Sprinklers can be confusing if you’re unsure what you’re dealing with. That’s why at Sprinkler Master Repair, we’re here to help you know all you need when dealing with your sprinkler wiring. Across all of our franchise locations, including Colorado Springs, Fresno, Reno, Boise, Lincoln, and all in Utah — with Logan, Utah County, Salt Lake City, Davis County, West Jordan/Sandy, and Weber County, we offer the best parts, service, and work at an affordable price!
To best help you on the journey of understanding sprinkler wires, we’ll be breaking things down by purpose, parts, pros and cons, common problems, and other factors. We’re doing what we can to ensure that you know what to do with your sprinkler wires. If you do need any additional help of any kind, however, be sure to check out this link to get in touch with your local Sprinkler Master Repair location today!
The purpose of the sprinkler wire is to deliver electricity from the timer to the automatic valves, which allows the valves to open. Every valve has a solenoid with two wires; one common wire, and one zone wire. The common wire is usually white but can be any color as long as it’s hooked to the common slot in the sprinkler timer. It’s important for the common wire to be connected to every zone.
On the contrary, the zone wire is any wire that’s hooked up to the specific zone. These are usually different colors. The two wires are connected to either end of the solenoid wiring but never connected together and run underground to the sprinkler timer. Each zone wire is hooked to a separate zone slot on the sprinkler timer. If two zone wires are connected together at any point, they will both turn on at the same time. However, if a common wire is connected to a zone where the sprinkler timer is, it will fail.
Check out this video to learn more about sprinkler wires.
Names of Parts
Sprinkler wire is generally one wire bundle with many strands of smaller 18-gauge wire inside it.
- Wire Strands: These strands usually come in 3 to 8 wires but can go up to 12 or more. You will always need one extra wire in the bundle than the number of valves. For example, if you have four valves you will need a minimum of five strands of wire, with the fifth wire being the common wire. When running new wire, try to have more than the minimum. If wires break, it makes it easier to fix or add zones with the provided, extra wire.
- Wire Nuts: These are used to connect the solenoid and wire from the timer.
- Sprinkler Nodes: These are small sprinkler timer that fits in a valve box.
- Wire Strippers: These are used to cut and strip the wire coating off.
- Wire Testers: The cheap way is to get three, 9-volt batteries and put them together. You can then use them to open the solenoid or test of the wire is broken. They also make a tool that sends out a signal in a pulse to turn on valves and can help find broken wires too.
- Multimeter Tool: This tests the voltage and resistance to tell if you have power. Volts need to be between 24-28. You can also use this to check for resistance. Usually, there needs to be between 20-60 ohms to know the solenoid and wire are both good.
Pros and Cons
- Wires can be run a very long distance, but the longer they are, the easier they become to be cut by shovels or other objects.
- It’s hard to determine where they are broken since they run underground.
- They can become brittle, burnt, or exposed over time much like other wiring units.
- One pro is that they do allow you to have a sprinkler timer run the sprinkler, making it generally easier to water the lawn.
Common Problems with Sprinkler Wires
One of the most common problems in any sprinkler system is a valve not turning on. Most often that is caused by electrical problems. There can only be 3 sources to an electrical problem — a bad wire, timer, or solenoid. You can start diagnosing either at the timer or the solenoid.
Your best tool for diagnosing is the multimeter. When using the multimeter to test a sprinkler system, the red probe will be for the valve wire, while the black wire is for the common wire. Turn the center knob to the correct setting and the probes will connect.
Sprinkler wiring may be a bit difficult to understand at first, but by calling any of our Sprinkler Master Repair locations through clicking this link, you’ll be able to get everything set up, or fixed, in no time at all! At every Sprinkler Master Repair location, we install the best and repair the rest!
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I want to check the wires running from the timer to the valves. Is this best done with a continuity tester? My Lawn Genie is pretty old and it will only manually start one zone. I do have a never used Lawn Genie should I start by replacing the newer timer ?
I apologize for the extremely late reply. I really do hope you found an answer to your sprinkler wires! We’ve made some changes in the office and are trying to get caught up on comments!
If you haven’t found an answer to your question, the easiest way to check wires is to just use a voltage meter. Direct Current (DC) is what you want to test. Check the current right at the timer, and also at the automatic valve solenoid.
Hope this helps. If you do need more help, leave a comment on this blog page and I will get back to you soon!
Question? Sprinkler working beautiful, had a tree stump removed and he cut my sprinkler pipe, I replaced to 3/4 PVC pipe 2 foot section, turned on sprinkler and zone 6 does not produce water, is the wire cut and how to replace the wire, can I replace a 3 ft sectioned how can I locate the ends of the wire.
Hello!! I’m so sorry about the extremely delayed reply. I hope you got it figured out!! If not, then yes. You can replace just a section of wire. There isn’t a super easy way to locate the ends of the wire, however. Most of the time people tend to just replace the entire wire.
In the future, we’re trying to reply to comments faster (there’s been some changes in office personnel), but if you have any questions at all, check if there’s a Sprinkler Master location near you. You can always give them a call and ask any question over the phone. Otherwise, we hope to reply faster next time!!
Hope you got the wire figured out and your lawn is looking beautiful with that tree stump removed!!!
I have an older house with existing wiring to the solenoid valves. The question is what are the tubes that the wires run into and out of before going to the solenoids. Is it a resistor or what? And is it needed. I am having trouble with my anti siphon valve leaking and have replaced the valve twice with a new one and still it leaks. Thanks for any help you can add.
It’s mostly likely a little sleeve or wire nut. This is used to connect the wire running from the timer to the wires that connect to the solenoid. There is no resistor or capacitor between a solenoid and a timer, just wires and wire connectors. How are you connecting your anti siphon valve? If it’s threaded, make sure you use the proper amount of thread seal tape. Hope this helps! If not, leave another comment and we’ll try to help again!
Having an issue with one zone that runs with every other zone. I replaced the valve so it’s clean and no debris in there. My question is … the zone turns on even though the wires aren’t connected to the valve/solenoid.
It’s almost definitely a wiring issue. An electrical short somewhere. Check the wiring at the timer. Maybe one of the wires has come loose and is touching somewhere. To make sure it’s not an electrical issue, try removing the wires completely from the zone that keeps turning on. Once it’s completely disconnected electrically, try running the other zones. Once it’s disconnected it shouldn’t run at all. This means it’s definitely an electrical issue. Try checking voltage coming out of the timer to the problem zone. When the zone is not active, is there any voltage coming from the timer?
As always, if you’re in an area near one of our branches, we’d love to come check it out and help you. Visit https://sprinklermaster.repair/sprinkler-master-locations/ to check if we’re near you.
In replacing a fence the rain gauge wire was cut. I tried turning on the sprinkler system and it’s not working. Does the broken rain gauge wire break continuity preventing the system getting power? I didn’t replace the wire as it needs to be fully replaced due to being brittle.
Depending on the timer, and the break if a moisture sensor is cut, the lack of signal could tell the timer to not turn on. Basically what could be happening is there could be an electrical error telling your timer that there is a lot of water in the soil.
Try disconnecting the sensor entirely and see if that helps the timer run!
Do I need to turn off the breaker to the sprinkler timer when stripping the wires and adding new wire nuts?
To be safe, yes you probably should.
My sprinkler zone 1 valve won’t respond to the timer for irrigating but turning it on manually there’s no problem?
Check the voltage at the timer and at the valve and try to make sure that the timer is putting out a voltage, and that the voltage is reaching to the solenoid. If there are voltages in both places, you may need to replace the solenoid.
Rainbird system, 3 stations. One would not turn off so did so manually, cleaned the diaphragm and bled all three to remove air. Cleaned up the wires, reconntected (making sure each reconnected properly). Cleared the program in the control box, then reset all three zones. Now all three only turn on manually. Can’t imagine all three solenoids bad, recommendations?
It sounds like it could very well be the timer. If you have a multimeter try testing the outputs on the zone terminals. The timer should put out around 24v. The only thing that’s connected to all 3 zones is your common wire and your sprinkler timer. So I would start checking the timer. Try checking all the connections at the timer as well. Hope this helps!
Works well, thank you so much. You have earned my business when I need it!
Glad we could help!
I have a sprinkler system in that my Garderner connected all the sprinklers both backyard and front yard. Another power wire connects the backyard power wire both has Color wires. He kept white as common on back. And yellow wire for backyard sprinklers. Then he connects the remaining wire to another power wire which connects to front yard. Unfortunately my son keeps breaking it. Now I fixed the backyard sprinklers but I don’t know how to connect the two power wire . Can you please help me with this . Thank you
First of all, we don’t want you to damage your yard, so we recommend calling an expert to help. Wires are something that can be difficult to deal with. You do any repairs at your own risk.
Power and common wires are all just straight from the timer to the valve. So it might not help you a lot, but basically you need to make sure you have the common wire on one connection to the valve, and a zone wire running directly between the timer and the valve solenoid.
We got a new Ac and I think they cut the wires to automatic sprinkler coming out of the garage should the ac company get it fixed?
I guess it would depend on their policies and things, generally speaking companies are responsible for fixing damage they cause.