There's so much more to a great yard than just mowing the lawn.

Do a Sprinkler Checkup- The Basics

Sprinkler systems are like cars. I wish my car never needed any maintenance. I really want it to get me from point A to point B without any trouble. Unfortunately, to keep my car in good running condition, I have to add gas, change the oil, get new tires periodically, and do other maintenance to it.

Sprinkler systems are the same way. They have parts that periodically get damaged or break over time. Because the healthy and beauty of your landscape depends on a well-functioning sprinkler system, it’s important to keep it in good working order.

With a car, there’s usually a maintenance schedule in the manual that tells you when to get it serviced. This schedule encourages you to replace certain parts before they are expected to break. There’s not really a standard maintenance schedule for your sprinkler system, but if you give it a checkup periodically by following these guidelines, you can fix a lot of the smaller problems that crop up over time.

Homeowners who don’t fix all the little problems end up with a system that doesn’t work well after a few years. Brown spots start to show up in the lawn, the grass starts to thin, and weeds invade. People often think there is an insect or disease problem causing the problems with their lawn, but in many cases the culprit is simply a poorly-functioning sprinkler system.

Let me lead you through the process of doing a sprinkler system checkup so you can stay on top of the repairs. I’ll cover the easy fixes that make the biggest difference. The good news, most of the repairs are fairly inexpensive. By taking the time to make the needed repairs, your lawn and landscape will be much healthier this summer.

Table 1: How to Fix Common Sprinkler Problems

Look ForDescriptionHow to Fix
Sprinkler facing the wrong wayWater from sprinkler heads is not hitting the right place, might be hitting sidewalk, driveway, house, etc.Turn stem of riser on spray heads. Align right stop for rotor sprinklers
Objects blocking the sprinklerBranches of bushes and other plants often grow into the spray pattern.Trim branches or move plants first, or move sprinkler head as the last option.
Clogged nozzleSmall rocks or debris often get lodged in the sprinkler openings causing irregular spray patterns.Clean nozzle with a toothbrush or wire brush to displace debris. Replace nozzle if needed. Clean filter or replace if missing.
Loose capYou may notice a lot of water seeping around a sprinkler head and not much water spraying out. You may notice the sprinkler cap is not screwed on tight. Tighten the cap. This one is easy!
Broken sprinkler bodyYou may notice a lot of water seeping around a sprinkler head and not much water spraying out. If you dig around the sprinkler body you may notice it’s broken or cracked. Remove broken sprinkler body, replace with a new one.
Broken sealYou may notice a lot of water coming out between the riser and the white seal. Buy a new sprinkler body. Unscrew sprinkler cap, remove the cap and sprinkler guts. Put nozzle on new sprinkler riser. Reassemble sprinkler guts, screw on cap, adjust spray pattern.
Tilted sprinkler headWater will shoot into the air or into the ground rather than across the lawn.Dig out soil from around sprinkler body. Straighten sprinkler with bull’s eye level. Pack soil around sprinkler body.
Sunken sprinkler head Water does not spraying across lawn because sprinkler body is too deep. The grass or soil blocks the spray.Dig out around sprinkler body. Add a riser or swing pipe below sprinkler body so it can be raised. Repack soil around sprinkler body.
Very wet spotsThis may indicate there is a leak in the underground pipes.Try to fix it yourself or call an irrigation professional.

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