I notice my water softener running at night occasionally, and the next day I have nice soft water. But, within a few days, it seems to run out -- soap barely lathers, and my skin feels very dry after showering. I've double-checked that the salt tank is at the right level, and that there is no salt bridge.

My system and situation

  • Autotrol 460i controller (manual here)
  • 0.75 ft3 resin tank
  • Two adults in the house, average 3,300 gallons of soft water usage per month / 55 gallons per person per day.
  • Incoming supply hardness is 12 grains per gallon (~200 ppm / 17.1), based on home test (image below).

enter image description here

Settings on my water softener

  • Hardness setting: 26. Range: 1 to 99 grains per gallon. According to the manual, this should correspond to the "hardness of the incoming water supply."
  • Capacity setting: 26. Range: 1 to 99 kilograins. Manual says "refer to the suggested salt dial settings table," reproduced below.
  • Salt dial adjustment: 12. Range: 3 to 19 pounds of salt. Manual says: "controls the amount of salt used per regeneration."

Suggested salt dial settings table, for my system:

Capacity setting        Salt setting
 (kilograins)              (lbs)
      16                    5.5
      20                    8.5
      24                   14.0


How should adjust my settings to get to get the salt water supply correct? I understand that hardness is a function of my water supply and should be lowered, and it seems the salt setting is a function of capacity. But how do I determine which capacity setting is correct? Current setting does not match my salt setting. Should I raise the salt? Lower the capacity?

  • Check setting 2 and think about the house water use or aka occupancy - especially the female of the species is known for a higher volume of water use... – Solar Mike Mar 15 '20 at 19:02
  • @SolarMike based on the table for my softener size, the capacity setting (26) is already higher than the maximum (24). – LShaver Mar 15 '20 at 19:04
  • The table and suggested settings are for some "average" use... Check your use in detail - take water meter readings at the same time every day and see what is happening... There may be a leak or some high use you have not appreciated., – Solar Mike Mar 15 '20 at 19:08
  • How much hot water do you think the average person uses per day? – Solar Mike Mar 15 '20 at 19:09
  • @Mattman944 I just checked, and there is no salt bridge. My real question is, what does "capacity" (measured in kilograins) even mean? – LShaver Mar 16 '20 at 17:24

As suggested by Mattman944's comment, you may have a salt bridge. That's where the salt sticks together to form a crust near the top of the tank, but it's actually empty at the bottom, and therefore isn't creating the brine necessary to clean the resin tank. Poking at the top of the salt (be careful, you don't want to jab through the plastic of the tank and cause a crack and a leak) should break any salt bridges and allow you to properly fill the salt basin.

More importantly, how often is your softener set to cycle? If you have a manually set cycle, you may need to increase the frequency/reduce the days between cycles. If it's set to run every 5 days, reduce it to every 4 days to see if that fixes the problem. If you're still running out of soft water, reduce it to every 3 days. Lather, rinse, repeat until you're happy with your soft water supply.

If it cycles automatically when the water gets hard (ours does that - a lovely feature), it may be that the sensor mechanism is malfunctioning. Check your manual for troubleshooting tips and/or contact the manufacturer. If there is a failure, it may still be under warranty.

  • I had the same thought about regeneration frequency, but this particular control module seems to take scheduling out of the hands of the operator. Note the three different controllers starting on page 8. – isherwood Mar 16 '20 at 15:17
  • The model 460 regenerates based on the water usage, there is probably a small turbine with a magnetic pickup to measure the water flow (my Whirlpool uses this method). This is a common failure, but the OP says that it does regenerate, so it is measuring the water flow. – Mattman944 Mar 16 '20 at 16:47
  • There is no salt bridge -- I edited the answer. There is no setting I can see that adjusts how often it cycles. There is a "calendar override" that can be set from 1 to 15 days, but no real explanation in the manual of what this does. – LShaver Mar 16 '20 at 17:27
  • As this answer suggests try adjusting the override cycle your salt consumption will probably go up but you won’t run out of soft water once regen frequency is correct.+ – Ed Beal Mar 19 '20 at 12:19

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