Rain Bird Sprinkler System Won't Turn On? (We Have A Fix!)

Chloe Meltzer
by Chloe Meltzer
Rain Bird makes some of the best sprinkler systems on the market, but they can sometimes fail to start. This is usually due to the valve, and you’ll need to adjust it or replace it. Whether it be a short or a clogged solenoid, let’s take a look at what you can do when your Rain Bird sprinkler system won’t work.

Sprinkler systems make our lives easier in many ways. They water our lawn, do so at the proper time, and allow us to go about our daily lives without concerning ourselves with watering our lawn. The issue comes when you have a sprinkler system, and you find that it won’t turn on. Especially if you have a Rainbird sprinkler system, these are expensive systems, and you need it to work as it should! So what do you do when your Rain Bird sprinkler system doesn’t turn on?

You will need to see if the valve will work manually. On some models, you should turn the solenoid 1/4 turn counterclockwise, while on other models, it means you should screw in the center of the bonnet. If it is functioning, then water should spray out of the top of the valve temporarily. However, you may need to replace the valve altogether.

This guide will walk you through the steps you need to take in the event that your Rain Bird sprinkler system isn’t turning on. After following these steps, you will have a sprinkler that turns on and works as good as new!

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Start With Checking The Basics First

For any problem with your Rain Bird sprinkler system, you should be going through a few steps that we call “checking the basics.”

  • Is the controller plugged in and properly programmed?
  • Is the master shut off valve open?
  • Is flow control “on” valve in an “open” or “flow” position? (Be aware that not all models have this feature.)
  • Are your water pressure and flow rate adequate for your particular valve model?

    (Call Rain Bird toll free at 1-800-RAIN-BIRD for the requirements of your particular Rain Bird valve model.)

  • Is your valve in the “Manual Off” position?
  • If a pump supplies your system, is it working?

What If The Pressure Is Too Low?

The issue may be that your water pressure is too low. However, this would also cause problems in your home as well. Here are a few reasons that the water pressure might below:

  • You have a pressure drain from your washing machine, shower, or a broken pipe
  • Your master shutoff valve is not fully open
  • There is a blockage in the main supply line
  • Too many heads on a line
  • Inadequate pressure at the point of connection

What Else Can Be Wrong?

If there seems to be no problem with your system’s essential functions, the next step is to see if the valve will work manually. This is when you will need to either turn the solenoid 1/4 turn counterclockwise or turn the screw in the center of the bonnet.

At this point, water should spray out of the top of the valve temporarily, depending on the model of your sprinkler system. If the valve works manually, you can move on to the next step. If not, skip to the section “If the valve doesn’t work.”

If Your Valve Works Manually

The easiest way to check if your valve is working manually is by pressing the “Manual Start” button of the controller. Then you can advance to the desired station.

Problem With The Controller

  • Test your controller. Next, you must attach a circuit tester (voltmeter) to the common terminal and the station terminal of the controller.
  • Replace your controller. If you do not get a 24-30 volt reading, you will have your answer: The problem is in the controller.

A Short Or Break In The Wiring

  • Test the controller. Follow the same steps as above, but this time, attach a voltmeter to the standard wire and station the wire to the nearest valve.
  • Replace or repair your wiring. If you do not receive a 24-30 volt reading, you have a different answer: Replace or repair the wiring.

A Burned Out Or Clogged Solenoid

  • Unscrew the solenoid. The solenoid should make a distinct “click” when activated. If the controller and wiring seem to be working correctly, then try unscrewing the solenoid. You can change it with a nearby valve of the same model.
  • Use the manual start. Once again, attempt to use the “Manual Start” on your controller.
  • Replace the solenoid. Check the station to see if the borrowed solenoid activates the valve. If so, replace the solenoid.

If The Valve Doesn’t Work Manually

There are a few reasons why your Rain Bird sprinkler system may not turn on if the manual valve does not work.

Your Valve Is Clogged With Debris

  • Turn on the flush mode. Your system has a “flush mode.” Turn this on and see if you can flush debris from the valve.
  • Clean the valve. If the flush mode does not work, then simply turn off the water, disassemble, inspect and clean the valve. Make sure to clean all the small bleed ports underneath the solenoid and on the diaphragm’s surface.
  • Replace your valve. You should also be sure to confirm that the diaphragm is not torn or damaged. If it is damaged, then replace it.
  • Install a finer filter. If water is filthy, you can install a 100 mesh or finer filter before the valve. This will help prevent future grit build-up.

Your Valve Might Be Installed Backward

Although this might seem like an obvious mistake, installing a valve backward is very common. If this is the case, simply reinstall the valve so that the water flow is in the same direction as the arrows embossed on the valve.

Types Of Zone Valves For Your Sprinkler

There are two main types of zone valves to be aware of; Anti-siphon valves and in-line valves. It is essential to know the difference, and you should try to be mindful of which valves you have on your particular Rain Bird sprinkler system.

Anti-Siphon Valves

Anti-siphon valves have a built-in backflow device. These are built in to prevent any contaminated water from flowing into the household supply. This can also prevent household water from being contaminated by fertilizers or other toxic chemicals. However, be aware that your local jurisdiction codes must approve these types of valves. If approved, there are both automatic and manual versions available.

Anti-siphon valves should be installed at least 6″ above the highest sprinkler head on the line. If this is not done, the backflow device will not work correctly. But they are an inexpensive choice, easy to install and maintain. These valves are best used when there is no considerable elevation change and should also generally be used with a clean water source.

In-Line Valves

The second type of zone valve is an “in-line” valve. These automatic valves are installed below ground and usually in a valve box. This is done for ease of maintenance. If you are looking for backflow prevention, then a separate backflow preventer is required. As compared to anti-siphon valves, these valves are suitable for all types of elevation changes.

In-line valves are a good choice for areas where children frequent, as they are less likely to be tampered with by children or even vandals. These valves are also expected to incur freeze damage due to being under the ground.

Also known for being used as a master valve, in-line valves do well in situations where the water is pumped from a lake, well, or another water source that is considered dirty. If you are using an in-line valve with “dirty” water, a filter with at least a 100-mesh screen should be used.

Related Questions

What should I do if I have done all the above and my Rain Bird sprinkler system is still not working?

Call Rain Bird technical support at 1-800-RAINBIRD (800-724-6247). Since the valve is the most common issue with these types of sprinkler systems, a replacement should suffice. However, there may be times when something else is wrong. It would be a good idea to get support from the company itself rather than risk breaking your sprinkler.

Where can I purchase Rain Bird parts?

Most home improvement stores carry Rain Bird sprinkler system parts, such as Home Depot. You can also check other online retailers such as Amazon as they sometimes have the Rain Bird sprinkler parts in stock.

Why does my Rain Bird Sprinkler System keep running?

If your program keeps repeating, you may likely have accidentally set a second start time. You will need to go in and cancel the additional times you don’t want your sprinklers to run.

Do You Need to Hire a Sprinkler System Contractor?

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In Summary

More often than not, when your Rain Bird Sprinkler System refuses to start, it’s to a faulty valve. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the valve needs to be replaced. You can take the system apart to clean the valve and check the wiring and the solenoid.
On the other hand, there may be an issue with an inner mechanism that only a specialist can fix or replace. Regardless of the route you take, you will soon have a sprinkler that’s in optimal working condition. Although, if you need to hire a professional, check the prices. If the fix is going to cost as much as the system, then you might as well buy a brand new system.
Chloe Meltzer
Chloe Meltzer

Real estate agent and copywriter, originally from California. Chloe brings her real estate expertise into her writing to create effective and helpful home guides for you! When not writing or selling homes, she spends her time as a digital nomad traveling the world.

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