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Old 05-07-2010, 12:11 AM   #1
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


I just installed a new rainbird sprinkler controller to an existing sprinkler system. Of the five zones I have hooked up, only the first two turn on. Please review my thoughts and tell me if I'm on the right track.

1) Check the water supply at the 'non-functioning' valves.
2) Check to make sure the controller is sending power to the solenoids.
3) Make sure power is reaching the solenoid via the wires.

If all of these check out okay, does that mean the three solenoids are bad?

FYI- the two working valves are in the front yard, and the 3 non-working valves, are in the back yard.

Thanks for any help you can give me!!!

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Old 05-07-2010, 08:57 AM   #2
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


Yes you are on the right track.

It is not likely that all three solenoids went bad at the same time.

You should (and need to) be able to measure the voltage right at the solenoids.

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Old 05-07-2010, 10:25 AM   #3
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


Thanks for the input. I guess that means its time for me to buy a multimeter and learn how to use it.

I have water to the valves. And I know the controller is sending power out to the solenoids. I just need to find where the problem is.
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Old 05-07-2010, 10:38 AM   #4
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


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Originally Posted by mopowers View Post
I guess that means its time for me to buy a multimeter and learn how to use it.
See if you can find one with a clamp-on ammeter built in and an ohms scale. Voltage is half the story, current is what makes things happen.
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Old 05-07-2010, 01:47 PM   #5
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


Some brands of valves let you remove the solenoid and press on the parts inside and verify that the water is running unobstructed (some might come out the hole where the solenoid was mounted).
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Old 05-07-2010, 04:37 PM   #6
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


Just to ask for troubleshooting, how long has it been since you last operated the whole system or was it already there when you moved in if that was recently. Trying to see what has changed since everything last worked fine.

Other than that, can you change the solenoids fairly easily and swap one in the front with one in the back.

FWIW- I did have several on one zone (out of 23 zones on a commercial system) go out last year. This was during the spring check and they had been closed for the winter. After replacing them everything worked fine. These continued to run even when the solenoid was manually closed. I can't remember just off the top of my head what had been wrong, but just making the point that several on one zone can go out at one time.

Also, it could be possible that at some time lightning could have struck in the back yard or close by and a ground surge could have gottem them. For those who don't know it, lightning can come up through the ground as well as through an energized circuit but that's for another thread.
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Last edited by downunder; 05-07-2010 at 04:39 PM. Reason: omission
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Old 05-07-2010, 07:50 PM   #7
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


Quote:
Originally Posted by downunder View Post
Just to ask for troubleshooting, how long has it been since you last operated the whole system or was it already there when you moved in if that was recently. Trying to see what has changed since everything last worked fine.

Other than that, can you change the solenoids fairly easily and swap one in the front with one in the back.

FWIW- I did have several on one zone (out of 23 zones on a commercial system) go out last year. This was during the spring check and they had been closed for the winter. After replacing them everything worked fine. These continued to run even when the solenoid was manually closed. I can't remember just off the top of my head what had been wrong, but just making the point that several on one zone can go out at one time.

Also, it could be possible that at some time lightning could have struck in the back yard or close by and a ground surge could have gottem them. For those who don't know it, lightning can come up through the ground as well as through an energized circuit but that's for another thread.

It's a little confusing but here is the story...

Two months ago, I took down the timer in the garage in order to mud and paint the garage walls. I haven't needed to water because mother nature has been taking care of it for me. All of the sprinklers worked fine then...

About a month ago, my dog chewed on the wires of the 3 solenoids in the back yard. I had to replace one because the wires were completely chewed off. There was enough wire left on the other two to rewire. However, I couldn't test them after the repari since the timer was not hooked up...

This week, I finished painting the garage and re-installed the same Rainbird timer, but it was not working. I was able to get it replaced because it was under warranty. So two days ago I finally got the new timer back on the wall and connected. But I can only get the two valves in the front yard to open.

I do know the timer is sending voltage out of the other stations because I have moved one of the wires from the working stations to each station on the timer and they all work.

The 3 non-working valves in the backyard all have water to them because I can manually open them and they work fine.

So tht basically leaves me w/ two scenarios right???

1) Either all three solenoids are bad, or incorrectly wired.
2) Or there is a break in the wires between the timer and where they attach at the valves (possibly the common wire sense all three arent working.

Can you test a solenoid w/ a multimeter???? If so, how??

THANKS!!!!!!!!
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Old 05-07-2010, 08:40 PM   #8
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


Quote:
2) Check to make sure the controller is sending power to the solenoids.
Quote:
I do know the timer is sending voltage out of the other stations because I have moved one of the wires from the working stations to each station on the timer and they all work.
Quote:
And I know the controller is sending power out to the solenoids. I just need to find where the problem is.
So I am reading that you know there is current FROM the controller. Your #2 should read "check to make sure there is power AT the solenoids. I know this is not your situation but I have see tent stakes nailed through a controller wire. Guess how much fun it was finding that. Hint- I finally got someone with a pinger to follow the wire. Oops- I digress!

Yoyizit-
In most cases I would agree but I would respectfully suggest that for this application the focus on current and the clamp-on are a little bit excessive. I find amperage readings more useful for charging, blown circuit breakers, etc. Just my experience.

Mo-
Get a cheap VOM. Sears has a great one for old folks for $15 and it's digital. That means you don't have to line up your bifocals to read the dial and it's red so I can find it. I have one and several others as well. One is as good as the other. The one I have was on sale with a voltage detector included. That's not a bad item to have either.
Check for the output voltage rating on your controller box. Either 12 or 24 vdc.
Go to a soleniod in question and disconnect the wires from the controller. Note which one goes to which. Turn the controller on for that station. Connect the wires to a VOM. Polarity should not be an issue but if you don't get a reading one way, reverse them. Also, the box may have one of the wires labeled as ground. If so, that can be your guide.
Again, check for voltage AT the solenoid. I have to wonder why you couldn't have checked the solenoids with a short jumper off of the controller box at the bench.

Yoyizit, help me here>
If you have voltage on the wires from the controller:
Let's say you have red from the controller going to red on the solenoid and black from the controller going to black on the solenoid. Connect the red wires together. Connect red VOM lead to the solenoid black. Connect the black VOM lead to the black wire going back to the controller. Check for voltage.

It might help to check a working station first to see where you should get what reading and check against that on the suspect ones. I have worked on several, each is a little different. I always get them going but I am at them hands-on. You should have a schematics in the controller somewhere that would help.

Hang in there with us. I'm sure we'll get you going.
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Old 05-07-2010, 09:39 PM   #9
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


Quote:
Originally Posted by downunder View Post
Yoyizit, help me here>
. . .Check for voltage.
Yes, I presume on the AC scale.
If you have at least the minimum rated solenoid voltage, check that the solenoid reads less than infinity ohms.
If both are true current should flow.
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Old 05-08-2010, 08:56 AM   #10
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


mopowers,
Should have asked earlier, can you give us the model number on this unit?
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Old 05-08-2010, 10:23 AM   #11
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


The controller is ESP-6TM. They no longer make it. I know it's working properly because each station terminal has voltage when it's supposed to. I bought a multimeter last night. I just need to figure out how to use it.

Thanks for all the help guys. I really appreciate tit!!
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Old 05-09-2010, 09:25 AM   #12
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


Important when using a multimeter. For ohms or continuity measurements, turn the power off in the circuit first.

Also for ohms or continuity measurements, the item (such as the solenoid) being measured must have at least one of its leads or terminals (one where you are touching the meter probe) disconnected from the rest of the circuit.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 05-09-2010 at 09:28 AM.
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Old 05-09-2010, 03:20 PM   #13
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


Quote:
Important when using a multimeter. For ohms or continuity measurements, turn the power off in the circuit first.
An excellent point! Shame on me for missing that. I guess you just get used to doing it and forget to mention those "little" things to folks.
NEVER connect an ohmmeter to a circuit with power.

mopowers,
I still tend toward thinking those solenoids are bad. For now we will assume that the controller is good to the point of where the current leaves it.

Took a quick look at Rainbird site; your controller has 24vac, 7va at each solenoid.
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Last edited by downunder; 05-09-2010 at 03:37 PM.
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Old 05-09-2010, 03:42 PM   #14
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


Go to this:

http://www.grounds-mag.com/mag/groun...gation_valves/
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Old 05-09-2010, 04:41 PM   #15
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Sprinkler Troubleshooting???


I think I've got it figured out. I Disconnnected all of the solenoid wires from the timer and went to the valves and connected all of the wires together. Then I tested the continuity one by one at the timer. It turns out the common wire was the only one w/out continuity. Since there was one unused wire in the cable, I was just going to use that as the new common. Then I discovered the break in the common. It broke right where the cable sheath was stripped. So stripped some of it and found continuity.

Once I connected all of the solenoids back up, only one of the three were working (the one replaced after the dog chewed on them). So now I'm going to run over to Lowe's and pick up a couple solenoids. Are these things that touchy??? They two non-working ones are only a year old and the dog just chewed the wires a bit, not the body of the solenoids. Do you think tugging on the wires would make them go bad???

Thanks again for all of the help. It makes me feel good that the have power out to the vavles. It should be pretty easy at this point to get them going again!!

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