Troubleshooting Sprinkler System: Solve Any Problem!

Nora Held
Nora Held
Research Writer
Apart from being our main writer, Nora also works for a number of gardening-related sites and magazines, sharing her experience as an owner of a small farm in North Carolina read more
Reviewed By
Bruce Williams
Bruce Williams
Expert Consultant
Bruce owns a small farm and loves to grill since his early childhood. He’s a professional cook, but hiking and enjoying the great outdoors is his no less favorite part of read more
Last updated: August 23, 2023 is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

The lawn can beautify the environment, purify the air, reduce noise, conserve water and soil, and provide a safe and comfortable, and productive place for agriculture, sports, and leisure. In recent years, large numbers of lawns have been planted in stadiums, residential areas, parks, entertainment areas, factories, schools, golf courses, and other places.

It has become the main form of urban greening, and the research on its irrigation management has become more and more in-depth. For all-season cultivation of crops, growing and maintenance of lawns and gardens, the sprinkler irrigation system are the most used. But it doesn’t come without its operational problems. Thankfully, there are various ways to troubleshooting sprinkler systems.

The good news is that even without an in-depth understanding of the system, you can handle 90% of sprinkler problems yourself. We will show you how to use detection and repair tools to identify and solve the most common sprinkler problems during irrigation.

How do sprinkler systems work?

Troubleshooting Sprinkler System: Solve Any Problem!The sprinkler irrigation system controller sends a signal to the control valve in the control valve box. To learn more about the sprinkler valves, read our detailed review. The sprinkler valve opens. The water is transported through the underground water pipeline, which causes the sprinkler head to pop out and spray.

An automatic lawn irrigation system is the best way to make your lawn look fresh and green. Designed and programmed correctly, it will provide the right amount of water for your yard.

If you have a small garden, one of the bestselling sprinkler systems on Amazon is the Gardena 1951. It’s a small-area garden spray sprinkler system that is installed in the lawn, thanks to a spike. For a large area, there are sprinkler systems designed for large-scale irrigation Trusted Source Irrigation: Spray or Sprinkler Irrigation Sprinkler/spray irrigation is the method of applying water to a controlled manner in that is similar to rainfall. The water is distributed through a network that may consist of pumps, valves, pipes, and sprinklers. Irrigation sprinklers can be used for residential, industrial, and agricultural usage. on farmlands.

Tools and supplies you need

  • Square spatula
  • Multimeter
  • Screwdriver or pliers
  • Replacement products
  • Shovel

Types of problems to fix

Some of the most frequent parts and problems that require troubleshooting in a sprinkler system include the sprinkler head or nozzle, the zones, leakages, among others. In this section, we’ll see how to resolve the problems.

Sprinkler heads not working

If the sprinkler head or nozzle is not working, you can replace the head or clean and reset the head.

Solution 1: Replace the head

Troubleshooting Sprinkler System: Solve Any Problem!Replacing the head is one of the easiest repairs. Replacement heads can be found online. Be sure to buy the same type of head you want to replace. To replace a broken head, shut down the system and dig a 2-foot diameter hole around the head.

Using a square spatula, cut the turf into easily removable pieces. Set the turf on a tarp so you can put it back in place at the end of the job. Dig down to the “rise pipe” (vertical pipe branching from the mainline) connected to the sprinkler.

Dig gently to avoid damaging plastic water pipes 8 to 12 inches underground. Turn the head counterclockwise to remove it from the lifting plate. When the head is closed, be careful not to spill dirt into the riser.

The sprinkler can only be installed manually, but after several years of use on the ground, you may need to use a wrench to unscrew it. If the head is not easy to rotate, use sliding pliers to fix the lifting plate to prevent it from loosening from the accessories below.

Place the new sprinkler on the lifting plate and tighten it by hand. Do not use Teflon tape or jointing compound on the lifting threads. The nozzles are factory tested to ensure that they are working properly. As a result, they are often packaged as damp, so don’t be surprised.    Before filling the holes and changing the turf, set the desired sprinkle pattern.

Solution 2: Clean the head

Troubleshooting Sprinkler System: Solve Any Problem!If you have a leaking nozzle or a sprinkler head that is not working at all, first remove the sprinkler head by unscrewing the top from the tank. Use a bucket of water to rinse off the soil and debris.

Dirt sometimes gets inside the nozzles, causing them to clog. The blocked water may rise. But it cannot be sprayed. It may also produce an unstable spray pattern.

To clean the head, dig it out and remove it from the riser. Hold the bottom of the tank. Turn the top of the head counterclockwise to separate the head. After unscrewing, take it out of the jar.

Remove the plastic sieve basket used as the filter from the bottom of the head. If you cannot eject the basket with your fingers, use a flat-head screwdriver to pry it out or use pliers to pull it out.

Rinse the basket with a bucket of clean water to remove debris. Rinse with water to clean the rest of the nozzle. Replace the head on the riser board. If it still doesn’t work, please replace it with a new head.

Repairing a pipe

Troubleshooting Sprinkler System: Solve Any Problem!You can mend a leak in the pipe with a repair fitting. It consists of a coupling body, two rubber seals, and two connection nuts.

Turn off the water and cut through the pipe to the leak, using a hacksaw or plastic-pipe cutter. Grind the cut ends far enough that you can slide the coupling pieces onto the tubes.

Slip a coupling nut onto each piece of pipe, then follow with a gasket. Slide the coupling body over one cut end, then insert the other end into the body. Slide a union nut and gasket onto each end of the body and tighten the nuts.

Send water back into the system carefully and check for any signs of leakage before re-burial of the pipe.

In the event of a large leak or when the connections have been pulled apart by earthquakes or frost heaving, you can insert an additional length of pipe. First, turn off the water. Cut the damaged section of the channel using a hacksaw or plastic pipe cutter.

To repair the PVC pipe, first, clean the area to be cemented and dry it. Then apply the cement primer and PVC solvent according to the cement can directions. Slide a replacement fitting onto each end of the replacement tubing. Then insert it between the two cut ends, slip one end into each replacement fitting. Leave the link for the length of time stated on the box (usually 12-24 hours).

To repair polyethylene (aka poly) pipe, slip a stainless steel hose clamp over the pipe and fitting. If the unit does not slide easily, soak the end of the hose in hot water. Place the clamp in place on the ridged section of the fitting, then tighten with a screwdriver.


In areas where you have freezing temperatures, polyethylene (poly) pipes are used for irrigation water pipes. PVC pipes are used in areas that do not freeze.

Low water pressure

Troubleshooting Sprinkler System: Solve Any Problem!First, ensure your backflows preventing valves are open completely. To increase the water pressure on an automatic sprinkler, remove some sprinkler heads from each zone in the system.

Then cap the plumbing leading to them. By simply decreasing the number of sprinkler heads, your water pressure will increase in those remaining. You can also install a boost pump.

Sprinkler zones not turning on

Detecting and resolving the problem depends on the number of zones not turning on.

    • No zone is turning on: If all the zones aren’t turning on, ensure that your main valve is open. Electrical problems can cause a zone to fail. The problem might be from the wire, solenoid, valve, or timer. Very often, the problem usually arises when you have a bad connection to the zones.
    • Just a single zone isn’t working: Meanwhile, if just a zone in the system isn’t working, then the problem may be coming from a solenoid, an electrical fault, or a solenoid.
    • Many zones are inactive: If multiple zones are not turning on, then the transformer may supply low voltage to the sprinkler’s controller. Read more about the best sprinkler controllers in our review. You can test the 24-vac wire terminals with a multimeter. Is it below 22 volts? Then you need a transformer replacement.

Zone valve leaking

Troubleshooting Sprinkler System: Solve Any Problem!One of the common reasons your zone valve is leaking is because of a worn-out or obstructed rubber part in the valve box. When the seal is broken, or debris obstructs it, the valve will not close completely. You’ll have to replace an old, broken, or worn-out valve with a new one.

If you have an automatic sprinkler irrigation system with a timer, our experts recommend a model such as an Orbit 3 Pack 3/4 Inch Sprinkler Valve. It connects easily to lawn irrigation systems or the garden irrigation timer.

Final thoughts

The use of a sprinkler irrigation system is innovative. However, there is an existing imperfection in the proper planning and designing when developing a lawn sprinkler irrigation. Our tips for troubleshooting sprinkler systems should help you out with the most common types of problems.

Even for a simple problem, you can solve the problem within 10 minutes. Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of sprinkler system troubleshooting involving plumbing and electricity. The pipe is plastic and easier to repair than the pipe in your house.

For automatic systems, the wires are low voltage, so they are not dangerous. You do not need special skills to perform repairs. But you need to use a multimeter to diagnose electrical problems during sprinkler repairs.


Irrigation: Spray or Sprinkler Irrigation
Sprinkler/spray irrigation is the method of applying water to a controlled manner in that is similar to rainfall. The water is distributed through a network that may consist of pumps, valves, pipes, and sprinklers. Irrigation sprinklers can be used for residential, industrial, and agricultural usage.

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