Sprinklers Don’t come on when they should

First determine if the RainDial controller “thinks” it’s turning on the valve by watching the LCD screen a valve is on.  If a small number matching the valve number appears on the top row of the screen, the controller “thinks” it has turned on that valve.

  • If you do not see the number and the LCD blinks and says off, the controller has most likely failed and there really isn’t much you can do. Simply send it to us for repair, we’ll get it back to you.
  • If you do see the number, the controller has done what it can to turn on the valve and the problem is likely due to one of the other issues described below.

When the Irritrol controller “thinks” it turned on a valve but the valve doesn’t work, there are several possible reasons.

  • The battery is good (so the display and timer appears to function), but the valves do not activate but he power is off so the valves cannot activate. Check breakers, power wiring… and the fuse.
  • Battery is good, but transformer has failed – see links on testing the transformer. There are very simple ways to check the transformer Click here.
  • Wires have broken, are disconnected, or miswired – see Check #3 in testing the rainDial Transfomer.
  • Solenoid or valve is bad – see Check #3 in testing the rainDial Transfomer
  • The controller/system has simply failed and should be sent in for repair.

Be sure to look at the other troubleshooting DIY topics related to resets and valve testing.

All material copyright Brian Keller, aka the RainDial doctor

13 thoughts on “Sprinklers Don’t come on when they should

  1. Have you ever seen a Irritrol Raindial add hidden start times, or just start by itself ? I have a unit programmed to come on at 6:00am, which it does. It also comes on by itself at 9:30pm and it starts with zone 2, not 1. I have factory reset a couple of times in the past, and this problem comes back randomly on its own, sometimes growing to starting 4 times a day.

    • Hi Michael,

      I can’t say I’ve seen that “exact” scenario, but I do often see random behavior. I’m confident it can be repaired. Everything you need to know is on the “how to get it repaired” page. The cost typically ranges from 45 to 65 for six to twelve station models. I warranty the repair and also pay the return postage; it’s sent 2 day priority mail.

      Since you’ve already done a good job troubleshooting it with resets and other steps, I think sending it in is the way to go.
      Let me know what you decide to do,
      Regards,
      Brian – the Irritrol RainDial RD600, RD1200, RD900 Repair Doctor

  2. Different problem with mine, I have a RD-900 and all the valves work fine when manually started or in semi-auto, but when I program and try to turn the day on, my options are either off or —, On is not an option. Thoughts?

    • Hi Chris,
      That means you have skip days programmed. Either look at the manual under skip days, or do a factory reset and it should behave more like you’re expecting

      Brian

  3. Hello, I recently noticed a problem with my sprinkler system. After noticing that the plants in the front flower bed weren’t getting any water, I manually went through each zone and determined that when I tried to activate the zone covering the front flower bed it showed to be on, on the controller but there wasn’t any water coming from the sprinklers in the front flower bed. All other zones work fine….

    • Hi Keith – Look at the sections related to “testing the transformer…” If you can determine that the transformer is good, then the controller and backboard must be at fault – just send it in for repair. Details are on the How to get it repaired page. If you have questions about any of the process, let me know.
      Regards,
      Brian

  4. Have a rather odd situation … the controller has worked fine for years. Recently, however, it has stopped triggering valves automatically according to the schedule. BUT … I can trigger each zone individually using the controller’s manual on/off function. I’ve double and triple checked the schedule (times/watering days/etc …) but can’t figure this one out. I’m ready to replace the whole thing. Any ideas?

    • Hi David, Thanks for posting. That’s a little odd, but I have heard similar things before. As they fail, they can get a little flakey so it doesn’t really surprise me. It sounds like you’ve done a thorough job of troubleshooting it and I also believe the controller is at fault. If you can reply with the model number (e.t., rd600-R or rd600) it would be helpful.

      I would do the following:
      1) Follow the instructions on the DIY troubleshooting page to reset the controller to the factory defaults.
      2) If that doesn’t work, mail it in. (See “How to get it repaired”)
      3) if that does work, keep a close eye on it; if it gives any more signs of flakeyness – don’t give up just send it to me for repair. The repair is solid and the timers are definitely worth repairing.

      Let me know if that helps,
      Brian

  5. One valve will not come on, unless it is turned on during another valve’s operation. Controller thinks it is on but does not function independently. Because of this can not work with a program.

    • Hi Michael,

      That behavior is often due to a wiring problem (although it could be a controller issue).
      I’d do this: Disconnect all the valve wires (even the ones not in question). The Connect one at a time and test it. If you find one that’s bad, try moving it’s wire to a different station (different screw terminal) and see if it still misbehaves. If it misbehaves on more than one of the controller’s stations, it’s likely a valve or wiring problem.
      Check the common wire carefully in the controller box and also double check it in the ground-valve-box.

      If it still seems like a controller issue, you can send it in and I’ll test and repair it, but I don’t think it’s likely at this point.
      Let me know what you determine.

      Brian

    • Hi Brian,

      Thanks for the comment. I noticed you sent an email on the contact page too. If you’ve already looked through the comments on this page and the transformer is good, there isn’t much else to do but to send it for repair. I’m happy to help. I already replied to your contact form; if you have any other questions, just let me know.

      Thanks for posting,
      Brian

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