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

  1. 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 the days, run times for each valve and up to three times you want that schedule to start running on a given day. We will define a cycle as what the valves do when a schedule starts; e.g., run station 1 for 10minutes (the run time), then station 2 for 15 minutes, then 3, etc.  The cycle always turns on the valves in order starting with #1.
  2. Note to turn off a start time, you select the time to ‘Off’ by clicking the + button until the time reaches 12:00 and press one more time.   That will remove the start time.
  3. 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.
  4. MOST IMPORTANT THING TO UNDERSTAND: The 2nd start time should never start before the first cycle finishes.  The length of a cycle is the sum of all the programmed run times.   E.g.,
    1. If your start time is 7:30AM and 6 valves are programmed to each run 1-hour, then the 2nd start time must be set later than 1:31PM so the cycles do not overlap.  It’s common for People to run one cycle in the morning and one in the evening.
    2. Here’s the calculation:
      1. 7:30AM start time +
      2. (1 hour for each valve) x (6 valves) = 6 hours of run time
      3. Finish time is = 1:30PM.
        The 2nd start time must be set after the first one finishes, which would be at 1:31PM or later.
    3. The RULE: the ‘next’ start time must be set after the previous start time plus the total of the run times of all the valves.
    4. If you break this rule, the timer may repeat the cycle again, after the first cycle finishes.
  5. Avoid allowing times to cross midnight (into the next day).
  6. 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. )
  7. RECOMMENDATION: Fill out the template shown below before you start – it makes things very easy.
  8. 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:
    • The timer is specifically designed to avoid having more than one valve on at a time.  This prevents the transformer from being overloaded so even if you do manage to program it for multiple valves to be on simultaneously, you shouldn’t do that. (Some people do run multiple valves at a time, but it’s not recommended).
    • It always turns on valves for the programmed duration in the numerical sequence (1, then 2, then 3…)  If 2 doesn’t have any time set for it, then it will be skipped.
    •  The ABC switch does not choose which schedule to run; it’s only used to program the schedules.  Schedule AB&C always run, regardless of the program switch setting. Thus, if you do not want A to run, then you must “un-program it
    • If you don’t want a schedule to run, you must set either all the days in that schedule to off, the run-times to 0 minutes (off) or all start times to off. by putting the switch on A and setting all the start times to off.  (Note that the ‘Off’ setting can be found by clicking the + button one click after 12:00.)
    • When the schedule starts, it goes to the first valve with time-to-run and turns it on and waits.  When that run-time duration 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:  This page gives you a good description of the skip days feature…

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.

Here’s a PDF of just the blank template.

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261 thoughts on “Irritrol RainDial Programming Tutorial

    • Hi William,

      Id’ suggest using the manual-on function. Turn the dial to the valve you want to test, add some minutes, and press the manual-on button. make sure to have the bottom switch in the run position. This should turn on the irritrol RD600 so you can do testing.

      Let me know if that helps,

    • Hi Victoria,

      I’d suggest powering it off and on again. If it’s an RD-xxx-R model, check out my DIY Troubleshooting page for how to reset it to factory defaults.
      There’s also an item in the troubleshooting list that talks about a blank screen and what to try.

      if those don’t lead you to an answer, send me an email using the contact-us form and we’ll get it figured out.

      Thanks for posting,

  1. have a rd600 timer flashing OF3 THEN Time that is wrong and cannot correct from pm to am by pressing + or – WITH DIAL ON SETTINGS ??

  2. prior post about display flashing from FO3 to time of day have a rain dial 600 also will not water at all per settings. have to use semi auto to water. all stations work that way ,

    • I believe you’re timer is set for a rain delay. Take a look at the DIY Troubleshooting page for the item that talks about seeing OFn; It will tell you everything you need to know.

      If it’s helpful, consider giving us a high $5.
      Let me know if that’s helpful.

  3. System won’t perform manual test. Switched to run/man, run timer @20min. When MAN on button pushed, display shows OFF and system doesn’t run??
    This all started when I suspected system was not watering. FU5 code displayed. Code did clear after hard reset. Power removed. Tks,Hubb

    • Hi there,
      The FUS code almost always corresponds to a bad solenoid; Do any of your stations work? If none of them work, you must have some sort of timer, backboard, or transformer issue, along with a bad solenoid.
      If only one is not working, you have a bad solenoid.


  4. i have a cr900 model and it has stopped working. Is there a way to remove it and do the programming indoors. I cannot read the dials in the sunlight.
    Is there someone I can call in the Scottsdale AZ area that can help me

    • Hi,
      I’m not sure about a CR model, but the RD model allows you to disconnect the timer from the back terminal board and take it indoors. That way you can program it from your easy chair.
      You’ll need to have a fresh 9 V battery in it to maintain the programming while it’s disconnected from the back terminal board.
      If you want some consultation over the phone, we can probably set something up and you can make a donation on the site for the service.
      I would suggest emailing me at, we can set something up for an evening or weekend.
      I hope that helps,

  5. I would like Valve 6 to only run one day a week (Monday) and all my other Valves to run Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Is there a way to do that, do all the valves have to run on the same day?

    • Hi Aaron,
      Yes, you can do that. You set up schedule A to be the Monday schedule, and setup all the other valves to be part of schedule B. See my DIY Troubleshooting page for programming tips and information. It’ll help guide you through everything you need to know. There’s also a video link on programming information too.

    • Hi Maree,
      You can set the day of the week by putting the dial on “Today” and the lower switch to the middle for “set”, then use the +/- buttons to adjust the day!
      If you’re looking to set the date like 10/12/20, I’m sorry but that’s not how these timers work for their scheduling.


  6. How do I move a zone from one program to another? Example, I want to move zone 1 from program C to program A, to share it with zone 4 in program C


    • Hi Mark,
      I think I just replied to you on Facebook, sorry about the delay on that I was logged out on accident.
      For this situation, you would set the dial to 1, the upper left switch to C, and the lower switch to the middle.
      Then you would use the – button to reduce the time to zero.
      Then change that upper left switch to A, and use the + button to set how much time you want it to run for!

      Let me know if you’re still confused (these timers can be very confusing).

  7. I have planted winter rye needs to run more than the three on/off timing positions needs to run at lest five times a day. Can this be accomplished?

    • Hi Jim,
      This is possible by using the multiple schedules A B and C, however it depends on your needs for other watering.
      For example you can use A to schedule watering one station at 6, 7, and 8; and then use B to schedule 9, 10, and 11.

      Hope this helps,

  8. How do I change from pm to am when setting the clock? Display shows pm. I use + & – to scroll time but the twelve hours change but not the am and pm. The watering settings are for am. I have an RD-600.

    • Hi Justin,
      The AM and PM look VERY VERY similar, and can be very very hard to tell apart, but there is one good way- If you have your system set to water in the AM, set the timer for one minute before it’s supposed to come on. When the clock ticks over, if the system comes on then your current time is on AM- if it does not come on then you’re on PM, use – to get to AM and try the same process to be sure you’re on AM.
      Once you know for sure you’re on AM, set the clock accordingly!

      Hope this helps,

  9. Used the meter for years. Had a blackout on Saturday and readout was “73”. Removed from plug for started watering and could not stop. Plugged it in again on Sunday afternoon and today,Monday, it went through a normal cycle. However, it is programmed to cycle on Sunday and Tuesday. How do I get the Irritrol to get back on schedule?

    • Hi Howard,
      I would recommend checking out the Programming Tutorial under the DIY Troubleshooting tab! This should explain how to program your unit.


    • Also, if you’re trying to set the day of the week, set the dial to “Today” (just to the left of the “current time”) and use the plus and minus buttons.

  10. I live in Prescott AZ and have mature landscape–trees and bushes all about 14yrs old. Just bought the home and am wondering how frequent and how long I should run the drip system. RD 600-R


    • Hi Jeffrey,
      I can’t really advise you on that- I work on the circuit board side of things, not the landscaping. I would recommend researching the plants you have and how much they should be watered, or maybe talk to a local nursery! I wish I could be more help but I just don’t know…


  11. I have a irritrol 600 and want to set it for every 2nd day watering , it has been coming on every night what am i doing wrong

    • Hi Roland,

      It sounds like maybe the AM and PM are wrong. Go ahead and check to make sure that it is set for the desired time. If that doesn’t help, let us know.

      Brian – RainDial Doctor

  12. I have an RD-600. Yesterday it stuck at one cycle and would not even stop when I turned the control to Off. I had to turn off the house water. Today I reprogrammed and started on semi-manual. It ran fine until one cycle and then it hung up there as before.

    • Hi Larry,

      Sorry for the delay in response – if you are still having problems, it sounds like you probably have a bad valve. I have some information about it here on our website that should help answer your questions.

      Meghan – RainDial Doctor in Training

  13. Hi, We have been using our system for a couple of months. All of a sudden, when they cycle is finished, it begins again. It has not been programmed to do so. How do I fix it?

    • Hi Christina,
      Often that means there is an overlapping schedule. Go ahead and read the programming tutorial we have here and see if that helps. If not, I would recommend a reset/re-program.

      Meghan – RainDial Doctor in Training

      • Hi Christina,
        Some other thoughts – It could be that the start times for each program are too close together, or that you have more start times set than expected.

  14. How do I certain zones? I want to run 4 of my six zones and the box sets all zones for the same number of minutes. How do I allow the first and last areas to run but turn off the middle zones? Currently it runs in three groups and I need to turn the middle group off.

    • Hi Shauna,

      for the given schedule, say schedule A, just set the run time for the middle zones to 0, (off)


  15. Hi! Our system somehow started cycling through the system twice. It comes on around 8:30am and goes through the whole cycle then does it again. It repeats this cycling when it comes on for the evening watering. How do I change this so it cycles through once in the morning and once in the evening? Thanks!

    • Hi Deanna,
      It sounds like you may have too many start times set. Make sure that you don’t have more start times programmed than you expect. Also make sure that the start times don’t overlap. Be sure to check all schedules (A, B, C). If that doesn’t work, go ahead and do a factory reset and reprogram.


  16. I have a quick question could I program start times for different zones and dates. Ex. If I want zones 1- 3 to start on Wed, Thu and Sat. Set second start times to have zones 4-6 everyday

    • You would use schedule A to setup a program for zones 1-3 with start times, days, etc.
      Then use Schedule B to setup the zones 4-6
      Just make sure the start times and the total run time don’t overlap with each other so that schedule A will not be running when schedule B is supposed to start.

      If I’ve been helpful, please give us a High $5.


  17. I have7 zones. Ive scheduled 3 of them to run on auto, but now my bank is full. I have to manually run the other 4 zones. What am i doing wrong? Thanks

    • Hello,
      I would suggest programming the timer so that you don’t have two valves running at the same time to allow for better water pressure. You typically should not have two valves running at the same time, and usually the timer will prevent it.

      • I’m having the hardest time setting my starting schedule for zone 2-4. I’ve tried for 3 days. I’m struggling. Can someone help me please. I’ve zone 1 set already. Help please.

        My email is:

        So frustrated 🙁

        • Hi Kenny,

          We connected by a separate email conversation; you last mentioned that you have it working so it sounds like all is well with your timer.


  18. Hi, my RD98 is not working. I had called them, and they said that it would likely be circuit problem. I when I try to manually run a sprinkler, the screen flashes kept flashing off. Can you fix this problem for me? If so, how much?

    • Hi Norman,
      That sounds like a problem we typically repair. I will send you an email with repair instructions. Thanks!

      Meghan – RainDial Doctor in Training

    • Hi Erin,
      Yes, you can turn off just one station. Just make sure you have 0 minutes programmed for that station on all programs (A, B, and C). To do this, put the switch to “Set Programs”, turn the dial to 4, and use the +/- buttons to make the time say OFF. Then, do the same for each program (slide the ABC switch to A, B, and C to make sure they all say OFF for station 4).

      Meghan – Rain Dial Doctor in Training

      If this information was helpful, please consider making a donation 🙂

  19. Hello,

    My display is completely blank. I changed the battery, and the display still didn’t come on. Could you please advise on what I should troubleshoot next? I am going out to buy a voltmeter, but i would think that if the battery doesn’t bring the display back up, then the issue isn’t the transformer. Is my thinking correct? Thank you, Paige

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