Even with trouble-free operation and proper maintenance, many sprinkler systems will occasionally need repair. Identifying problems early will save both water and money. Here are some common sprinkler system problems you can troubleshoot.
Over time, dirt, sand, lawn mower cuttings, and debris from rain storms can get trapped in the sprinkler filter or nozzle. Clogged heads can produce an erratic spray pattern, or they can rise but not spray, or fail to lower after watering.
To clean the sprinkler head, first ensure the system is off, then pull up the stem of the sprinkler head with a flathead screwdriver. Clamp it with a soft clamping device for sprinklers to prevent it from dropping back into the body. Unscrew the nozzle from the sprinkler and lift out the filter. For spray heads you might need tweezers, and for rotors you’ll need to remove the internal parts to get to the filter at the bottom. Use a small thin wire or toothbrush to unclog the holes in the filter and nozzle and rinse them under water.
To flush out the sprinkler of any additional debris, turn the system on for a minute, then turn it off again. Replace the filter and screw the nozzle back on. Make sure the sprinkler head is working properly by turning the system on once more. Adjust the spray pattern if necessary.
Broken sprinkler heads are easy to identify. Look for:
- Cracked or broken plastic casing on the heads
- Heads that are completely broken off or partially missing.
- Heads that won’t pop up, retract, or rotate.
- Puddles or spurts of water around the heads.
- Water geysers.
- Water spraying unevenly or not at all.
Broken heads are a common occurrence if they’re set too high, and lawn mowers or vehicles run over them. People can also trip over sprinklers, breaking them. And animals looking for a drink, especially during droughts, will cause damage by chewing on heads and nozzles.
Replacement heads are available at your local home center and online. Make sure you buy one made by the same manufacturer with the same model number. Never mix different types of sprinkler heads in the same zone.
Replace the broken head following these steps:
- Turn off the system.
- Dig a hole around the sprinkler head approximately 2 feet in diameter. Use a square shovel and set the sod aside to put back in the hole when the job’s finished.
- Dig carefully so as not to hit the main lateral line and locate the riser around 8 to 12 inches underground. The riser is a vertical pipe that extends upward from the main irrigation line and connects to the head.
- Turn the sprinkler head counterclockwise to remove it from the riser. Be careful not to let any dirt fall into the riser. If you find the head difficult to unscrew, use wrenches, or hold the riser with slip joint pliers to keep it from coming loose from the fittings below on the irrigation pipe.
- Screw the new head onto the riser and turn it hand-tight. Don’t use any thread seal tape or joint compound on the riser threads.
- Fill in the hole and replace the sod.
- Reset the desired sprinkler pattern for the new head.
Sprinkler heads settle, tilt and sink due to foot traffic, the natural compaction of soil, and being struck by lawn mowers. To straighten the head, remove the sod around it with a square shovel. Carefully dig to remove the dirt around it, then lift and straighten the head. Pack soil under and around the head until it’s level with and perpendicular to the ground and can clear the grass easily when it pops up. Lastly, replace the sod.
There are some quick fixes that are easy to do yourself. But when it’s time to call in the pros, call South Austin Irrigation at (512) 534-7449 or complete our on line service request form.