DIY Irrigation Repair
DIY Irrigation Repair
You go out to have your early morning coffee only to notice only half the yard is getting watered by the sprinklers. You go look at the controller and turn it on and off hoping this will make the water come back on. You may even smack it a couple of times and unplug and replug the power transformer. The sprinkler still will not come on so what next? Do you call the irrigation repairman and spends maybe a couple of hundred dollars? I think not, or you would not be here reading this information on DIY irrigation repair. Let’s see if we can get your sprinkler(s) up and running.
Before Beginning your repair
Below I will cover the most common issues that can cause your irrigation to not work properly. Covered will be how to detect a problem and then perhaps fix it yourself saving money.
Before we begin remember to watch what you are doing. Don’t get frustrated and lose perhaps your grease caps for your wiring because you didn’t watch where you laid them. You will be working with electricity which commands respect in any voltage.
Basic DIY Irrigation Repair Troubleshooting
We know one or more zones are not working so let’s start by checking the simple things.
- Check your power supply if the controller is not working. Make sure a breaker providing power has not been tripped.
- Check that the outlet your transformer is plugged into is working. If you plug a radio or other device into it and they power up but the controller is not powering on you may need a new transformer.
- Is the water turned on, silly I know, but check it you never know.
- If your controller is on are all the wires firmly connected?
- Check the valve for the zone that is not working in your access box. Are all the wires connected firmly together?
You have checked two common hardware issues and found it to not be the controller or transformer. If one of the above checks got your irrigation system running then congratulations your done. If none of the above worked let’s start the more advanced troubleshooting.
Advanced DIY Irrigation Repair Troubleshooting
There are usually three electrical reasons causing your problem. A bad irrigation controller, bad wires or connections or a bad solenoid. To check these we can start by testing two connections inside the controller. These next steps require the use of a multimeter like the one shown below. I will be using pictures of settings on this unit below. At just $11.99 and free shipping as of this post it is more than enough for what we need. If you want to spend more for something you may not use again go for it.
Read the instructions so that you know the correct settings for AC and DC. Once complete, the following steps should allow you to determine the cause of most irrigation issues.
With your multimeter at hand open your irrigation controller so that you can see where the valve wires connect to the controller. Looking at the connections you should see one COMMON, usually a white wire, and any number of zones, usually red but can be any color.
Checking the voltage
- Turn your Multimeter to the proper VAC setting.
- Use manual start on the controller to turn on the problem zone. In this example we will use zone 2.
- Touch one lead to the WHITE common wire/screw and one lead to the zone 2 wire/screw. Your multimeter should show a reading around 24V, anything less than 22V is a problem. Repeat the above steps to check a zone that you know is working. If you get a good reading you know the multimeter is set correctly and not the problem.
Checking for a short
- Now turn your irrigation controller OFF
- Next we will check the wires for continuity to see if there is a short in the circuit. Set your multimeter to the Ω Ohms setting.
- Disconnect the problem zone’s wire from the controller.
- Place one of the leads on the WHITE wire/screw and one lead on the problem zone wire. You should get a reading from 20-60 Ohms.
- Readings under 20 can indicate trouble with the solenoid. A reading above 60 means there is a problem with the wiring such as a bad connection.
- Reconnect all wires on the controller back to their original connections to continue your DIY irrigation repair.
Troubleshooting the wiring
- Now turn your irrigation controller ON to manual start.
- Head to your irrigation valve box. Once there disconnect the problem zones valve wires.
- Verify your multimeter is on the proper VAC setting.
- Using the valve wires, Place one of the leads on the WHITE wire and one lead on the power wire. You should get a reading of 24V as you did at the controller.
- If you got a reading of 24V it is not the wire at issue between the valve and controller.
- At this point you have either a problem with your wiring connections at the valve box or a bad solenoid.
Changing a solenoid is usually a very easy DIY job. See the DIY section for more information.
Troubleshooting the solenoid & connections
- Disconnect the wires coming the solenoid at the problem zone’s valve. Label each wire with masking tape and numbers 1 to 1, 2 to 2 etc.
- Set your multimeter to the Ω Ohms setting.
- Touch one lead to one wire from the solenoid, the other lead to the other. You should get a reading between 20 to 60 Ohms. If you didn’t you need a new solenoid.
- If you did not get a reading between 20 to 60 Ohms the only remaining problem to check is a bad connection in your wiring at the valve box.
- Turn your irrigation controller OFF.
- Disconnect all wires to the problem valve and power. Make sure you label each wire with masking tape and numbers 1 to 1, 2 to 2 etc.
- If the wires are dirty, broken or otherwise in bad shape cut the bad end off. Using wire strippers strip off a new section of wire approximately 1/2″.
- Reconnect all the wires using waterproof connectors and turn your controller ON to manual start.If everything has gone the way it should then your DIY Irrigation Repair is complete and you will now be watching your irrigation system working
I hope you found this DIY irrigation repair useful and saved yourself some money in the process. If you did not find the problem there may be a mechanical problem in the valve. While you could just replace a valve see if you can just open it and clean the inside. This is another more advanced DIY repair that you should read up on before attempting.