Irritrol RainDial Programming Tutorial

Are we still in business?   Absolutely, and we will be as long as this site is up.  

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.
  • Avoid allowing 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:
    • 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.
    • 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.

You can post a new comment by scrolling to the bottom of the page.

132 thoughts on “Irritrol RainDial Programming Tutorial

  1. I have an RD-900 EXT, a 2003 model, the timer works good but my most important station kick on for just a second sprays out a tiny bit of water then shuts off again and then about every 1 minute or so, it does it again and continues this throughout it’s cycle, I have changed the solenoid in that setting but it still isn’t working! Any suggestions?

    Thanks, Tim Rytting

    • Hi Tim,

      That’s the typical symptom of a timer that needs repairing, although it’s more common for the cycling to be every half second instead of every minute or so. I’d be happy to repair it if you’re interested. Everything you need to know is on my website, look at the ‘how to get it repaired


  2. Is there a difference between the RD600 and the RD600-EXT Operating Manual? I have not been able to find the latter manual as the RD600-EXT is the controller I have. The date in the battery box is 07-23-12. I am not sure if that indicates 2007 or 2012. Thank you for any attention you can give this inquiry.

    • Hi Gene,

      There’s no difference in the manual between RD600 and RD600-ext.
      I believe the year is the last two digits, so it should be a 2012 unit – fairly new.
      Make sure you’re looking at the model number on the timer/clock itself near the semi-auto button, and not the part number on the case.

      I hope that helps,

  3. Sort of have the same comment as Jim Randall asked? I cannot change the day to the current day? It is one day off. Tried what you told Jim. (It is noted in the manual that Odd/Even schedule or Monthly Water Budget is used current day of the week is preset and cannot be changed). tried almost everything. Can you help.

    • Hi Darren,

      You can try doing a factory reset to clear things out and start with a clean slate.
      However, if you can give me a little more info about what you’ve programmed, it’d be helpful. I can try to recreate the problem on my timer. Are you using an odd/even schedule? Give me what you’re wanting to schedule and I can help more.


        • Glad to hear it. If you don’t mind, consider making a small donation; this is the only way I get paid for this service. If not, no worries, I’m glad to have helped.
          Happy new year!

  4. Hi Brian,I have a RB600R controller and can’t get it to work,It keeps blinking Sens then the correct time,seems like everything is set correctly,thanks for any help.Mike

    • Hi Mike,
      sorry for the delay – had a hiccup on my notification emails.

      If you don’t have a rainSensor, I’d suggest just sending it in for repair, it’s a problem we repair occasionally. We’re not busy this time of year so we’ll have it back in the mail within a day.

      Thanks for posting,
      Brian – aka the RD600 series rainDialDoctor

  5. Hello, my grass is set to run three time a day everyday of the week and I would like to cancel two times per day so it only runs once. It was set to three since it was new seed and now that has grown in and is now getting too much water.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Jessie,

      Just set the bottom switch to ‘set programs’ and turn the dial to the 2nd start time. adjust the – button till it shows off. Repeat for the 3rd start time.

      If you have multiple schedules (A,B, C) programmed then you may have to do this when the schedule switch is in A, and B and C positions.

      Good luck with your rainDial Timer.
      Brian – aka the irritrol rain dial sprinkler timer repair doctor.

  6. I’m trying to figure out how many gallons an hour are coming out of my drip lines. Any suggestion in how to figure this out. I have the rain dial-r control system.

    • Hi Jeff,

      The RD600 timers just control when the valves are on, not how much water flows through them. usually the drip lines have ’emitters’ at each plant that are marked with a number on them that represents quarts or liters per hour. so 8=2gallons per hour.

      You’ll have to do some investigating…
      Good luck,
      Brian – aka the Irritrol RD600 series rainDialDoctor

  7. Hi. The display is blank. There is power 120v going to controller and 24 v on the board wires coming from transformer..

    • Hi Kevin,

      Try a reset sequence from the DIY page, if that doesn’t work, it means it’s time to send the timer and backboard in for repair….


  8. Hello Brian,
    When programming the current time, my time display only shows “AM”. I press the “+” button and scroll through the entire clock but it never changes to “PM”. I understand the display is very subtle from “AM” to “PM”, but mine does not change to PM. Thoughts?

    • You might try a factory reset (see the DIY page) If not, send it in for repair and be sure to include a note about the AM/PM problem.
      Brian – aka the RD600 RainDial Doctor

  9. My rain dail is to turning on. The display is displaying properly and I have set it as instructed. do I need a new controller?

    • hi Judie,

      I’ll need a little more info in order to help. Fill out the contact-us form on this website and include your phone number (don’t post it here) and we can discuss further.


  10. My RD-600 had a start time of 8:30 AM…….but decided to change that time to 5:00 AM. Well, the cycle did its job at 5AM….but it cycled AGAIN at the old time of 8:30AM………even though the old time was removed and overwritten. Seems that the controller somehow is still ALSO watering the omitted time also. HELP!!!

    • Hi Steven,

      It’s likely that you inadvertently got schedule B programmed instead of changing schedule A. It could be that the programming switch or schedule switch position isn’t being detected properly, both of which I can repair.

      Try doing a factory reset, then re-program schedule A from it’s default setting and let me know if that solves the problem. If not, I’d send it in for repair..


  11. The LED time is flashing instead of solid and time flashing of off by about 16 hours. I have reset the correct time. Should all the pre-programmed functions start up again?

    • flashing usually indicates a timer that’s starting to fail – or it just means you had a power outage. I’d say send it in for repair.
      To answer you question – if your timer goes through a power cycle, it’ll need to be reprogrammed (for gray timers) It’ll have a default program of 7am every day for 10min on every valve.

      For blue timers, your programming will be retained, but the time will still need to be set.

      I hope that helps,
      Brian – aka the rainDial RD600 series doctor

  12. We have a RD600 since the 90’s and have to keep working the wiring to get the water working. Also, when we start it on manual we hear what sounds like wires sparking and yet have checked all wire connections. When we have it working and leave the system on auto it doesn’t water……will try pulling battery to see if it transformer?


    • Hi Barry,

      Is it possible that the sparking is actually the solenoids chattering or buzzing? If so, that’s a common problem I repair. It would be louder at the valve. Let me know and I’ll advise more…


  13. My rd900 system will not turn on when I select the station and hit the “on” manual button. The timer works and counts down but no water comes out. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Austin, Does it happen with every valve, or just one? Do you have an rd900 or rd900-R (look at the number next to the semi-auto button on the timer, not the model number on the case. )

      Let me know,

  14. Why should we never allow times to cross midnight (into the next day)? Not sure what that means. I would like to start a 5-hour watering cycle at ~10pm, watering every 3 days. Can I not do this?

    • Hi Eric,

      I’d say that’s a recommendation, not a rule. Over the years I’ve found people get confused when you start on one day and finish on another when they’re doing something like a Tues. Thurs. so it’s just easier to avoid confusion. It sounds like you’ve got a good understanding of what’s going on, so to answer your question, yes, you should be able to do what you described with no problem.

      Thanks for the question,

  15. I have RD900 system. My problem is that neither semi-automatic or manual will work when I press the button (semi-automatic) or set the number of minutes for one station in manual. The timer, it self, is working and kicks off as programed. What are your suggestions for fixing?

    • Hi Bob, Thanks for asking about the RD900.

      When you say it doesn’t work, what do you mean. E.g., does the timer indicate that the station should be on, but no water is flowing? Or does the timer start working and then just day OFF or flash?

      Also tell me if the model number shown near the semi-auto button is an RD-900-R or just RD-900.


  16. GenGGentGentlemen: I have model RD1200. It has not been operated for about 10 years. Batter still good but will replace anyway. Will I lose previously set schedule when replacing battery. Any maintenance you suggest to the controller?
    I am selling the location where timer is located and would like to operate each station for 5 or so minutes to I can show viewers of property each station actually works. Can I manually start then let each station operate in sequence?
    Can I purchase or locate an operators manual for this model?
    Thank for any effort you may expend in my behalf,

    Gordon Hooper. 530 583 5600; Tahoe City, Calif. 96145

    • Hi Gordon,
      Manuals can be found on this website.

      You will not lose programming if you leave the gray ribbon cable plugged in when you replace the battery. There’s no reason for anyone to remove it anyway.

      You can manually turn on each one individually, or if you have a sequence programmed already, you can press the semi auto button and it will run the sequence. See the manual for more info. I don’t know where to get a paper manual but you could print the one on my site, look in the Black menu bar for the manual tab

      Thanks for posting, brian

  17. Hey there

    So How do I program this controller to run:

    Valves 1 and 2 on Sunday and Wednesday
    Valves 3 and 4 on Monday and Thursday
    Valves 5 and 6 on Wednesday and Friday

    I tried using A,B and C. TUrned A ON for Above schedule. B and C the same. I only got A to run and then nothing on the next day.


    • Hi Bel,
      You schedule A for Valves 1 & 2,schedule B for valves three and four and schedule C for valves five and six.
      Make sure the start times for each of the schedules do not overlap so that the valves never turn on for one scheduled at the same time as the valves used in a different schedule.

      Read the Tips on my programming page, it will help too.
      Brian-a.k.a. the rain dial doctor

      • HI Brian

        Thats what I did and its not working. So I obviously didnt do it correctly. Here’s more detail on what I did.

        1) I set the run times for the specific valves for A, B and C.
        2) I set the days to ON for the specific programs (A B or C)
        3) I set the start time to 4:30 am

        I turned the controller to RUN.

        The first day I had program A run just fine. Nothing has run since then and the only way I can run anything now is on manual. Even if I set a valve to start at 4:30 it wont run.

        I messed up. THANKS for helping me. REALLY appreciate it. This is my pasture system and my bermuda needs water to get itself started for the horses:)


      • HI Brian

        I wrote a response and it disappeared, so here we go again. Sorry if you get two comments:)

        I did what you said above and its not working, so obviously I messed up. Here are more details

        1) . I set up trun times for the appropriate valves for A, B and C

        2) I then went through each day of the week and turned the appropriate program to ON and the other two to OFF for each day

        3) I set start time at 4:30 AM

        The first day I got A to run great. Nothing has run since then. I cant even turn a valve on automatically… only way I can get them to run is by turning them on manually.

        So I did something wrong. Any ideas?

        THANKS MUCH FOR THE HELP. So appreciated. How do I send you a donation:)


        • I think I firgured it out Brian. I didnt set a start time for B and C. That would do it now wouldnt it.

          Will come back to you if that didnt fix it…

          THANKS and I’ll donate a bit for your help!


  18. 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.

  19. 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”

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *