Basic Irrigation Wire Troubleshooting

Basics of Wire TroubleshootingBasics of Wire Troubleshooting for Golf Course Irrigators

In this article, I am going to discuss the basics of wire troubleshooting along with the essential tools necessary to address common problems encountered in the field. 

As an irrigator, you just came back from taking a couple of days off and the Golf Course Superintendent asks you why the 16th Tee looks really dry and the grass is dying. You may have checked the clock a couple of weeks back during your routine maintenance checks and knew that everything was working fine; yet, now there is obviously a problem.


Having a systematic approach to address electrical problems will save you a lot of time and frustration. 

Step 1: Verify that the station is working hydraulically 

Before attempting to troubleshoot an electrical problem, verify that the station is working  hydraulically and that there is water at the valve (or valve in head). Simply turn on the station at the clock and see if water is coming on or not. If no water is coming on, check to see if  a mainline or isolation valve was turned off. Go out to the valve (or VIH) and turn it on manually to ensure that the water is coming on manually.  Obviously if the water was turned off, your problem is solved.

Step 2: Check the power output to the station

    1. Make sure that you have the dial on the Voltmeter set to 200v (Or appropriate number which is higher than 24v as station output is 24v).
    2. Turn on the station 
    3. Take your ‘black’ lead of the Voltmeter and touch the common wire in the clock (This is usually the terminal with the Green wire attached to it) 
    4. Take your ‘red’ lead’ of the Voltmeter and touch the red wire (or screw on the terminal strip) 
    5. If you are reading 24v on the digital display of the Voltmeter, then you know that the Satellite is putting out the correct power to the station. If you are not reading 24v, then there may be a problem with the Power output from the Satellite. If you are not reading 24v go to  item ‘F’.
    6. Take the station wire off of the terminal, and attach it to another station terminal which is working. When you energize the new station and the valve (or VIH) turns on, then you know that the problem is within the satellite’s station power output. 
    7. If this does not solve the problem, then go to Step 3 and check the continuity. 

Caution! If this is a temporary solution (moving the wire to a different terminal) to get the station working, ensure that you document it within the satellite, and adjust the central computer appropriately. The central computer is only as good as the data you put into it, so ensure that you make the change within the computer and note it down for the proper personnel. 

Step 3: Checking Continuity

If you went through Step 2, and the station is still not coming one, then you will want to check the continuity of the circuit.

    1. Take your voltmeter and set the dial to 200omhs of resistance. Resistance will measure both the continuity of the circuit and the resistance of the solenoid on the circuit. Normal irrigation valves will read approximately 32 ohms of resistance.
    2. If your voltmeter at the satellite reads either zero (0), or is erratic in nature, this could indicate either a bad solenoid, a cut in the wire, or a bare wire which is grounding out.
    3. The next step is to turn on the station from the clock and go out to the suspect valve and listen to the solenoid to hear if it is buzzing or not. If you hear a buzz, then you know the solenoid is receiving power from the clock and there could be an issue within the valve assembly.  
    4. If you do not hear a buzzing sound, turn off the power from the satellite before proceeding to the next step. 
    5. Cut off solenoid wires and strip back the wires so that you can test for continuity of the solenoid at the valve. 
    6. Take your voltmeter and set the dial to 200ohms of resistance and measure the resistance of the solenoid when it is off the wire run circuit. Once again, if you are reading approximately 32 ohms of resistance, then the solenoid assembly is good. 
    7. If you either find that you do not have continuity, or you are reading erratic numbers when you are testing for resistance, then you may have a faulty solenoid. Simply replace the solenoid, hook it back up to the circuit, and repeat section ‘A’ on Step 3 back at the solenoid. 

Step 4: Checking the Continuity of the Circuit

If you have completed step 3 and it has solved your problem, then hot damn. If not, the next step involves verifying if you can read the circuit without the solenoid connected.

    1. Back at the valve (VIH), ensure that your solenoid is not wired onto the ‘red’ (power) and ‘green’ (common) station wires which run from the clock. 
    2. Take the ‘red’ and ‘green’ wires and twist them together in a wire connector
    3. Go back to the Satellite, and test for Continuity of the Circuit. You do this by setting your volt meter to the marking on the dial denoted in the photo.
    4. Take the leads of your volt meter and touch both the ‘red’ (power) and the ‘green’ (common) wires. If your volt meter either buzzes, or indicates a 0, then the volt meter is reading the circuit. If you do not hear a buzz, or you see erratic numbers changing on the LED display of your voltmeter, then you know that you have a problem on the wire run circuit, or you have a ground fault. 

If you have determined that there is either a broken wire, or a ground fault, then advanced electrical wire trouble shooting techniques will be required to identify and fix the problem. 

Contact Golf Irrigation Consultants: 415-342-1030