lot of water in a day, then you should consider a larger unit.
That’s because choosing too small of a water softener can keep it running.
The reason is that you’re using more water than it can soften at a time.
It has to keep running to soften the water in order for you to use it.
One way to tell if your water softener is too small for your needs is to check your water pressure.
Low water pressure is a sign that a water softener is a wrong size.
Fix: Check the Inlet and Outlet Pressure Capabilities
Before you buy a water softener, check the inlet and outlet pressure capabilities.
These numbers should be listed in its product description.
These are important values because it tells you how much the water softener can handle at a given time.
If you know that you use a lot of water, then you want a water softener that offers a larger inlet and outlet pressure capability.
Larger water softeners will soften your water faster.
As a result, it can actually turn off.
Another method, if you don’t want to buy a larger water softener, is to use less water.
Ration your water or be aware of how much water you use in a day.
If you can use less, then you can give your softener a chance to soften the water and turn itself off.
7. Sediment Buildup
Because the water softener handles minerals, it’s only a matter of time before there’s a buildup of sediment.
When the sediment starts to block the passage of water, it can cause the water softener to run continuously.
The water has problems pushing through the softener and accessing the rest of the home.
The softener keeps trying to soften it even though it’s already had its minerals removed.
Sediment buildup can also damage the motor.
It can get inside of the delicate machinery and cause it to malfunction.
It may even corrode certain parts.
If the motor starts to malfunction, then it may not receive a signal to stop.
Fix: Remove Sediment
There are two main ways to clean sediment from your water softener.
The first is to manually clean it.
You can use a toothbrush or some other type of small brush to scrub the softener.
Focus on the walls and areas where the water touches.
It’s also a good idea to clean your plumbing lines.
They likely have sediment buildup, too.
It could affect the amount of pressure that passes through the water softener.
That could impact whether your water softener keeps running or not.
The other method is to use a mineral cleanser.
Adding the cleanser to the water can break down the sediment for you.
Not all cleaners are safe for water softeners, however, so you should check their labels before using them.
8. Cables Are Wired Incorrectly
During the installation of the water softener, it’s possible that something went wrong.
A water softener receives power through electricity.
Wires connect the power source to the motor.
The motor runs the water softener.
It’s possible that during the installation, someone switched the wires around.
That might make it impossible for the water softener to ever receive a signal to turn off.
This is often the case if one of the wires is an always-on live wire.
Even plugging it into an always-on outlet can cause the water softener to keep running.
Another reason is that the wires fused together.
They overheated at one point and fused together which causes them to short.
This is a dangerous situation since it can lead to an electrical fire.
The shorted wires may be incapable of receiving a signal to turn off.
One final reason the wires may be to blame is that the softener left the factory in a defective state.
Not every product leaves the factory in great condition.
Quality assurance can miss a problem.
It’s also possible that the water softener became damaged during transit.
Any one of these issues could be why the wires aren’t functioning the right way.
Fix: Check the Wires
The only way you can know if the wires are to blame is to inspect them.
Unplug the water softener from its outlet and open it.
Check to see if the outlet is always on.
You can do this with a voltage meter or a multimeter.
Then inspect the wires themselves.
Check for signs of overheating or to see if they’re plugged into the wrong ports on the motor.
You can consult your water softener’s manual to see if the wires are in the correct places.
If it does appear the motor or unit received damage, then you should consider a replacement water softener.
9. Broken Regeneration Timer
Every water softener needs regeneration time.
This is when the resin beads it uses to soften the water replenish themselves.
The regeneration timer controls when the softener undergoes regeneration.
You can program the timer to a specific amount of time.
You can set the regeneration time for every few hours, for example.
You can even set it for a daily regeneration cycle or a regeneration cycle every few days.
The problem is that if the timer breaks, then the softener doesn’t know when to stop running and regenerate itself.
This can cause a serious problem for your softener besides just not turning itself off.
It will be unable to soften the water because the resin beads aren’t functional.
It can also wear the motor out which can cause the softener to die prematurely.
Fix: Replace the Regeneration Timer
Luckily, you can replace the regeneration timer.
Once you replace the timer, you can set your new regeneration time.
When that time arrives, the timer sends a signal to the softener.
It will tell it to stop and regenerate itself.
Your water softener will last longer if the regeneration timer is working.
10. No Salt
Without salt, your water softener can’t remove minerals from your water.
This keeps the water softener running because it keeps trying to soften the water.
Even trying to put the softener in its regeneration cycle won’t fix the problem because there aren’t any resin beads to regenerate.
Fix: Check and Fill Softener with the Correct Salt
Unplug your water softener and check the brine container.
This is where you store the salt.
Determine if it has enough salt or if it’s empty or too low for the water softener to function.
You also need to check for salt bridges.
It could be keeping the salt from entering the water.
Fill the tank with the correct type of salt that your particular softener uses.
Then let the water softener undergo its regeneration cycle.
It will shut off now that it has salt to soften the water and regenerate.
What Are Common Problems With Water Softeners?
There are a few other common problems with water softeners besides continuous running.
Here are a few to keep an eye on and prevent.
1. Air Discharge At Plumbing Fixture
If you notice that air keeps pushing past the plumbing fixture, then it could be a sign that there’s a clog or blockage.
A leaky air valve may also be to blame.
Replacing the air valve or removing the clog can fix the problem.
Having proper air pressure is important for the efficiency of your water softener.
It relies on air pressure to push water through its tank and back out of it.
2. Faulty Regeneration Cycle
Your water softener may also fail to regenerate according to its cycle.
There are a few reasons this might happen.
One is that it doesn’t have power.
Without power, it can’t tell itself to regenerate.
Another is that the timer is broken.
Without the timer, no signal will ever tell the water softener to enter its regeneration cycle.
Finally, the timer may use incorrect settings.
If the default settings aren’t to your liking, then you can change them.
It’s also possible that someone else messed with the settings and the cycle no longer works how you expect it.
Returning the settings to their factory state or switching them to your desired state can fix the problem.
3. Delayed Regeneration Cycle
Sometimes the regeneration cycle delays itself.
The cause behind this is a lack of brine, or salt, in the tank.
It can’t regenerate without it.
Fill the tank with salt to allow the regeneration cycle to continue.
There are several reasons your water softener keeps running.
They range anywhere from faulty wiring to a lack of salt in the system.
If your water softener isn’t turning off and entering its regeneration cycle, it can blow out the motor and harden your water.
Follow the above tips to troubleshoot your water softener and get it back to working order.