Kinetico Water Softener How-to and Troubleshooting Guide

kinetico water softener how to and troubleshooting guide

Kinetico is one of the biggest non-electric ion-exchange water softener brands in the market. Kinetico water softeners have external accreditation of their overall efficiency and efficacy, making it a trustworthy brand. These water softeners also provide an uninterrupted soft water supply even during the regeneration process. However, their systems are not without fault.

Some of the problems you may experience when using the Kinetico water softeners are salty water, frequent or no regeneration at all, clogging, overflowing brine tank, low water output, among others. Fortunately, these water softeners are relatively easy to diagnose and fix due to their simplistic designs and lack of electric components. Consider the troubleshooting and maintenance tips and tricks in the article below if you notice any issues with your water softener.

How do you reset a Kinetico water softener?

The Kinetico water softener runs on kinetic energy. Therefore, it has no timers and buttons to reset. Instead, the unit runs on-demand automatically, meaning it only regenerates when you open any soft water faucet in the house. However, your water softener will need a reset after refilling it with salt. You can wait for the unit to automatically reset or follow the steps below to manually reset your Kinetico water softener.

  • Turn off the by-pass lever on the water softener.
  • Open the soft water faucet to remove water pressure.
  • Push the softener valve screw down firmly using a Phillips screwdriver.
  • Slowly turn the valve clockwise until the actuator’s indicator reaches the “BRINE” position. You will also be hearing about five clicks as you turn the valve screw.
  • Turn the by-pass lever to the “Service” position, and you should hear water flowing through the system.
  • If you do not hear the water, it means the indicator has not reached the “BRINE” position, and you need to turn it again.
  • When the water stops flowing, repeat the manual regeneration for about 10 to 90 minutes, depending on the model, to ensure regeneration is complete.

Why does my Kinetico water softener keep running?

There are a few reasons why your water softener is constantly running. Since the Kinetico water softener is non-electric, it might not know when it is running continuously. So when there is a defective part, water will continue to drain until you identify and fix the issue. Here is how to troubleshoot some of the possible causes.

Reset the water softener

The Kinetico water softener regenerates or runs when water usage is lowest, mostly at night. So if the unit is running during the day, there might be nothing wrong with the softener, but you can manually reset the unit.

Debris in the gears

Sometimes dirt and sediment from the water will get stuck in the gears and either cause the regeneration cycle to stop or prevent it from shutting off when regeneration is complete. To fix the issue, you need to clean your unit.

Failing piston

The piston in the Kinetico water softener channels water through the control valve and different openings to run the water through the needed stages in the regeneration process. This piston has water-tight seals that ensure the water flows through it. However, over time the seal fails and becomes less water-tight, allowing water to flow to other unnecessary channels. As a result, the water will continue to drain unless you replace the piston and/or seals.

High water pressure

The water supply from your municipal could be flowing in at high pressure causing the water to run past the water seals. When the water flows in at high pressure and the seals cannot stay water-tight, they will give way, and water will continue running down the drain. You can call your water supplier to fix the issue.

Low pressure

Low pressure from your water supply valve can also cause the unit to be stuck on the regeneration cycle. First, make sure the water supply valve is fully open. If it is open, contact your municipal water company to check for any repairs in the area that might explain the low pressure.

How to know if your Kinetico water softener is not working?

Here are some of the signs to look out for to know if your water softener is not working.

  1. Water from the soft water faucet tastes salty. The taste of water is probably the first way to tell your unit is not softening water.
  2. Soap does not lather well when washing your hands or utensils, or the lather consistency changes from time to time.
  3. There will be whitish residue on your utensils, water faucets, showerheads, and sink when the water dries.
  4. Your skin will feel slightly dry and will look ashy after showering. Soft water tends to leave your skin feeling smooth and silky.
  5. The surest way to determine if your unit is working is by testing the water for calcium carbonate levels. Test the incoming water too to know the difference in change.

How can you tell if your Kinetico water softener is clogged?

While your water softener operates to make your water soft, the hard water minerals will accumulate over time in the water softener system. These mineral deposits will clog the pipe that runs through the water softener. Some of the signs that may indicate a clogged water softener include:

  1. There is no significant change in your water softness, and the water is hard.
  2. The water softener is not producing enough soft water.
  3. A drop in water pressure usually means clogs resin beads.
  4. There could be a clogged drain line or valve if the softener is stuck on the regeneration cycle and never stops running.
  5. Any sound coming from the unit different from the usual hissing sound could indicate clogged tubes.
  6. If the water softener is overflowing, there could be clogged lines preventing normal water flow.
  7. Low water pressure from the soft water faucet. Resin beads draining from the system can clog the lines and cause a loss of water pressure. To fix the problem, replace the resin beads and flush the water softener system to remove any resins beads blocking the lines.

How to fix a clogged Kinetico water softener

There are two ways to fix a clogged unit depending on the site of blockage:

Valve injector

Over time, sediment from the water accumulates and blocks the injector in your water softener, reducing suction for the brine cycle. As a result, it affects the regeneration cycle, and water will be hard.  A tell-tale sign that the injector is blocked is if the water level in the brine tank is too high.

Remove the injector out with pair of needle-nose pliers and try to look through the small opening in the injector. If you notice some blockage, use a needle to push it out. Rinse the injector to remove any particles and reassemble them into the softener.

Brine line

Hard water minerals and debris in the water can clog the brine line, causing low water pressure from the faucet. If you notice a blockage in the brine line, call a professional to help unclog it without damaging the system.

Do Kinetico water softeners need maintenance?

Yes. Although Kinetico water softeners can last for years, they still require regular maintenance servicing to ensure it functions efficiently for longer. The Kinetico water softener softens water by changing the ions. The softener has resin beads that can sodium ions. The hard water, which has calcium and magnesium ions, flows through the resin beads and gains the sodium ions, making the water soft. Over time, the calcium and magnesium accumulate on the resin beads, requiring cleaning or regeneration.

Kinetico water softener maintenance tips

Here are some of the ways you can maintain your water softener system

  1. Check the salt levels in the brine tank regularly. The salt levels should not be too high or too low. Too little salt will cause the water to collect at the bottom of the tank, while too much salt will cause bridging. You should never allow your water softener to run out of salt.
  2. Use pure salt in your Kinetico water softeners, such as solar salt and pellet salt, as it leaves less dirt in the brine tank. When your pour salt into the brine tank, the salt dissolves, and the dirt settles at the bottom. Dirty water with a lot of dirt particles will make water softening inefficient by clogging other water softener parts or taking up space in the brine tank.
  3. Clean the brine tank before and after adding the salt. Remove dirt and sediment from the base and any debris floating on the salt. Reducing the dirt from the brine tank prevents these particles from getting clogging on the gears and control valve. Jammed gears can cause your water softener to break down completely.
  4. Change the sediment pre-filter regularly because the Kinetico gears and valves are very vulnerable to blockage by specks of dirt and debris. Kinetico advises changing the filter cartridge every six months to ensure the water getting into your softener’s system is clear from dirt and debris, thus allowing your softener to work well.
  5. Check your water softener by-pass and rotate it a few times a year to ensure it moves smoothly. Then turn it to the left, right, and put it back to the green or service position.
  6. Clean the resins beads to reduce the accumulation of hard water minerals. Pour four ounces of water softener resin cleaner in the salt tank to ensure the resin work properly.
  7. Monitor water leakages by connecting a water floor detector near your water softener to alert you on water issues such as leakages and the brine tank overflow.
  8. Schedule an annual inspection and servicing by a Kinetico professional to ensure your water softener operates at its optimal capacity. The professional can optimize the water softener settings, sanitize the system and inspect the unit for potential problems.

Why is the salt in my water softener not going down?

When the salt is not going down, it means the softener is not using any salt due to bridging at the bottom of the brine tank. The salt bridge forms when salt collects and solidifies at the bottom of the tank, preventing salt from going to the bottom and dissolving in the water to form brine. When little salt dissolves in the brine tank, the resin cannot regenerate and eventually stop the softening process.

To test for bridging, insert a broom handle down into the brine tank, and you will feel the bridge at the base. To fix this:

  • Turn off the water supply to the water softener.
  • Remove the salt at the top of the tank to access the solidified salt at the bottom.
  • Crush the bridge into smaller pieces and scoop them out of the tank.
  • Use a wet/dry vacuum to remove the water from the tank.
  • If the salt has not broken up entirely, pour in hot tap water to dissolve any remaining salt and let it cool down.
  • Turn on the water supply valve and manually regenerate your water softener.
  •  When the bridging dissolves completely, fill two-thirds of the tank with salt. Do not refill it until the salt level is about a quarter of the tank to reduce the chances of bridging too often.

What is the lifespan of a Kinetico water softener?

With proper maintenance, The Kinetico water softeners last for about 10 to 20 years, depending on the model you get. Standard electric single tank water softeners typically last about 10 to 12 years, but Kinetico softening systems can function effectively for over 20 years. Since Kinetico water softeners are also non-electric, they are pretty low maintenance and have no electronic controls to set.

Check this too: Whirlpool Water Softener How-to and Troubleshooting Guide

How often should my Kinetico water softener regenerate?

Depending on water usage, the Kinetico water softener can regenerate as often as a couple of times a day or as infrequent as once a week. However, it should happen regularly to keep the resin beads active. Therefore, the Kinetico water softeners start their regeneration cycle when you deplete the soft water, which can occur at any time.

Though Kinetico’s regeneration process is demand-initiated, there are several other factors that can change how often your water softener will recharge. These factors include:

  • Water hardness. Your water softener will regenerate more often if the initial water hardness level is very high.
  • Water usage. Households with more people will cause the water softener to regenerate more often than homes with fewer water users.
  • Water supply rich in iron. Water supply with high iron content will require more frequent regeneration.
  • Resin tank volume. A large-sized water softener will regenerate less frequently than a single-tank water softener.
  • The age of the water softener. An older unit will have to work more frequently to produce cleaner water. After ten years, the Kinetico water softener may start being less efficient.

My Kinetico water softener is not regenerating.

When your water softener stops regenerating, it will start producing salty water. Water softeners need to regenerate to continue working correctly; however, sometimes regeneration can fail for several reasons.

  • The Kinetico water softener has no regeneration timer but only regenerates on demand. So, if no one in the house is using the water, the softener will regenerate less frequently, and you might mistake it for a malfunction. A household with few water users will regenerate as little as once a week. If you’re from a vacation, you should manually regenerate it to set the system.
  • Build-ups and blockages in the water softening system will prevent the unit from regenerating. Clean the water softener and ensure the tubes and lines are free from clogs.
  • Salt bridging can also prevent the system from regenerating correctly or not at all by clogging the system. Break up the crystallized salt and empty the brine tank. Clean the tank, flush it, refill it with new salt and then manually regenerate it if it doesn’t automatically start.
  • If the brine tank has insufficient salt, the resin can not regenerate, and it will eventually stop softening. Therefore, remember to refill the brine tank with pure salt pellets regularly.
  • If you do not clean and sanitize the water softener regularly, dirt, bacteria, and other minerals will build upon the resin beads and reduce their softening efficiency. Dirty or worn-out resin beads cannot regenerate. The solution is to replace the resin tank.

Why is my Kinetico water softener overflowing?

When the water softener is regenerating, the brine tank fills about a quarter to half of the way as the brine flows into the resin tank to clean the resin beads. However, the brine tank will overflow when the water softener does not draw all the brine, the brine valve does not close the water feed correctly, or there is water leakage along the brine line from the control valve. Here are ways you can fix your overflowing Kinetico water softener.

A disconnected brine line

Inspect the brine line and ensure it attaches correctly to the safety float in the brine tank. When the incoming water reaches a certain level, the float shuts it off. So if the brine line is not securely attached, the water will flow into the tank and eventually overflow. Reconnect the brine line well and look for kinks or breaks.

Salt bridging at the bottom of the brine tank.

Check the brine tank for bridging at the bottom of the tank.  Bridging in the brine tank can obstruct the water’s pathway causing the water to accumulate in the tank. If you notice the salt solidifying at the bottom, break it up, dispose of it and refill the tank.

Leaking brine valve

The brine valve controls water flow in and out of the brine tank during regeneration. It allows the brine to flow back into the resin tank during the backwash cycle to clean the resin beads. After cleaning the resin beads, the water usually goes does the drain. It will not completely shut off when the valve leaks and water will continue flowing into the brine tank. To fix a leaking valve, replace the valve and the rubber seal around the valve.

Obstructed drain line

If the drain line in your water softener is kinked or blocked, the brine from the brine tank will not be draining out quickly enough or at all.  Water will continue flowing into the brine tank and overflowing. Inspect the drain line, straighten it if it is kinked, unblocked it, or replace it if necessary.

Brine level control issues

The Kinetico water softener has a safety float in the brine tank that shuts off incoming water into the brine tank is when the water reaches a certain height. The safety float prevents the brine tank from overflowing. If the safety float is set too high, the water is likely to flood. Also, if the float is clogged, it won’t move freely. Adjust and clean the float on your Kinetico water softener following the steps below.

  • Shut off the water softener to stop the regeneration cycle.
  • Find the tube with a cover inside the brine tank.
  • Remove the cover and gently lift the float from the brine tank.
  • Run the floater under hot water for about 10 minutes.
  • When rinsing it, move the float up and down gently to ensure it moves freely.
  • Check the small ball at the bottom of the float and ensure it is also moving without restrictions.
  • Find the numbered disc on top of the control valve.
  • Call your Kinetico dealer to get the correct setting for the float for your model, then reinstall the float into the brine tank.

Worn out piston

Inspect the rubber seal around the piston. If the seal has moved or flatten, water will flow past the seals and into the brine tank when ideally, it should restrict water flow. To fix it, replace the piston and seals.

Kinetico water softener is not metering.

The Kinetico water softener system has a control valve with a meter that measures the amount of water flowing in and out of the water softener. The measure determines how much water should enter the tank at a given time. So the unit only regenerates when a specific amount of water flows through the softener. When the meter fails, the until will not display the volume of water running through the softener.

  • Check if the by-pass valve is in the by-pass position. Then, turn the valve to the “Service” position to allow water through the softener.
  • If your Water softener system has no by-pass valve, the flow meter could be damaged. Shut off the water supply valve into the softener. Remove the by-pass valve assembly and inspect the turbines. If the turbines are not turning, replace the whole meter.

How to change the filter on Kinetico water filter

To ensure your water softener works properly and prevent clogging the system with debris, you should change the pre-filter periodically. The pre-filter keeps dirt, debris, and sediment from your water supply from getting into the water softener. Follow the steps below to change the pre-filter.

  • Turn off the water supply valve.
  • Turn the by-pass valve to the yellow by-pass position.
  • Check if the plastic tubing coming from the by-pass connects to the drain. If it doesn’t, place a bucket underneath the tube to catch leaking water.
  • Open the faucet connected to the water softener.
  • Turn the pressure relief valve to the open position to depressurize the system and reduce spillage. Depressurizing the system also makes it easier to turn the filter housing.
  • Wait for about one to two minutes before proceeding.
  • Locate the filter housing and turn it clockwise either with two hands or a sump removal wrench to remove it.
  • Rotate the filter cartridge clockwise, remove it and dispose of it.
  • If your model uses a reusable filter cartridge, soak it in a mixture of water and Iron OUT® rust remover until it looks clean. Then, rinse the filter thoroughly and let it air dry.
  • Inspect the filter sump, drain out its water, and clean it. Check the condition of the O-ring; if it is worn, replace it with a new one.
  • Lubricate the O-ring with silicone lubricant and reinstall it onto the sump.
  • Insert the new filter cartridge onto the filter housing and turn it counterclockwise until it locks in place.
  • Install the filter sump over the filter cartridge and rotate it counterclockwise until it seals. Ensure the arrow on the filter sump aligns with the arrow on the housing.
  • Close the pressure valves.
  • Return the by-pass valve to the green “in-service” position
  • Turn on the water supply valve and inspect the system for leaking. If water leaks from the housing, the filter is not tightened, or the filter housing is not sealing correctly. Disassemble the filter sump and cartridge, ensure the cartridge is securely in place and re-seat the O-ring so that it does not block the seal.

How to by-pass Kinetico water filter

Putting your water softener into by-pass mode will turn off the system while allowing water to the house. However, the water to the house will be hard. The by-pass process will vary depending on the age of your water softening system. Follow the instructions below to by-pass your system depending on the by-pass style.

The 3-valve by-pass ( systems before 1990)

  • Rotate both blue valves clockwise to close the valves to and from the softener.
  • Turn the red valve counterclockwise to open the valve between the two blue valves and allow water flow.

Old Kinetico by-pass

  • Turn the gray lever until the arrow points to the by-pass setting.

New Kinetico by-pass

  • The new Kinetico style has a viewable window to show the setting.
  • Rotate the handle until it gets to the yellow section.
    • Green- service
    • Yellow- by-pass
    • Red- no water

How to clean Kinetico water softener

Periodically cleaning your Kinetico water softener is one of the essential maintenance tips that help your unit operate at optimum and prolong its lifespan. You can set a cleaning schedule or clean when necessary, for instance, if you notice clogging or build-up. Follow the step-by-step instructions for cleaning your Kinetico water softener.

Cleaning the brine tank

  • Turn off the system by either opening the by-pass valve or shutting off the water supply valve.
  • Empty the brine tank. Remove all the salt and water from the brine tank.
  • Disassemble all the parts of the brine tank. Make a cleaning mixture of water and dishwashing soap, then use a scouring pad to clean the inside of the tank and all the other components.
  • Allow all the parts to air dry and then reassemble all the parts correctly.

Cleaning the resin tank

  • Refill the brine tank with pure salt to the top.
  • Disconnect the resin tank from the system.
  • Pour a mixture of water and bleach or iron-removing product such as  Iron OUT® into the resin tank and follow the product’s instructions on the package.
  • Reinstall the resin tank and run a few regeneration cycles to rinse out the product residue.

Check this too: Kenmore Water Softener How to and Troubleshooting Guide


Unlike other water softeners in the market, the Kinetico water softener systems can last up to 20 years with proper installation and regular maintenance. Though you will experience some issues during its service, you can get your water softener working correctly by following our troubleshooting guide above.