7 Sprinkler Problems You Can Troubleshoot

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated February 16, 2022
sprinkler watering lawn near house
Photo: fotum / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Repairing a sprinkler costs about $300 on average once damaged.

  • A new controller can cost as much as $325.

  • Many sprinkler problems result from electrical errors and may require replacing the controller or hiring a professional.

  • Broken sprinkler lines require you to dig in your yard, so use caution when digging.

  • Replacing a broken sprinkler head isn’t expensive—just make sure you order the right replacement.

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Pooling water? Uneven distribution of liquid? Lawn irrigation systems are much more than a few sprinkler heads held together underground. So if you’re experiencing sprinkler problems, it may take some troubleshooting to figure out the issue. Below are seven ways to address common problems you may face.

Just remember, sprinklers connect to your water source and use electricity to operate, so make sure you feel comfortable troubleshooting your sprinkler system before fixing it DIY. A local sprinkler service can diagnose the issue if you’re unsure. Repairing a sprinkler costs about $300 on average once damaged, so you’ll save yourself money by being cautious here.

1. Sprinkler Controller Issues

Errors with the controller you use to operate your system can be especially frustrating. A blank display, sprinklers refusing to come up or retract, and uneven spray patterns are just a few of the issues that could result.

As with most electric appliances, make sure you run through the basic checklist first:

  • Check to make sure the device is on.

  • Check if the battery needs replacing or if the backup battery needs recharging.

  • Check the device to make sure there isn’t obvious damage to it.

  • Be sure the controls you’ve pre-set are still what you want them to be. (Make sure no one changed them by accident.)

If your controller passes these steps, it’s likely something further down the line causing issues. Avoid taking apart your controller unless you’re certain you know what you’re doing and how to put it back. Asking a professional for advice is likely your best bet. A new controller can cost as much as $325.

2. Sprinkler Is Leaking

Leaking sprinklers leave puddles around your water and unevenly water your yard. Turn your water supply off first, then search the sprinkler in question for obvious signs, such as:

  • Clogged sprinkler head

  • Clogged filter

  • Dirty or clogged valve

Start by unscrewing the nozzle and removing any dirt or debris inside the sprinkler head. You can use a pair of needle-nose pliers to gently remove the filter to clean it.

3. Zone Valve Issues

Most lawn irrigation systems use zoning to channel water to specific parts of your yard. This allows your entire yard to receive a soaking without negatively affecting water pressure inside the home, which could disrupt appliance performance.

Unfortunately, sometimes a zone will stop working, or your sprinkler system will just skip a zone altogether, which can greatly affect certain areas of your grass.

In all likelihood, the issue is an electrical one. Either your controller is defective, or the solenoid valve, which is opened and closed using your controller, is faulty.

4. Broken Sprinkler Head

worker adjusting lawn sprinkler
Photo: Tomasz Zajda / Adobe Stock

Regardless of which type of sprinkler head you have, even small cracks can cause issues, such as pooling water or uneven distribution across your lawn. Blunt trauma can break the head clean off, but small amounts of wear and tear over time (your lawnmower repeatedly passing over it, for example) can lead to cracks or chips that deteriorate performance.

Frozen water left inside your pipes in the fall can lead to liquid expansion, which may crack your sprinkler heads, too. This is why hiring local lawn aeration services and troubleshooting sprinkler system issues in the fall to remove water and microbes is very important.

Sprinkler heads cost between $3 and $30 to replace—and more if you have a professional do it. Be sure to order one that matches your system.

5. Low Water Pressure

Troubleshooting low water pressure with your sprinkler is one of the most frustrating problems, as the leak could be anywhere in the system—damage at the sprinkler head, a clog in the valve, or even a rupture in the sprinkler line beneath.

Fixing a buried sprinkler line will require a shovel to turn up dirt, and you may have to dig several feet to find where the fault lies. Outsourcing this task if it seems out of your wheelhouse is recommended.

6. Strange Noises Coming From Sprinkler

A small leak or crack can lead to whining or high-pitched screeching noises from your sprinkler. Water pressure builds up when liquid moves through your sprinklers, and these imperfections in your system can lead to unexpected noises. 

Replacing the sprinkler head or applying epoxy putty to the dried small hole is your best bet.

7. Watering at Off-Hours

 sprinkler irrigation timer
Photo: The Toidi/ Adobe Stock

In certain areas, especially drought-prone and urban locations, you must run your sprinklers during off-hours (late at night or early in the morning) to avoid low water pressure. Double-check to make sure you didn’t set your sprinkler to run twice, or that the settings weren’t interrupted or changed by accident.

If it continues, your controller may, once again, be the problem. You may also be able to fix it by looking up your specific controller type online.

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