Sprinkler Timer Troubleshooting: 5 Problems and Their Solutions

A sprinkler spraying water out over a lush, green lawn.

A sprinkler timer may not always operate as you programmed it, and it can be frustrating when you can’t figure out why. Try a bit of troubleshooting to determine what the problem is before resorting to replacing the timer altogether.

1. Watering Occurring at Odd Times

If your electricity goes out or your timer gets unplugged or disconnected, the clock or day settings may get skewed. So if you discover that your sprinklers are not running when you anticipate, examine the display to see if the clock and day are actually correct. If not, run through the zone settings to correct the times that the sprinklers should run. Try temporarily setting the times and days for a time very soon so you can conduct a quick test to be sure the timer is now working. After a successful test, you can reset the timer to your preferred schedule.

2. Zones Not Being Watered

If you discover that zones are not being watered when you expect them to be watered (or at all), double-check to make sure that your zone settings are actually correct. Look at the display and run through each individual zone setting.

Occasionally, you may discover that zone settings have been changed due to a temporary disconnection in electricity or because it has been set incorrectly. This is easy to correct by going through and re-adjusting them to the desired times and days. Again, you might set it temporarily to conduct a short test before setting it correctly. If you still can’t set the zone settings correctly, consult your instruction manual to see if your unit has a self-diagnostic function. This may not provide a solution, but the test should at least tell you which zone is causing the problem.

3. Sprinklers Not Running at All

Check for more simple solutions first, as always. For example, you may occasionally forget that you have turned your sprinklers off due to rain or changed your settings to manual in order to allow an extra watering cycle. Children may also flip dials and switches without your knowledge, so check even if you know you haven’t changed the settings yourself recently.

It is also possible that your timer might have blown a fuse if it is on and set correctly and your sprinklers still don’t seem to work. Open the timer box and check the fuses for any damage. If they’re indeed blown, simply replace them and the problem should be fixed.

The system’s antenna could be the problem as well. This usually takes a 9-volt battery, so if you’ve tried all else and nothing seems to work, pop in a new battery and see if that helps.

4. Sprinklers Come On, But Then Turn Off Right Away

This is usually a case of the run time being set for a very short duration. This problem can be easily solved by reviewing the duration settings for each zone. Double-check the duration by temporarily setting the run time for a short duration that you can evaluate immediately.

5. Sprinklers Come On, But Do Not Turn Off

In this case, the duration time has likely been set incorrectly for an unusually long period of time, or the timer is stuck on the manual setting. If the dial is correctly placed in the “Run” position, go through the duration settings and correct them as needed.

If neither of these solutions appear to work and the sprinklers keep running, double-check outside to make sure that an external valve is not open. An open valve will require more extensive corrections that do not involve the electronic timer.