Sprinklers Do Not Come On When They Should

This is the primary troubleshooting page for the Irritrol RainDial RD-600, RD 900, RD1200 Irrigation timer when valves don’t come on.

If the water is not coming on when it should, the problem typically resides these areas:

  • Faulty timer
  • Water availability
  • Power Input Problems
  • Valve/Solenoid Problems

To determine what is causing the problem, follow these steps:

First thing: Remove the battery and see if the timer still displays something.  (You’ll likely lose your programming so write it down first).  Seeing something on the display tells us that the AC, power, breakers, fuses and transformer are working. If you do not see anything on the display, performed checks C, D, F, and G first; they are indicated by(display is blank with no battery) in the title.

A. Do some basic checks by using the timer to manually turn on a valve:

This is a key step in determining if the timer needs to be repaired: Follow the steps to manually turn on a station using this link to manually turn on a stationSee here to understand if the timer is indicating the valve is on.

If the timer does not indicate it turned on a valve or flashes off, send it in for repair.

If the Irritrol controller does indicate it turned on the valve, but the valve does not turn on, there are several possible reasons.  Try turning on a different valve.   If the problem only happens with one valve and not the others, try swapping the terminal wires between the non-working valve and the working valve.

  • If the suspected ‘bad’ valve works when moved to a different screw terminal, it’s a timer/backboard problem that we can repair.
  • If the suspected bad valve is still bad when on a different terminal location, then you have a bad valve or solenoid (Look at section E below for help).

If you have a -R model, it’s often a timer/backboard problem that can be repaired.  Check some of the following first, then send it in for repair.

If the timer works with the manual function but not with a schedule, perform a factory reset and check the programming.

B. Check: Did someone turn the water off :-)

C. Check: Electrical Input Issues:(display is blank with no battery)

D. Check: The Transformer: (display is blank with no battery)

E. Check wires and solenoid:

F. Perform a factory reset:(display is blank with no battery)

  • In some cases performing a factory reset can help. See the DIY page for more information.

G. Send it in for repair:

  • Otherwise, the controller/system has simply failed and should be sent in for repair.

H. If this site was helpful, please, please leave us a donation, it’s the appropriate thing to do, and we need it to keep the site going.

Please feel free to contact us using the contact form; or email us at RainDialDoctor@gmail.com; we can provide additional help and answer questions that you have; we’re happy to help.

All material copyright Brian Keller, aka the RainDial Doctor

81 thoughts on “Sprinklers Do Not Come On When They Should

  1. I have a RD900 EXT-R. I have 27 volts from transformer, It doesn’t turn any valves on when scheduled. It won’t turn valve on manually. If I run a jumper from transformer to valve screw, valve operates. So I’m guessing it is a board problem, but which board. If I send it in, can you give me an estimate how much it will cost.

  2. Hi,
    We had a GFCI go bad so by the time we got it fixed the battery went dead. After adding a new battery we tried a manual watering and everything worked, but when we set it on schedule it didn’t come on. ,

    We want the “Odd/Even” Date Schedule. Going through the steps at step 4 on page 22 of the manual, We “Press the Manual (on) button repeatedly ( seven times from the initial Skip Day screen) to display dashes (—).” but nothing happens. So we can’t continue to set up the program.

    • Hi Jacque,

      I can help. Question: if you remove the battery, do you still see anything on the display?
      Regarding odd/even; when you see the dashes, try pressing the +- button to change it.
      Please let me know if that helps.


  3. I have the RD-900-R and when the timer turns on or if I attempt to turn the stations on in manual mode every station will make a clicking sound and not turn the sprinklers on. If I manually open the valve then they work fine. I have done a factory reset and that did not fix the issue. I’m not sure if the solenoids need replacing or if there is some miscommunication between the board and the valves. Please let me know.

    • Hi Andrew,
      Sounds very much like a problem with the timer that I repair. I’ll send you a separate email with all the repair details, or you can look at the repair information page in the menu above.

      Thanks for posting,

      • I have the RD-900-R and when the timer turns on or if I attempt to turn the stations on in manual mode every station will make a clicking sound and not turn the sprinklers on. If I manually open the valve then they work fine. I have done a factory reset and that did not fix the issue. I’m not sure if the solenoids need replacing or if there is some miscommunication between the board and the valves. Please let me know.

        Reply ↓

        • Hi Glen,
          That sounds like the type of problem we typically repair. I’ll send you an email with the details. Thank you!

  4. My RD-600 works fine in manual mode but in automatic mode, the right circuits come on at the right times in the right sequence, but the first circuit shuts off after one or two seconds. The following circuits don’t come on at all. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Richard,
      If the timer is able to run the valves manually, then the most likely reason that the timer would run as you said would be due to programming related errors- Commonly people schedule overlapping start times, this could definitely be the issue.

      Assuming this happens with all of the valves programmed, I would recommend resetting the timer and just programming on A one start time with 2 valves scheduled time. Then set the time of the timer to right before the start time you set, and see if it works properly.
      If it works properly, you had some sort of programming error- Try reintroducing each of the parts of your programming bit by bit until you figure out what was causing the issue!

      Hope this helps,

    • Here is a way to figure out what is happening:

      Wait till the RD600 Irritrol irrigation timer is turned on at 3am. Put the dial on the station that is on. The display will tell you A:, B:, or C: followed by the time remaining. This will tell you which schedule is causing it to turn on. Review that schedule and hopefully you’ll see what is wrong. If no success, follow the directions on the DIY page for resetting the timer.

      Please post back to let me know what you found.

    • I am experiencing a strange 3am turn on for a few seconds. I programmed for 7am. I have changed it to a 5pm program but the system is still turning on at 3am for a few seconds. Very annoying because it’s loud enough to wake people.

      • Hi Chris,

        That almost has to be an unexpected program setting. I’d suggest doing a factory reset and re-program it; that should take care of the problem. You can also go out at 3am,, or reset the current time so that it thinks now is 3am and monitor the timer display when it goes off. Put the dial on the station number that runs and look at thet display. It should show you A,B, or C and the number of remaining minutes. That way you can see which program is running and then change it.

        Let me know what you find out,

        • Hi Brian,
          I found it interesting that someone else had a confusing 3am turn on like me so I wrote in this post. I did do a factory reset and a re-program. I hasn’t worked. Apparently it’s still starting for about 5 or so seconds at 3am and then loudly shutting off.
          My device is the TBOS-BT. It doesn’t have a dial. I’m unable to reset the time as far as I can tell.
          Thank you so much for your help,

          • Hi Chris,
            That is interesting. I don’t have that model to do any testing with. I’d suggest (at a reasonable time of day) changing the time to just before 3AM and watch what it does. If it still misbehaves, then maybe watching the display may identify a schedule that is running or something else that will help explain the behavior.

            If it doesn’t happen, is there anything else that might cause a water pressure change at that time of night?

            Let me know what you discover; I’ll let other blog readers chime in with suggestions if they have them.


  5. Hey Brian I have spoken with you before. I have a replacement RD600 Irritrol and lately it has not been going on per the set schedule. I have reprogrammed it again and am waiting to see. You can turn any zone on manually and off using the slide switch. I can start a complete watering by pushing the semiautomatic button for A. I did notice the current day was wrong and reset it to correct day.Am waiting to see if it moves to Friday tomorrow otherwise I will need to replace this one I would suspect. Are the RD600-R the same without any modification to the existing setup? Otherwise do you have RD600 for sale or just repair. Thanks

    • Hi Charles,
      I apologize for just now seeing this. How did the experiment turn out? If it didn’t work, we should be able to get it working without to much trouble. Let me know,


      • I’m having problems with my rainfall from going through each station. I tried manually and still no watering happening. My display states that each station should be running but again such luck. Is there something else I might be missing?

        • Hi Nolan,
          Go ahead and read what we have here on our website, it should help you determine what’s wrong.

          Meghan – RainDial Doctor in Training

  6. My sprinkler control box was not working with anything — manual, semi auto and programmed times. I put in a new battery. Still not working. I cancelled all the programming I had done for A and changed all the times to C.
    Then the water would come on at the different stations for the length of programmed time — but it would pulse on and off for the length of time programmed for that station (If it was programmed to water for 4 min, it would pulse on and off for 4 min) and then it would move to the next station and do the same thing — and moving on to do the same pulsing at all stations for the programmed time.
    Now the next programmed day on — at its programmed time, it came on and did all stations accurately
    It also did manual
    A handyman came and tested the battery I had put in 5 days previously and it had gone to its half life.
    What do you think?

    • Hi Marsha,
      That sounds like a problem we typically repair. Go ahead and send it in. I will send you an email with repair details.

      Meghan – The RainDial Doctor in Training

  7. Question regarding Rain Dial RD 900R

    1. It stopped working
    2. I’ve replaced the depleted 9v battery with a fresh one. Now the irrigation computer can be programmed and works fine.
    3. The unit’s 110/24v transformer has been plugged in, and I measure 24v+ on the Power Transformer Connection Terminals (24 VAC). All measure ok.
    4. All wire connections, as well as fuse are in a good shape. The incoming water supply is on. Yet….
    5. NEVERTHELESS- the system doesn’t open the water valve on the programmed timing NOR does it even start when I press Manual start.

    My questions are:
    1. How to check / operate it (in manual mode?)- critical!!!!

    2. Regarding the battery operation:
    * Does to RD900 works continuously – fed by the 24v transformer?
    * So why the battery? just as a power source for when the 110/24v is off?
    * Can it theoretically work without the 24V power, but only with the battery connected?
    * How often do I have to replace battery? ( I’ve replaced the depleted on today, after 6 months of use).

    • Hi Aharon,
      Thanks for the inquiry, that sounds like a problem we typically repair. I will send you an email with repair details – you will need to send both the controller and back connector board.

      Meghan – RainDial Doctor in Training

  8. I just purchased a RD-600 R to replace an older one that was acting up. However, I had been able to run all the stations, including the morning of swapping out the controller. After they installed the new timer, nothing works and the wiring all looks correct. They say the lines to the valves are bad. But it seems too coincidental that after the new installation the two wiring lines are suddenly bad. They used a long wire they had to temporarily connect the timer to two valves to see if that worked – and it did. So they believe the two wiring lines are bad. Sound right or is there something we are missing with the wiring on the controller. I have a hard time believing the wiring failed on two separate lines at the same time immediately after installing the new controller. Ideas? Thx!

    • Hi Bill,
      When you purchased the timer, did you purchase just the timer or also a timer and back connector board? Or, was it an entire new assembly with a new controller, backboard, transformer, and case? If you are still using the old back board, send it in for repair and we will fix it so you won’t have any more troubles. I wish we had talked sooner, it would have saved you a lot of trouble.

  9. Hello, my Raindial RD-600-R recently became unattached to the fence it was screwed into. I checked to make sure the valves worked before reattaching, and they turned on. I reattached it to the fence and when I tried the manual watering, the valves didn’t turn the water on. The Raindial has power and when switching to manual and turning on, an “M” pops up in the upper left and the timer goes down. I’m guessing something happened with the wiring when reattaching but I’m not completely sure. Thanks for the Reply

    • Try disconnecting the wire from the #1 screw terminal. Then try using the timer’s manual function to turn on valve #1. It should show you a large M:## where ## is the remaining minutes to run.

      If that works, but you can’t get it to work with the wire connected, then you likely have a shorted out wire somewhere…
      you can repeat these steps for the other screw terminals to see if they work.

      Also, let me know if the display still shows something, even when you remove the 9V battery. This will tell us if it’s getting power from the transformer.

      Let me know what you find out,

      • Hi Brian,

        Thank you for helping me

        I unscrewed the wire for valve #1 and the manual function still showed M and the timer. I did this for valve #2 and it showed the same thing. Looks like the wire must be shorted.

        There was still power when I removed the battery.


        • Well, the good news is that your transformer is still good, so that’s a relieve. Yes, I think you’re right, the wires seem to be shorted out somewhere. I’d have expected just one wire, but if you’re seeing more than one wire, that’s a bummer, but maybe having multiple shorts will make the problem easier to see.

          If you don’t mind, let me know what you figure out, I always like to know how the mystery is solved. I usually don’t hear back from people (assuming their problems are solved and don’t have any reason to reply…)

          • Hi Brian,

            Good News! I didn’t have to replace any of the wires.

            I was playing around with the wires and when I moved them into a certain position, they would trigger the valves to open. I guess when the Raindial fell off the fence it tugged on some of the wires. There wasn’t much slack on the wires originally.

            I put the wires in #5 and #6 in order to give them some slack.

            Thank You for helping me with the problem


    • Here ya go:

      If you have a schedule using days of the week, then today is used to tell the timer what the current day is. If it’s sunday today, you’d make today = Sun. This simply tells the timer what day of the week it is.

      If you have a schedule using skip days, then you use ‘today’ to say what the current count is for the skip-days schedule. E.g., if you have skip days set to 4, it will count 1,2,3,4 and water when it’s the 4th day. If you set ‘today’ to 3, then it will water tomorrow. If you set it to 1, then tomorrow ‘today’ will increment to a 2 and continue to increment each day until it’s 4 (and water that day.). After it reaches 4, it will go back to 1 again. 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4…. watering every time it’s a 4.

      Does that help?
      If so, consider making a small donation, it’s all that keeps this site going.

  10. So, let’s talk about packrats. Grrrr. They stripped the insulation from the wire bundle near the valves themselves. We taped that all back together, only to find the system won’t turn on via the timer now. We are only using 2 valves, so thought perhaps we could minimize splicing by only splicing the wires for the 2 valves in use. But then I thought… why? Maybe we can buy a replacement wire bundle instead -probably much faster! Having no luck finding such a replacement part. Do they exist?
    Otherwise, will it matter if we totally ignore the chewed wires NOT in use?
    (and yes…. we will be running the wires/bundle through a PVC sleeve once resolved).
    Thanks much for your input!

    • Hi Laurel,

      Rats! I’m not sure what you mean by wire bundle, I’m assuming you mean the wires going between the timer and the valves. You can usually get wire at home depot or similar stores. Check there first.

      You’ll need to splice the two valve wires and the common wire (VC or VCOM), that should do it. I’d disconnect the wires to the ones you’re not using, just in case they’re shorted somewhere.

      Give me more info and I can help more…
      aka the rainDial RD600 doctor

  11. My system works but i have noticed that two sections do not come on automatically. When i go to check them manually they both work. Could it be bad solenoids?

    • Hi Sherry,
      If they work by using the timer’s manual-on feature, the soleoids are likely good. It could be a failing timer. Let me know whether you manually turn them on at the valve, or if you’re using the manual function of the timer itself


  12. So my unit was working fine, but then I noticed that timing got mixed up (sprinklers started coming on during day instead of night). I noticed that the clock was way off and it looked like the unit kept losing power and the time got reset. The a/c plug seemed a bit loose, and I got that resolved, and the power has been consistent. However, now I noticed that the auto program didn’t seem to be running. I went through all of the stations and tested them manually to see if they worked (they did). I then tried changing the start time for the auto program so I could see if everything came on. But, only a couple of stations turned on, the rest didn’t. Is there some reason why they work on manual mode, but not automatic?

    • Hi Dan,

      With the power interruptions, I would suggest you do a full reset – see the DIY page and reprogram. It’ll have a default setting of 7am, every station, every day for 10min. so you’ll need to change that.

      Let me know if that resolves the problem, and also let me know the model number that appears near the semi-auto button.

      brian – aka the rd600 series raindialdoctor

      • Ok. So first, it’s an rd 900. The power problem wasn’t totally fixed. It is currently connected to an a/c plug, and there wasn’t a 9v battery at the time. So I did the factory reset, and changed the start time and run times to our prior settings. I then waited for the start time, and when it was speed supposed to start, the power to the unit went off and the screen was blank. I went to open the unit to see the wires, and the screen came back on. It also indicated that the first station was “running”. However the sprinklers were not on. I then stopped the cycle and changed the start time to a couple minutes ahead of the current time and turned off station one so that it would start at station 2 this time. I also attached a 9v back up battery. I waited, and the power stayed on this time, and it showed that station 2 was on, but again, no sprinklers. Seems to work on manual mode, but auto is doing nothing. Any other thoughts? Thanks in advance.

  13. When the station is supposed to come on for shrubs, it waters the grass. I cannot manually turn on the shrub station.

    • Hi Dave,

      Your RD600 is likely working if you see the display indicate the valve number that is on, on the top row of the display. If the numbers are not right, let me know.

      If they are right, you could have a wiring problem so check everything is securely in place. For the shrubs, you can try measuring voltage at the valve when you turn it on. An $10 volt meter that can measure 24VAC would easily do the job and it’s not hazardous. That would tell you if the timer and wiring are good. If all good, then the valve or solenoid is bad

      post back here with what you’ve found.
      thx, Brian – aka the RainDial Doctor for RD600, rd900 and rd1200

  14. When the sprinklers are on, the digital clock time actually slows down by 12 minutes during the hour the sprinklers are on. Also, each sprinkler station stays on a minutes or two longer than programed. So each time the sprinklers come on, they come on 12 minutes later than before. After a few weeks, the sprinklers do not come on until several hours after the initial Start Time. This makes no sense to me. The sprinkler system has been working perfectly for several years. How does a digital clock slow down?

    • Hi Ken,

      I have seen a problem where the timer runs too fast, but not usually too slow. In the past and find that it often goes away when I replace some components inside the timer. I’d suggest sending it in for repair; if I can’t get it going, we can discuss other replacement options.

      Brian – the RD600 series sprinkler timer repair doctor

  15. I just bought a new Rain dial system. I connected it exactly like the old one. When I programed the cycles and days, hit the start button, nothing happened. I could go to the sensor box and manually run the system. was wondering if it’s the sensor valve.If it is, is this something I can purchase and install myself. Thanks , Kevin

    • Hi Kevin,
      sorry for the late reply, I missed your post somehow. When you say “nothing happened” what do you mean? Did it just change to “off” or did the valves say they were coming on but no water was flowing? Let me know; I promise I’ll get back to you sooner 🙂 You can always email me, it’s faster. Just use the ContacUs menu above and fill out the information. It’ll forward it to me as an email and I’ll reply directly .
      aka – the Irritrol RainDial doctor for TD600 RD900 adn RD1200 timers

  16. Hi. I have an RD- 900

    The rotation will go on as planned and as timed. However when it gets to station number five it shows on the LCD that number five is running but there’s no water coming out. Once that’s done it goes on the six in the system and appears Who operate normally for the rest of the stations. I can manually turn the head on the yard and water it that way. I’m wondering if there’s some lead that’s not triggering station number 5 to release water evnen though it is showing on the system as that station being active

    • Hi David,

      Sorry for the late reply on this one, I missed it somehow. Try swapping wires for 5 and 6 to see if the problem follows the wire (meaning it’s probably a valve or wiring issue.) If it does not follow the wire, then just send the dial/lcd module and back terminal board in and I’ll get it repaired for you.


  17. Hi,

    I can’t figure out why my 5th valve won’t run. I have checked the connections and when everything cycles through it jumps from 4 to 6 but I only have a 5 valve setup there is no 6th valve. It’s like it’s not reading it or something. Any ideas?

    • That’s strange behavior for sure. I suspect it’s programming related, consider doing a full reset and start again. Also try using a different program, say “C”, and just program valve 5 to run. Give that a try and let me know what you find. I’m sure we can figure it out.

      Let me know if that helps,
      Brian – aka the RainDialDoctor

  18. 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,
      Brian – the Irritrol RainDial RD600, RD1200, RD900 Repair Doctor

  19. 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


  20. 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.

  21. 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,

  22. 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.


    • 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,

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