Your Sprinkler System Troubleshooting Guide

Working on a broken sprinkler head.

A sprinkler system can consist of a simple sprinkler at the end of a hose, or it can be an intricate in-ground system that automatically turns on and off. As much as a sprinkler system can be a convenience in watering a lawn, it can also develop problems. (The more intricate the system, the more likely you will have problems at some point.) Review the following troubleshooting guide to help you solve some of the more frequent and common problems.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Regular sprinkler maintenance will help keep your system in top working condition."

Water Does Not Turn On

One of the most common problems with a sprinkler system is that the water does not turn on at the designated time. This is usually caused by an electrical problem or an incorrect setting on the timing mechanism. To correct the problem:

  • Check the AM/PM setting on the automatic timer
  • Check all electrical connections. Make sure they are connected and are not corroded
  • Check water flow valve to determine if water is flowing from the sprinkler pump
  • Check the electrical fuse box to make sure that the switch is on

Water Comes Through Sprinkler in a Mist

If water does not flow properly through the sprinkler head, you may have a hard water build up or a clog in the PVC tube supplying the sprinkler head. Fixing it is quick and easy.

TIP: Susan suggests, "Many in-ground sprinkler systems come with a warranty. Check before you purchase any new parts."

  • Shut off the sprinkler system and remove the head by unscrewing it from the mechanism
  • Soak the sprinkler head in a calcium remover purchased from a hardware store
  • Use a flexible wire to unclog the PVC pipe
  • Replace the sprinkler head and test water output to determine whether the flow is adequate

Lawn Has Standing Puddle

If you find a puddle of water in your lawn, then you probably have a leak in the system line.

  • Shut off water to the sprinkler system
  • Carefully dig up the ground around the leaking pipe
  • Cut out the section of pipe that is leaking and insert new piece of PVC
  • Glue it into place using a PVC cement
  • Turn on water to see if the problem has been resolved
  • Fill in the hole and patch the sod

TIP: Susan recommends, "Always consult your manufacturers guide before attempting to fix a problem."