Irritrol RainDial Programming Tutorial

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Here is a good tutorial on Irritrol RainDial Programming and Schedules.  It discusses how to program the Irritrol RainDial RD600, RD900, RD1200 series of controllers, provides links, videos, templates and guidelines.   There’s also a link to the programming guide and a great sheet to fill in when deciding what your program should be.

Irritrol RainDial Programming Guidelines for success: RD600, RD900, RD1200

  • Basic terminology:   Depending on your model, the timer can control 6, 9 or 12 “stations/valves.”   There are three “schedules“, A, B and C. Schedules define of the days, run times for each valve and up to three times you want that schedule to start running on a given day.
  • Many times people mistake the AM for PM; the difference is very subtle on the display.  This is my only real complaint about the Irritrol RD controllers.  Double check that the current time and the programmed times are correct.
  • The 2nd start time should never start before the first run is finished.   Add up the times assigned to each valve station.)   Never let start time plus the total run time be finish after the have a 2nd start time occur before all the valves from the first start time can finish.
  • Never allow times to cross midnight (into the next day).
  • When using multiple schedules, make sure they will never overlap their schedules at all.   e.g., if you have schedule A as a “skip-day” schedule running every other day AND you have schedule B running on Wednesdays, they will eventually both run on Wednesday.  Thus, make sure schedule B can run and complete before schedule A runs.   (e.g.., set one for mornings and the other for evenings. )
  • RECOMMENDATION: Fill out the template shown below before you start – it makes things very easy.
  • Convention note:  The terms station, valve and zone are considered the same. Each valve has a number associated with it (e.g., 1-6 for an RD600, 1-9 for an RD900.

Important things to understand about the RD600 and other Rain Dial series timers:

  • Understand the basics of Irritrol RainDial Programming and Schedules:
    • Schedules A,B, and C are always followed, regardless of what the schedule the switch is pointing to.    I.e., if you set the switch on A, it will still run schedule B and C if they are programmed to run.
    • If you don’t want schedule A to run, you must set all the days in schedule A to off, or run-times to 0 minutes, or all start times to off.
    • Each  schedule works with valve run times and then you give it the time to start the schedule.
    • When the schedule starts, it goes to the first valve with time to run and waits.  when that run-time has finished, it goes to the next valve and runs it for the time assigned.   Thus, only one valve runs at a time.
    • Help with skip days: You tell the timer what the skip day interval is.  e.g., to water every 3 days, set skip days to 3.  You also have to tell it what to consider today to be.  e.g., If today is the first of 3 days, then today is set to 1.  The following will help make it clear what to do:
      • The timer will run the schedule when the “today” day number matches the value you set as skip-days.
        Example: You want to water every 3 days and have today set to 1, and skip days=3. “Today” which is currently “1” will increment every day, so tomorrow it will be 2, and so on. When “today” shows “3” the water will come on.

Irritrol RainDial PROGRAMMING GUIDES, Templates

For help programming the RainDial RD600-1200 series sprinkler/irrigation controllers, see the following Irritrol RainDial programming guide and then review the manuals above.

Here’s a PDF of the Irritrol Rain Dial programming template. guide, and example template.

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75 thoughts on “Irritrol RainDial Programming Tutorial

  1. Have an RD600, was here when I bought the house. It runs a bore pump and has a few valves but not sure of their location. When I run program it starts pump, rapidly cycles through valves and then pump stops. Is the controller turning pump off because the valves are not operating/not even there ?

    • Hi Jake, the pump will only be on when the valves are on. It may turn on a minute early and stay a minute late but in general it’s only on when valves are on. Not sure if that answers your question. If not reply here. Thanks, brian

    • Hi Craig, Thanks for posting an Irritrol Rain Dial question.
      You’re not supposed to program two at once, but you can. Just program A to drive one station and program B to drive another at the same time. I tried this on a 600-R model and it worked. Here are some thoughts though.

      If you don’t want to use two separate programs, you could connect both valve wires to one valve terminal screw. Although the system is rated for doing 1 valve at a time, I’ve seen this done without issue. The disclaimer is that you do this at your own risk knowing you’re operating things out of the specification so it could cause it problems.

      Does that help?
      Brian – aka the RainDial Doctor for Iritrol RD-600 Series irrigation timers.

  2. Hello Brian I need some help!

    My manual for the RD1200 mentions on pg 22 re: Skip Days – “Note: once a Skip Days interval is selected, OFF will be replaced with ‘Once Every’ and the Skip Days number you selected.”

    Problem is it does not tell you how to return to ‘OFF’ and it gets ‘stuck’ in Skip Days mode and I could not get back to the basic setting a simple ON or OFF in the weekdays portion of the Schedule. I tried all sort of things and finally some combination of setting skip days to 0, something else to END, and a few other tweaks, finally when I went back to the weekdays each day was returned to the ability to set to ON or OFF for that day. Why is there no simple way to just make sure that the SKIP DAYS option is turned OFF? Again, once skip day had been set, no amount of pressing the MANUAL button that scrolls thru the options came back around to OFF…….and this was true on all three programs A, B, and C. So I had to set each program and rattle through all those various combos mentioned above to finally get rid of “—” and be back to OFF. Three times the headache. Argh! thanks for your advice.

    • Hi Craig,
      You should be able to return from skip-days mode by setting the switch to the middle (set program) position, setting the dial on the skip-days setting and pressing “-” until the skip-day number decreases all the way down to 0 (it may show “off” when you do this, I can’t remember for sure.)

      That should be all there is to it; no need to press the Manual button or anything. I can’t think of any other scenario, unless a program was running at the time you tried to change it, but even then it’s unlikely.


    • Yes you can. Just pick the program A,B or C and set the dial to skip days. Then enter 14 for the number of days. Now that will make the Irritrol RainDial to run that program every 14 days. Note that if you move the dial to a day of the week, it will show “–” indicating that skip days feature is being used instead.

      Does that help?
      Brian – aka the Irritrol RainDial RD600 series “doctor”

  3. Hi, I am trying to set the skip days. I see that you say it can be done, but what are the specific instructions to do it?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Stewart,

      See the menu option for user manuals – it has a full set of instructions for you to use. If you have trouble after that, let me know.

      Brian – aka the Irritrol Rain Dial Repair Doctor – for rd600, rd900, rd1200 sprinkler irrigation timers.

  4. Hi, Brian — My Irritrol Rain Dial Plus system (installed about 1998) has been in non-operation for nearly a decade. (California drought conditions and trying to be a good citizen…) Now that we’re out of the drought, I can’t get the operation to begin again, in Manual Program Start or in Manual Valve Start. The Controller box is getting power and the read-out seems to operate. What’s my next troubleshooting step?


    • Hi Susan,
      1) Does the timer “think” the valves are turning on? E.g., does the display indicate they should be one but no water is flowing? OR,
      2) does the timer never even indicate that it’s turning on the water.

      If 1 is your answer, then I would check that the water lines are all turned on, and consider doing “Check 3” on this page: This will help you test things without needing the timer at all.

      Give that a try, and please let me know if it helps by posting back here.

  5. Just installed a used RD-900 controller and tried to program it. I created a program schedule for A with no problem. When I tried to create different ones for B and C, the information overwrote the info in A. I realized that whatever the last change was made to any of the individual programs is being replicated to all 3 programs, and was not able to create individual ones for A,B and C. I cleared all information out and followed the programming instructions several times, but it still replicated one schedule/program to A, B and C programs. Any clue as to what might be the issue? Do you think I need to send the controller in for service/repair?

    • i Chris,

      Thanks for posting. I’ve seen that problem before. Unfortunately, it’s something that you’d have to send the controller in for repair.
      I’m happy to help with that if you’d like. I’ll send a separate email with all the details.
      Brian – aka the RD600 series Irritrol Rain Dial Doctor

    • Hi Dennis,

      Just keep the + button pressed until you go through the first 12 hours, then it’ll switch from am to pm or pm to am. On the older Gray units, the little leg on the A is difficult to see sometimes.

      Brian – aka the RD600 series RainDialDoctor

  6. I have an RD 1200 manufactured in 2003 and stations 1 thru 5 do not come on but stations 6 thru 11 do. I have disconnected everything and then reconnected and replaced the battery, but the problem is still with me. Do you have any suggestions how to fix my problem. We did have a power failure that lasted 6 hours last Sunday ( July 23, 2017 ).

    • Hi Fred,

      I’d suggest swapping station wire 6 with 1 and see if the valve that was connected to 1 works. That’ll tell you if it’s a valve problem. If the valve works, then send both the back terminal board and the LCD/Dial module in for repair and I’ll get it all working for you… If the valve still doesn’t work, then checkout the troubleshooting tips page to isolate it further. Let me know if you have any questions. A new 12 station unit can approach $200; the repair is solid, guaranteed and costs $65. If after I see it and repair doesn’t seem to be a good idea, I’ve got some other replacement options that may work well. Most of the time it’s repairable so it makes sense to go that route first.

      I hope that helps – Brian – aka – the Irritrol Rain Dial Doctor for RD-1200 series controllers.

  7. When setting the system to water every other day (Skip Day 2), I noticed that when turning the dial to weekdays, some days the system showed “—” and on others it showed “OFF”. Is the “OFF” indicator left over from my previous Day of the Week setting (Mon OFF, Tue OFF, Wed ON, etc.) and to work correctly in the Skip Day mode all days should show “—“?

    • Hi Bill,

      That’s a good question; Some of the older models may have behaved that way. I’ll have to check when I get home tonight. If I don’t get a chance, I’d say give it a try and see what you get. Post back here and let us know how it worked. If it doesn’t work, I’d try a full reset (see DIY page for details) and try again. What model (e.g., 600-R…) and what is the date listed under the battery so I can try and match versions.


  8. The display on my Rain Dial 660 shows an A:XX where XX is minutes. I don’t know what this program is as I didn’t put it in for that amount of time or to go on at that time of day.

    What is A:?

    • Hi John,

      The A: represents Schedule A is running, the XX is the number of minutes it’s scheduled to run for. Take a look at the programming tutorial information on my site – there’s lots of great information and even a video to watch.

      Let me know if that helps.

      Brian – aka – the rainDialDoctor RD600, RD900, RD1200

  9. Hi, I have the RD900 & love the system. I would like to be able to manually run the whole system from start to finish at one time. Instead of having to go back 5 minutes later & manually set the next station 8 times. Is this possible. It’s very windy where I live & sometimes I will shut the system off so it doesn’t get my car wet, then run it later.

    • You can get closer to what you want by just pressing the semi-auto button. That’ll immediately start whatever schedule the switch currently selects and water all the valves associated wit h that schedule. At worst, you’d have to do semi-auto for A, and B, and C, but it’s likely that most situations only require you to run one of those, making it a 1 button activity instead of 8 as you were doing.

      Let me know if that helps.
      Brian – the rainDialDoctor – donations are always welcome

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