by | Jun 11, 2024

Fix Lawn Sprinkler System: Top 10 Essential DIY Tips 2024



Knowing how to fix a lawn sprinkler system not only saves your lawn but also saves you money. A faulty sprinkler system can lead to issues like overwatering, dry patches, and even increased water bills. For quick answers, here’s a snapshot of common sprinkler problems and DIY solutions:

  • Leaky sprinkler head: Replace the head or rubber washer.
  • Low water pressure: Check for breaks or clogs in the system.
  • Non-rotating sprinkler heads: Clean or replace the gears inside the head.
  • Controller issues: Reset or replace the system’s controller or solenoids.

Maintaining a well-watered lawn and garden is essential for your property’s health and aesthetics. A working sprinkler system ensures each area gets consistent, efficient watering. Understanding how to diagnose and repair common issues allows you to address problems quickly and keep your lawn lush and green.

I’m Steve Sylva, with over 25 years in the landscape maintenance industry. At Steve’s Services, I’ve helped countless homeowners and commercial property managers fix lawn sprinkler systems to ensure their outdoor spaces remain vibrant and healthy. Transitioning into the specifics of why your system might not be working, let’s start with understanding its key components and how they operate.

Key Steps to Fixing Your Sprinkler System - fix lawn sprinkler system infographic infographic-line-3-steps

Understanding Your Lawn Sprinkler System

To fix lawn sprinkler systems effectively, you need to understand their components, operation, and types. Let’s break it down.


A typical lawn sprinkler system consists of several key parts:

  • Sprinkler Heads: These are the visible parts that spray water. They come in various types, such as pop-up, rotary, and fixed spray heads.
  • Valves: These control the flow of water to different zones. Each valve is wired to the system’s controller.
  • Pipes: These carry water from the main supply to the sprinkler heads. They can be made of PVC or polyethylene.
  • Controller: This is the brain of the system, setting schedules and controlling which zones get watered and when.
  • Solenoids: These are electromagnetic devices that open and close the valves.
  • Backflow Preventer: This device stops contaminated water from flowing back into the main water supply.


When your sprinkler system is turned on, water flows from the main supply through the backflow preventer into the system. The controller sends electrical signals to the solenoids, which open the valves for specific zones. Water then travels through the pipes and exits through the sprinkler heads, watering your lawn.

Once the watering cycle is complete, the controller signals the solenoids to close the valves, stopping the water flow.


There are two main types of sprinkler systems:

  1. Rotary Sprinklers: These have rotating heads that spray water in a circular pattern. They are ideal for large areas because they cover more ground with fewer heads.
  2. Fixed-Head Sprinklers: These have stationary heads that spray water in a fixed pattern. They are better suited for smaller or oddly shaped areas.

Knowing these basics will help you diagnose and fix issues more effectively. For example, if you notice uneven water distribution, it might be due to a clogged nozzle or a broken sprinkler head.

In the next section, we’ll dive into common issues that can arise with your lawn sprinkler system and how to diagnose them.

Common Issues and Diagnostics

Sprinkler systems can face several common issues that affect their performance. Let’s explore some of these problems and how to diagnose them.


Leaks are a frequent problem in sprinkler systems. They can lead to water wastage and uneven watering. Signs of leaks include:

  • Soggy or muddy spots in your lawn.
  • Visible bubbling or spraying water from the ground.
  • Wet patches on concrete or other hard surfaces.

1. Visual Inspection: Walk around your yard and look for soggy areas or visible water.
2. Controller Test: Run a test cycle on your controller to activate each zone. This helps identify where the leak might be.

Low Pressure

Low pressure can cause poor water coverage, leaving parts of your lawn dry. Signs of low pressure include:

  • Weak spray from sprinkler heads.
  • Sprinkler heads that don’t pop up fully.

1. Check for Leaks: Leaks can reduce pressure, so inspect for any leaks first.
2. Inspect Valves: Partially closed or malfunctioning valves can restrict water flow.
3. Pipe Damage: Look for cracked or crushed pipes, especially near tree roots.

Non-Rotating Heads

Rotary sprinklers are designed to rotate and cover a large area. If they stop rotating, certain parts of your lawn may not get water. Signs of non-rotating heads include:

  • Stationary sprinkler heads when the system is on.
  • Dry patches in the coverage area.

1. Inspect the Head: Check for debris or dirt blocking the rotating mechanism.
2. Lubricate: Apply a small amount of lubricant to the moving parts.
3. Replace: If cleaning and lubrication don’t work, the head may need to be replaced.

Electrical Faults

Electrical issues can prevent your sprinkler system from functioning properly. Signs of electrical faults include:

  • Sprinklers not turning on or off.
  • Uneven spray or low pressure caused by faulty solenoids.

1. Controller Check: Ensure the controller is set correctly and the battery is not dead.
2. Solenoid Test: Use a multimeter to check the resistance (ohms) of the solenoids. If the resistance is outside the recommended range (usually 20 to 60 ohms), the solenoid may be faulty.
3. Wire Inspection: Look for damaged or chewed wires, especially in areas with small animals.

By identifying these common issues, you can take the first steps to fix your lawn sprinkler system. In the next section, we’ll discuss the tools and materials you’ll need for repairs.

How to Fix a Lawn Sprinkler System

Fixing a lawn sprinkler system can be straightforward if you have the right tools and materials. Follow these steps to address common issues:

Tools and Materials

Before starting, gather the following tools and materials:

Tools Required:
– 4-in-1 screwdriver
– Hacksaw
– Slip joint pliers
– Spade
– Wire stripper/cutter

Materials Required:
– Band clamps
– Replacement heads and other parts
– Tubing repair parts
– Waterproof wire connectors

Replace a Sprinkler Head

  1. Digging: Use a spade to dig around the broken sprinkler head, exposing the riser.
  2. Unscrewing: Unscrew the damaged sprinkler head from the riser by turning it counterclockwise.
  3. Installation: Screw the new sprinkler head onto the riser by hand, ensuring it’s tight.

Caution: Always call 811 before digging to mark underground utility lines.

Clean and Reset Heads

  1. Disassembly: Unscrew the top of the sprinkler head from the canister.
  2. Cleaning: Rinse all parts, including the screen basket, in a bucket of water to remove debris.
  3. Adjustment: Adjust the watering range before reassembling. Make final adjustments with the water running.

Check the Valves

  1. Valve Location: Locate the sprinkler system valves on the backflow device.
  2. Opening Procedures: Ensure both the horizontal and vertical pipe valves are fully open.

Find and Repair Leaks

  1. System Shutdown: Turn off the sprinkler system at the controller.
  2. Pipe Cutting: Cut out the damaged section of the pipe using a hacksaw.
  3. Coupling: Place a clamp on one end, insert a slip coupling, and tighten the clamp. Repeat for the other end.

Repair Crushed Pipes

  1. Damage Identification: Dig along the water line to find the crushed section, especially near trees.
  2. Pipe Replacement: Cut out the damaged pipe and replace it with a new section, securing it with couplings and band clamps.

Check for Low Voltage

  1. Electrical Testing: Use a multimeter to test voltage at the controller terminals.
  2. Controller Checks: Ensure the transformer is plugged in and the circuit breaker is on. Verify voltage readings match the required range (24 to 28 volts).

Replace Sprinkler Solenoid

  1. Solenoid Identification: Locate the defective solenoid on the control valve.
  2. Wire Connections: Disconnect the wires and unscrew the faulty solenoid. Insert the new solenoid and reconnect the wires.

Reconnect the Wires

  1. Wire Stripping: Strip the ends of the wires to ensure a clean connection.
  2. Secure Connections: Use waterproof wire connectors to secure the connections, preventing future electrical issues.

Waterproof Connectors

  1. Connector Types: Use waterproof wire connectors to protect against moisture.
  2. Installation: Insert the stripped wires into the connectors and twist to secure them tightly.

By following these steps and using the right tools and materials, you can effectively fix your lawn sprinkler system. Next, we’ll explore advanced troubleshooting techniques to address more complex issues.

Sprinkler Repair Tools - fix lawn sprinkler system

Advanced Troubleshooting Techniques

When basic fixes aren’t enough, advanced troubleshooting can help you get to the root of more complex issues with your lawn sprinkler system. Here we’ll cover essential techniques like using a multimeter, voltage testing, and ohms testing.

Multimeter Use

A multimeter is a crucial tool for diagnosing electrical problems in your sprinkler system. It measures voltage, current, and resistance, helping you pinpoint issues like faulty wiring or defective components.

  1. Set Up: Turn the multimeter dial to the appropriate setting (voltage, current, or resistance).
  2. Testing: Place the leads on the terminals you need to test. For voltage, use the “V” setting; for resistance, use the “Ω” setting.

Voltage Testing

Low voltage can cause your sprinkler zones to malfunction. Testing for voltage ensures your system is getting the power it needs.

  1. Identify Terminals: Locate the common terminal (marked “c” or “com”) and the terminal of the zone that’s not working.
  2. Measure Voltage: Turn the multimeter dial to voltage. Place one lead on the common terminal and the other on the zone terminal.
  3. Check Readings: Refer to your owner’s manual for the required voltage range (usually 24 to 28 volts). If the reading is outside this range, the controller may need replacement.

Ohms Testing

Ohms testing helps you determine if a solenoid or wire is defective by measuring electrical resistance.

  1. Turn Off System: Ensure the sprinkler system is off to avoid electrical hazards.
  2. Measure Resistance: Set the multimeter to the ohms setting (Ω). Place the leads on the common terminal and the zone terminal.
  3. Evaluate Results: Compare the reading with the acceptable range listed in your manual (typically 20 to 60 ohms).
  4. Low Ohms: Indicates a defective solenoid.
  5. High Ohms: Suggests a severed or damaged wire.

Using these advanced troubleshooting techniques, you can effectively diagnose and address more complex issues with your sprinkler system, ensuring it operates efficiently.

Next, we’ll discuss preventative maintenance and care to keep your system in top shape.

Preventative Maintenance and Care

Preventative maintenance is key to ensuring your sprinkler system operates efficiently and lasts longer. Here are some essential tips:

Regular Checks

Monthly Inspections: Perform a visual inspection at least once a month. Look for broken sprinkler heads, damaged pipes, and clogged nozzles. Regular checks can catch small issues before they become major problems.

Test Each Zone: Run a test program on your controller to activate each zone for a few minutes. Walk around and check for leaks, low pressure, or any sprinkler heads that aren’t working properly.

Clean Sprinkler Heads: Disassemble and clean the heads to remove dirt and debris. This ensures water flows freely and prevents clogs.

Seasonal Adjustments

Spring Start-Up: After winter, gradually turn on the water to avoid pressure surges that can damage pipes. Check for leaks and ensure all zones are working correctly.

Fall Winterization: Before the first freeze, winterize your system. Shut off the main water valve, drain the system, and blow out any remaining water using an air compressor. This prevents freeze damage to pipes and valves.

Adjust Watering Schedules: Adapt your watering schedule based on the season. In hotter months, increase watering frequency. During cooler months, reduce it to prevent overwatering.

Animal Protection

Protect Wiring: Small animals like chipmunks can chew through irrigation wiring. Use protective tubing or bury wires deeper to prevent damage.

Inspect for Animal Damage: Regularly check for signs of animal interference, such as chewed wires or damaged pipes. Address any issues promptly to maintain system integrity.

By following these preventative maintenance tips, you can keep your lawn sprinkler system in top shape, ensuring a lush and healthy lawn year-round.

Next, we’ll tackle some frequently asked questions about fixing lawn sprinkler systems.

Frequently Asked Questions about Fixing Lawn Sprinkler Systems

How much does it typically cost to repair a sprinkler system?

The cost to fix a lawn sprinkler system can vary widely. On average, homeowners can expect to pay between $75 and $250. For more extensive repairs, like replacing multiple heads or fixing significant pipe damage, costs could be higher.

Common Costs:
Replacing a sprinkler head: $10 – $30
Repairing a valve: $20 – $120
Fixing a broken pipe: $150 – $400

It’s always a good idea to get a quote from a professional to understand the exact costs for your specific situation.

Can I repair my sprinkler system myself or should I hire a professional?

It depends on the complexity of the issue and your comfort level with DIY tasks. Simple fixes, like replacing a sprinkler head or cleaning a clogged nozzle, can often be done by homeowners.

DIY Repairs:
Replacing a sprinkler head
Cleaning nozzles
Adjusting spray patterns

For more complex issues, like electrical faults or significant leaks, hiring a professional is recommended. They have the tools and expertise to diagnose and fix problems quickly, saving you time and potentially preventing further damage.

What are the signs that my sprinkler system needs repair?

There are several signs that indicate your sprinkler system might need attention:

  1. Uneven Water Distribution: Some areas are too wet while others are dry.
  2. Low Water Pressure: Sprinklers are not spraying as far as they should.
  3. Non-Rotating Heads: Rotary heads are stuck and not moving.
  4. Leaks: Visible water pooling or wet spots in your lawn.
  5. Electrical Issues: Zones not turning on or off as scheduled.
  6. Overwatering or Underwatering: Lawn health is declining despite regular watering.

Identifying these signs early can help you address issues before they become more severe, ensuring your lawn remains healthy and green.

Conclusion: Fix Lawn Sprinkler System

Maintaining your lawn sprinkler system is crucial for keeping your lawn healthy and green. Regular checks and timely repairs can prevent small issues from turning into costly problems. Proper maintenance can extend the life of your system and ensure it operates efficiently.

We recommend servicing your sprinkler system at least twice a year. This includes a thorough check before turning it on for the season in spring and another check to winterize it in early fall. Regular servicing helps identify and resolve issues like leaks, clogged nozzles, and damaged components.

At Steve’s Services Landscape Company, we specialize in comprehensive maintenance and repair services to keep your irrigation system functioning optimally. Our experienced team can help you diagnose and fix any issues, ensuring your system operates at peak efficiency.

For more information on our irrigation system services, visit our Irrigation Systems Installations page.

By staying proactive and addressing issues promptly, you can enjoy a lush, beautiful lawn all year round. Trust Steve’s Services to keep your sprinkler system in top shape.


Repair Your Sprinkler System: Step-by-Step Guide

Recent Posts