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Thread: Autotrol 255/440 Brine Problem

  1. #1
    burkely is offline Junior Member
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    Default Autotrol 255/440 Brine Problem

    I'm having a problem reviving an Autotrol 255/440 softener which has been sitting in our basement for several years.

    I totally emptied and cleaned the brine tank and its parts, as well as totally dismantled, cleaned, and put back together the upper part of the autotrol valve, including the screen, injector, valves, balls, etc.

    I replaced the timer motor, which was bad, and have ordered a new screen/cap assembly (which cracked when I was cleaning it, but should not prohibit it from drawing brine).

    I plugged it back in and added about 4 gallons of water in the brine tank and about 160 lbs. of salt, but the salt level has not changed after being back on for several days (sufficient time for the salt to dissolve).

    The unit came with the house which is about 15 years old (I've been here for about 8, and the softener has not worked as long as I've been here), so it could not have been working for more than about 7 or 8 years assuming the original owners installed it when they moved in.

    I can't, for the life of me, figure out what else to do other than chunk it and get a new one.

    Any suggestions?

  2. #2
    Gary Slusser is offline Banned
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    That 160 lbs of salt would take 53.33 gallons of water to dissolve all of it. And your softener probably doesn't use more than 5 gallons of water per regeneration. So two regens and you'd still have 130 lbs in the tank.

    And it may not have done a regeneration yet if it's only been a couple days. How many days between regenerations do you have it set for?

    That cracked injector cap should allow a water leak and/or no suction on the brine line.

  3. #3
    burkely is offline Junior Member
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    Maybe I should have said that I cracked the screen - the cap is fine.
    And maybe I am a little impatient, having tried to fix it on several occasions over the years with no luck.

    I expected to see a noticeable difference in the salt level after two regenerations after letting the salt dissolve for at least a week in 4 gallons of water. It is set to regenerate every day and the salt is set on about 14 lbs/regeneration. I set it really high just to help troubleshoot it until I feel confident that it is working. The service guy (who showed up once, two months ago, and never returned to fix it) told me it should run about every other day and be set on about 8 lbs.

    Anyway, I checked the salt level in the tank this morning, and to my surprise, it seems to have dropped slightly, maybe almost an inch.
    I'm excited to check it again for the next couple of days to verify that it may be finally working!

    My next door neighbor has the exact same equipment except his brine tank is smaller and softener tank is taller installed by the same company that put ours in. Yesterday, we pulled the screen out on his to clean it and it was loaded with an orange mud and a little sand/dirt, but somehow still worked.

    Thanks for all of the advice you have spread among all of these threads.

  4. #4
    Gary Slusser is offline Banned
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    It takes 2 hrs for salt to dissolve to 100% brine (saturated) strength.

    If you want to know if the unit can suck salt water, disconnect the brine line form the salt tank in the brine draw/slow rinse cycle. You should get a fairly strong suction. If not something is wrong like a kinked/blocked drain line, injector, injector screen, loose brine line connections allow it to suck air, low main line water pressure etc. etc..

    You should not fill a salt tank, it can cause bridging. Take half the salt out and set your lbs at 8 like the guy told you, and regen every other day and see how the water is.

  5. #5
    burkely is offline Junior Member
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    There is no suction on the brine draw line and the water level in the brine tank has risen each day, but it has not overflowed.

    I'm guessing there must be some clog in the brine intake within the valve.
    I can see the water in the air check rising and dropping in certain stages, but it's empty during the brine stage.

    The drop in salt level I noticed must be from the salt dissolving - it has not dropped noticeably since the first time.

    Any idea how many gallons of brine should be drawn during a cycle?

  6. #6
    Gary Slusser is offline Banned
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    You can use 3 lbs per gallon of water added in the refill cycle. That cycle usually runs at .5 gpm or 1.5 lbs per minute.

    I've repaired hundreds'n hundreds of 155, 255, 168 Autotrol valves. I'll say it again; You should get a fairly strong suction. If not something is wrong like a kinked/blocked drain line, injector, injector screen, loose brine line connections allow it to suck air, low main line water pressure etc. etc.. I used to use a smoking pipe cleaning brush through the port from the injector screen to the injector.

  7. #7
    burkely is offline Junior Member
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    Well...I'm not sure what to do.

    I disconnected the outlet end of the drain and blew through it, and I could see the water coming out of the inlet where the valve assembly sits, so I'm pretty sure it's not clogged.
    I've thoroughly cleaned the injector, screen, and valve assembly.
    My water pressure meter was reading 48 psi in the line.

    Still...I'm getting absolutely no suction in the brine line.

    I was going to swap the valve with my neighbor's to see if the problem is truly in the valve, but his bypass valve is messed up and we can't take his off, so that idea didn't work.

    I don't know what else to do other than call the service guy again and see if he can fix it, or replace the valve. Either way, it's going to be a couple hundred bucks I guess.

  8. #8
    Gary Slusser is offline Banned
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    Trust me, it is something in the valve that is blocked. O an injector 0-ring missing, or the port from the screen to the injector etc.. Or the drain line ball is stuck. Or a loose brine line fitting.

  9. #9
    burkely is offline Junior Member
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    I took your advice and took another look at the screen, injector, drain, etc....
    I cleaned the injector again and maybe that did the trick. I still don't understand how it works with a hole down the middle of it, but if that's how it's made, then that's how it's made.
    Anyway, I put everything back together, and I think it's finally working.
    I could see the water trickling in from the brine tank through the air check valve for the first part of the brining stage. The check valve was about 2/3 full with a constant flow in from the brine tank and there was a strong salty taste in the drain water.
    Much thanks for all of your advice and expertise!!!

    Also, I think the unit was installed in or around 1997 - I found that date in the valve, so it only was working properly for about 3 years. Do you recommend replacing the resin since it has not been functioning properly for the last 10 years? also, I've chlorinated the well probably once a year for the last 5-6 years for at least 24 hrs each time and the resin would have been sitting in the chlorine water each time.

  10. #10
    Gary Slusser is offline Banned
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    Glad it's working and thanks for the feedback.

    There is a hole down the center and one across the injector.

    Shocking a well repeatedly is a bad idea. It can cause pump, drop pipe, power cable, water quality problems and actually make a bacteria problem worse.

    And all water treatment should be bypassed and later sanitized individually or you ruin them. So yes, your resin is probably bad but, you have a time clock control valve and they use much more water and salt than metered/demand regenerated valves. I suggest a new correctly sized softener with a Clack WS-1 control valve.

  11. #11
    waterhog is offline Junior Member
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    Default Brine problem

    I agree with Gary, if the water softener has been sitting for several years without water running through it, I can definitely tell you that the resin is of no value, which means you will likely have little or no soft water. I also agree with Gary that you should look into purchasing the new Clack WS-1 control valve, it is the best in water treatment and will work great for your home. Most likely an independent water softener dealer will carry the Clack WS-1 softener in your area. Could you add new resin to the softener, sure, but you are better served with a demand unit that will measure the water used, and save you water and salt. Thanks.

  12. #12
    burkely is offline Junior Member
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    Water has been running through the softener over the past few years, it just has not cycled properly.
    I can tell a huge difference in the water since it has been back up and running for the past 2-3 weeks.
    I'm planning to check the hardness of the water and make a decision as to what to do - we are hoping to move to a bigger house next summer and hate to spend on this type thing if we don't have to.
    But, I do understand what you are saying regarding the Clack valve softener.

  13. #13
    burkely is offline Junior Member
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    I finally tested the water for hardness and there is a noticeable difference between the softened water(~3 grains/gal) and the unsoftened water(~20 grains/gal). Clothes look better, soap foams up like crazy, the shower is so much easier to clean, the dogs' water container stays cleaner...just a few of the results.
    Thanks again for all of your help.

  14. #14
    betodas is offline Junior Member
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    Default same issue (almost)

    I know this is an old thread but I'm hoping someone can help me with a similar issue.
    I was originally having the same issue: water was not being drawn back in from the Brine tank. So the salt tank was over flowing after a couple of nights.
    I took the unit apart, cleaned everything out, yada yada yada. Now there is suction but the ball just drops in the clear little tank and stops the water from being drawn from the brine tank.
    I'm no expert on Water equipment, but when I look at that clear tank/valve, I don't understand how it can ever suck water. Wouldn't the ball always just plug the hole.

    Anyway, I can get it to suck water from the tank if I remove the ball from that clear tank.

    But the ball should obviously be there. So I'm hoping someone can give me some insight.

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