Urgent help requested. Water overflowing from softener brine tank

topperdudeJanuary 16, 2009

Just got a call from my wife at home that the softener's tank (the one we fill salt in - brine tank?) is completely filled up with water and overflowing and sounds like some tap is running continuously. Not sure what caused this. Would like some help!

How do we shut off the water? How do we find out whats causing this problem?

Its a water right FS series softener (dont have the exact number as I am at work).



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If your softener installation was done properly there should be a "bypass" at the rear of the control valve at the top of the softener where the plumbing enters and leaves the softener or in the plumbing supply and return lines near the softener.

That valve will "bypass" the softener and stop the overflow but you will be getting hard water until you have the softener repaired and put back in service.

If there is no bypass the the only way to stop the leak is to turn off the water to the house but then you'll have no water until the softener is repaired.

Without you mentioning the brand and/or model of softener that's the best I can tell you.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 6:36PM
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Doing a little research it appears the the Water Right FS series softener can version of the Fleck 5600 control valve. Either timer, mechanical meter initiated, or electronic meter initiated (SE) versions.

Continuous overflowing of the brine tank indicates and internal problem with the control valve.

You can contact Water Right if they are near you or look in the phone book for water treatment and tell them you have a version of a Fleck 5600 control valve.

Avoid plumbers as they are rarely as knowledgeable about water treatment hardware as they think they are (with exceptions).

There are more water softeners in the field using Fleck control valves than all other brand control valves added together. There's always someone everywhere that has parts for and services Fleck control valves.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 6:52PM
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Thanks for the quick responses, justalurker!

The model number of the softener I believe is the FS-948.

Just got home and looks like my wife managed to dumped all the excess water from the brine tank down the drain pipe (in the floor of the utility room). There does not seem to be any more water filling into the brine tank, atleast not right now - does it mean it will not happen again, could it happen when it tries to regenerate again?!

Anyhow, I do believe that when we built the house, we were told this softener does have a bypass valve. So I may turn it so it bypasses the softener. What can I do next?

Obviously, there's no salt in it now, so I am wondering if I should add salt to it and try to let it run OR switch the bypass valve and try some other diagnosis?

Is it OK to do normal chores (like laundry, running dishwasher, showering) this evening either by turning the bypass valve on or off?

Water Right is in WI and we are in MN. I did talk to one of their customer reps around 4:30pm from work and he indicated few reasons why the tank could overflow, none of which I exactly remember but sounded like something could be dirty and needed cleaning or repairing/replacement. Thoughts?

Thanks again,

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 7:07PM
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If the brine tank overfilled at the last regeneration and has stopped overflowing then there may be a problem with the brine valve in the control valve.

There also could be a problem with the piston or motor in the control valve.

I wouldn't put the softener back in service until it is repaired.

Regardless of the problem there should be a Fleck 2310 safety float in the brine tank that should have shut off the water flow to the brine tank BEFORE it overflowed so there's a problem there or you didn't get the best components when you bought the softener.

If I were you I'd get a water treatment pro in there to diagnose the problem, repair it, and do some routine maintenance on that softener.

A properly maintained Fleck 5600 based softener should give 10-15 years of reliable service.

If you post a picture of the control valve on your softener I can point you to the service/parts manuals but I really recommend calling a qualified tech.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 7:25PM
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OK, so after a rather eventful evening, I have some more information that could be helpful.

I have uploaded some photos of the softener's parts at the link attached to this post.

First, the softener had water overflow issues because the overflow elbow in the brine tank did not have a drain tube connecting it to the floor drain. As a result all the water was spreading on the floor of the utlity room.

I incorrectly mentioned earlier that the water level in the brine tank was not rising anymore in the brine tank after my wife had emptied it earlier in the evening. In fact, when I came back with the drain pipe, the water was almost back to the same level as it was when it was overflowing through the overflow elbow.

So I hooked up the drain pipe I had just purchased in-between the elbow and the floor drain and also switched the softener to bypass mode. Atleast this way, hopefully we wont have water overflow issues till we figure out the problem with the softener and fix it.

So coming to the softener, as can be seen in the photos on the URL posted, the Control Valve seems to be stuck in the "In Serv" position and water seems to be continuously flowing from the control valve to the brine tank via the brine tube. Any thoughts on what could be causing this?

Someone suggested removing the pipe in the white cylinder in the brine tank and cleaning the "Air Check"(?) valve at the bottom of the tube. However, since the tube goes through a hole near the top of the brine tank and then into white plastic elbow into the smaller white cylinder in the brine tank, it seems a bit hard to remove the brine tube and the pull out the tube with the "Air Check" valve for cleaning. Is there some special way to remove the brine tube from the white plastic elbow without damaging it?

Also, any thoughts on why the control valve keeps saying "In Serve" all the time and water keeps flowing from control valve to brine tank? Is this something I can fix or will I have to disassemble the control valve and take into the shop to be fixed by a professional?


Here is a link that might be useful: Softener photos

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 2:25AM
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"First, the softener had water overflow issues because the overflow elbow in the brine tank did not have a drain tube connecting it to the floor drain. As a result all the water was spreading on the floor of the utility room."

WRONG, water should NEVER come out of the overflow on the brine tank... never ever. Something is wrong!

Usually when that happens it's because the control valve is not sucking the water out of the brine tank for regeneration but it is adding water back in at the end of regeneration to make more brine. Ultimately there is too much water and the brine tank overflows. That can be cause by a clogged venturi in the brine valve, an air leak in the brine line, a restricted drain line, and/or a problem at the brine pickup.

You should not have soft vinyl tubing on the drain line from the control head. It can collapse shutting off the drain and cause all sorts of strange problems.

Replace that vinyl tubing with PE (polyethylene) tubing. The stiffer milky white stuff that is going from the control valve to the brine tank but get the correct size. You can get it at Home Depot or the like.

If the softener is not going through it's regeneration stages and ALWAYS stays in the service position then you have a problem with the piston or motor. Both are inside the control valve. There have been occasions where the locating pin for the motor snaps and the motor can not turn the piston assembly.

Regardless of the primary problem the safety float in the brine tank should prevent it from overflowing so you have a second problem there that has to be rectified.

From the pictures you have a Fleck 5600 Econominder mechanically metered control valve. That model is a real workhorse and very reliable. How old is the softener?

You can get the service and parts manual for that model by clicking here

You do have a bypass and you've turn both knobs sideways so the softener will be out of service and can not leak.

Most likely you will require parts so getting a water treatment pro in there is the quickest way to resolve the problem. A pro who services Fleck control valve should stock the parts you need and have you up and running in short order. Once you've seen the control valve worked on you'll have a better idea of how it works and what's wrong when it doesn't... although, again, fleck control valves are VERY reliable.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 11:04AM
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If you want to help yourself then here are some guides and tutorials...

click here for troubleshooting guide

click here for rebuilding a 5600

click here for replacing piston and seals video

Whether you do it yourself or screw it yourself is dependent on your mechanical skill.

Remember what Clint Eastwood said, "a man's got to know his limitations."

Let us know how it works out.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 1:10PM
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"WRONG, water should NEVER come out of the overflow on the brine tank... never ever. Something is wrong! "
justalurker, I agree with you that there is a problem with the softener! I was referring to the immediate problem being resolved - namely, the almost ankle depth water in the utility room that we had to deal with when we first discovered this issue. As I mentioned, we have switched the softener to bypass mode now so atleast we dont have to deal with overflowing water in the utility room, but like you said we still need to fix the root cause with the softener.

The documents and links you provided gave pretty good overview of how the softener works and how it can be serviced.

I also talked to the softener dealer I had purchased the softener from and they advised me to try some things:
1) Confirm that the PE brine tube connecting the control valve and brine tank is connected securely to the control valve. (verified this is true)

2) Remove the air check valve from the brine tank (BTW, is the "air check valve" the same as the "safety float" you keep referring to in your posts?). Clean out the air check valve to remove anything that might prevent it from sucking the brine from the brine tank back into the control valve. I tried to pull out the PE tube from the white plastic elbow (see photo of this in the link below) so that I can lift out the air check valve from the white cylinder in the brine tank and clean it, but it seemed quite tight (maybe its supposed to be this tight) and I didnt want to yank on it too hard and cause further damage (just playing safe due to my inexperience dealing with softeners).
Will it be easier to remove the PE tubing from the white plastic elbow if I turn the control valve to "Backwash" position manually and remove some water from the PE tubing first? If so, when control valve is in "backwash" position, would the water from the PE tubing flow out the "bypass outlet" (and hence require me to turn off the bypass) OR would it flow out the "drain line"? Basically, I am trying to figure out the right way to remove and clean the "air check valve".

3) If cleaning the "air check valve" does not help, the dealer advised to remove the control valve and bring it in because it would probably still be covered under warranty. Per the dealer, since the softener was purchased and installed in late summer of 2006, most of the repair costs should still be covered under manufacturer's warranty. As I understand they would send the control valve to the manufacturer (Water Right) and get it back within 7-10 days and I would be responsible for 25% of the cost. So if it comes to this, I will need to figure out the right way to remove the control valve - I understand it should not be too hard and the control valve can be "twisted off" from the top of the resin tank (how do i disconnect control valve from the bypass or the water meter before twisting it off the resin tank)?

As you quoted Clint Eastwood, I can and prefer doing the "basic" troubleshooting (i.e. cleaning air check valve and, if needed, remove the control valve) but since its under warranty, it might be best to have it fixed by the pros (in the case the manufacturer themselves). Would appreciate help with these "basic" tasks.

Thanks again,

Here is a link that might be useful: PE tubing connected to white plastic elbow

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 12:49PM
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First, the primary problem of why there is, and continues to be, more water in the brine tank needs to be diagnosed and repaired.

Second, if your description is accurate, the softener never moving from in service to the various stages of regeneration during regeneration needs to be diagnosed and repaired.

Third, the routine maintenance of cleaning the brine tank every year or so should be done and continued.

Fourth, the vinyl tubing from the control valve to drain MUST be replaced with PE tubing.

The connection of the PE brine line to the float assembly is a John Guest fitting. To release it, you push the collet towards the fitting while pulling the tubing out.

Your willingness to troubleshoot is commendable and if you knew what to look for you could diagnose the problem. Thing is you have multiple and may be interconnected problems.

Since moving the softener closer to the monitor won't get it fixed AND the softener seems to be under warranty then get your dealer to do his/her job and fix the softener under warranty.

As a softener seller they should stock parts and repair the softener on-site in a timely manner. If all they do is make a phone call to order the softener for sale and then charge you ANYTHING to make a warranty repair then you need to find a competent and ethical water treatment professional NOW and for your water treatment needs in the future because your dealer is giving you the worst aspects of buying online... no service when you need it.

You'll be better off finding a professional right now to get you and your softener back on track than waiting 7-10 days and paying 25% of any amount now.

What the hell is a warranty for? If those are the terms of warranty repair from your dealer I'd file a complaint with the BBB and RUN from that dealer as fast as you can.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 2:08PM
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Once the PE tubing is removed from the John Guest fitting the float assembly will lift right out.

You may have a safety float or it may not be, depends on the model and if it is a safety float it must be adjusted properly for your brine tank.

BE AWARE... your dealer instructing you to remove the control valve borders on, and IMO is, gross negligence.

First, you don't know how. Because you you don't know how, when you unscrew and lift the control valve off the resin tank there's a very good chance that the distributor tube will lift with the control valve. When that happens, the proper way to set the distributor tube back down in the correct position is to remove the resin.

That's one cubic foot of wet slippery resin beads... wanna mess with that?

Second, if you damage anything he'll blame you and it will cost you big.

Your dealer is already screwing you by not effecting the repair himself at your location in a timely manner and then compounds that by having the balls to charge you anything for a warranty repair that will take 7-10 days.

You ought to take anything your dealer tells you with a 40 pound bag of salt.

You may have a remedy by contacting Water Right directly and complaining that their dealer is not standing behind their product. Perhaps they will intercede with your dealer or they might refer you to another local dealer.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 2:27PM
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Duh... corrections

After you remove the PE tubing from the elbow there may be a small metal stud from the float assembly sticking through the 4" tube (brine well) with a little nut on it.

If you have that, remove the nut and wiggle the float assembly to get the stud inside the brine well. Then lift the float assembly up and out of the brine well.

There may be significant salt deposits on the brine pickup (bottom of the float assembly) that prevent the float assembly from being lifted out. If there are, hot tap water poured down the brine well will dissolve that solidified salt.

There are so many little things that are done semi-automatically and without thinking when those working on a softener have done it many times before that it's hard to remember to include those details and include them in blind instructions.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 4:42PM
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I also have a water right softener in my rental house. My last tenant wasn't putting salt in it so I shut it off. Now I have a new tenant moving in and I turned it back on and the brine over filled. I am guessing that it was the float because I siphoned it out and now I don't have a problem. But... when I was siphoning the brine tank out, I dropped a PVC elbow down the small tube and can't get it out. It doesn't seem to be causing a problem yet. Do you think I can wait to get it out until the salt in almost gone. Oh the Joys!!! I just really don't want to have to empty the entire brine to get that elbow out.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 5:38PM
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First, it's always best to start an new thread than just hang a question onto a dormant one.

If the PVC elbow is not a part your removed from the softener then you shouldn't need it.

If you dropped the PVC elbow down the 4" diameter tube where the float lives that is the brine well and it shouldn't cause a problem but I'd remove it at your first opportunity..

You should only have as much salt in the brine tank as you need to cover the water and check the salt weekly.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 6:32PM
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