Old Rain Bird controller swap out, wiring questions

Yikes, I opened up my working Rain Bird rc-1260 Bi controller box (circa 1993) and instead of seeing something orderly and logical, I found the following mess (see pictures below). My thinking here is that I would trace each wire coming from the supply side to the spot that it lands on the wiring plug to the controller and then just reconnect that to the appropriate zone number on the new Rachio.

Has anyone ever attempted something like this? Is the Rachio compatible with something this old?

^me seeing these photos :scream:

Good news is, this is compatible! However, I’m trying to find some resources to help you get the wiring figured out (unless any of our @Power_Users are pros at this?).

Stay tuned :cheers:

@Scott2 - probably the same system I migrated off of. Yes.

The Field wiring diagram is what you’ll cut and migrate to the Rachio. So the wires coming out of the brown cased conduits is what you want. Undo that rat’s nest before the wiring plug and then undo the wiring connections there.

Put tape on each side of the wire being disconnected so that there is a key to where it will go in the Rachio.

How many zones?


Like @DLane mentioned, you will want to remove the field wiring pigtail that all your zones are spliced in to. I can’t get the pictures to enlarge enough on my phone to see if the diagam gives you an indication of zones, but if you can’t salavage it, start from scratch, hook it all up and manually run each zone in Rachio to figure out where they go.

Otherwise, assuming that you don’t have a master pump or other sensors, the only other wires you need to worry about are the common wires.


I have 12 zones, so I ordered the 16 zone Gen 3 version. I believe only 10 zones are in use, but will verify that before I do the swap out.

Thanks tmc, that sounds like a perfect plan. I am going to unbundle the rats nest this weekend, number each wire coming out of the brown cable jackets as to what zone the current system says it is, and then go ahead and plug into the Rachio. There is a spot for a master valve, but from what I can see without unbundling the wires, it doesn’t seem to be hooked up.

Part of what sold me on Rachio is this community!


@Scott2 - base the decision on which zone is what on the pigtail wire from the connector and not the field wire as I’m guessing the field wire will have multiple wires the same color due to multiple wires. The pigtail wire colors should match the label in the fifth picture.

There are several of us here (@Gene) that will pitch in and get you going if there is an issue or a question.

One comment, make a quick run with the current system to make sure all the zones work. That way if a zone doesn’t work now we’ll know to look at the wiring or solenoids instead of the Rachio.

And yes, this community is why I bought Rachio versus another intelligent controller.

Welcome to the community.




As @DLane mentioned, post an update when you get started and we’ll help you with any troubleshooting that needs to happen. I also support his advice to try the system as is before porting over to check a few things that stand out.

  1. There is a green wire coming from the leftmost brown cable that was clearly connected to something, Since Master valve cable is stripped, while the other (unused) cables are not, makes me think that that the lone green wire from the left brown cable should likely end-up being connected to an master valve terminal.

From the looks of it, the leftmost cable in question, goes right through the wall. Maybe you can follow it on the other side and see were it leads.

  1. There is also a lone Red wire from the same leftmost cable. I guess it a common for the master valve. It should likely be connected to the other red cables for your system to work.

At a glance, it also seems that you have a hardwired rain sensor on the rightmost brown cable, that’s the one with Red & white wires in use, with green & blue wires cut. Overall, it seem that the Red color was used for the valve commons. They terminate together via a wire nut and connected to controller commons (white) via a rain sensor.

I would not really worry about marking each of the zones, as the zone numbers don’t really matter within smart software, but definitely keep track of the commons (seem to be red) and master valve (left most brown cable).



@Gene - you spent a lot of time looking at that bowl of spaghetti. However, I think the left most brown line is completely disconnected - I think I see its red and green wires not connected to anything.

Also, I don’t think this controller had a rain sensor port, one would wire the rain sensor in-line with the common. So if as Gene suspects the right most brown wire is out an back to a hardwired rain sensor then you have two choices - a) don’t connect it at all or b) connect those wires to the sensor port and activate the rain sensor option in the Rachio. Don’t place the rain sensor back in-line on the common wire as it makes troubleshooting why the system didn’t run much more fun (not) and it will get Rachio out of sync with the ground as Rachio will think it was watering when the rain sensor actually prevented it under a flex schedule.

@Scott2 - after the quick run (sorry you’ll have to put Humpty Dumpty back together again), I think you’ll find that there will be writing on the pigtail wires that will indicate zone number and other uses. If there are any questions, just post a picture with the wires fairly discrete/independent of each other and I’m fairly confident that Gene, @tmcgahey or I (no disrespect to any other posters) will have it working in very short order.


I think I can some of the mystery here. The previous homeowner had meticulous record keeping on maintenance for the house, and I went back through all of the receipts he had and found the following:

There was a short at some point in time with the master valve, so the local sprinkler repair company “cut it out” which would explain why the wires were not hooked up any longer. I’m assuming I can leave it this way with the Rachio? I also attached a few more photos. The brown cable on the left actually goes through the garage wall and then runs down a conduit on the exterior wall of the house. I’m assuming that led to the master valve. Also, I took a photo of what I believe is the main supply for the system. I would eventually like to connect the water flow meter from Rachio.

Thanks so much for all of your great help! The Rachio arrives tomorrow and I am hoping to tackle it this weekend.


One last question. Now that we know the left brown cable appears to be master valve, do you think that the red wires that are tied together are the “commons” for each zone? I should be able to determine that after I trace each cable.

@Scott2 - 1) yes you can leave the left brown wire completely disconnected when the Rachio is installed.

  1. yes, I think the Rachio Wireless Flow Meter will work there. As a FYI, it needs 6" of clean run-in. So in worst case the piping can be extended vertically.

  2. yes, I believe the three red wires that are wire nutted together are probably the common wires for the zones.

  3. this should be a quick easy weekend project - enjoy.




Great company, at the end of the day its all about people helping people. Scott


OK, I unbundled the rats nest of wires and took pictures. Each wire was in fact labelled with the zone number. Some notes:

  1. All of the red wires in the photos above did turn out to be commons. I used an Ohm Meter to check resistance between the reds and the white wire that was labelled as Common and there was no resistance.
  2. So, I have 3 red commons and the white common and the zone cables.
  3. I carefully labelled each source wire with a piece of tape and the zone number written on it.
  4. I connected all of the wires.
  5. The Master Valve cable was not in use as described above. _

Everything works except for Zone 2! I verified that all other zones work and I know Zone 2 was working prior to the conversion because it is in the front of the house.

Not sure how to troubleshoot a single zone. I did try and connect the wire to a free Zone slot and that did not work. I also connected Zone 1 in Zone 2’s slot and that worked fine. Just for grins, I connected the Master Valve, but that did nothing.

I’m really bummed, this seems like the most difficult thing to try and troubleshoot. Photos below:

This photo shows the 3 red commons and the 1 white common that was labelled common:

This photo shows the wiring unbundled:

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

The red wire is labelled as Zone 2, and it connected to the Tan wire which I ran into the Zone 2 slot. The only other thing I can think of to add is that there is a ground rotor head and some misters next to the front of the house on that Zone.


Can you take a pic of your setup after the conversion? As in how the wires are connected to your new Rachio. This would help us when troubleshooting.


P.S. One of the red commons and the white common (as you describe them) are actually rain sensors. Having them connected to commons like you do, will not have a negative effect, but you are not using your rain sensor either. Lets figure out what is wrong with zone 2 and worry about rain sensor after.

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Hi Gene, here are 2 photos, one showing how I have everything wired, and the second showing the unused Master Valve cable.