Sprinkler problems and how to repair them are the most common questions I get from homeowners. With this in mind, I set out to try and answer some of questions for those of you who want a yard to be proud of.
The indications of trouble with your sprinklers can be readily apparent but sometimes will be more subtle. I will cover many of these and the repairs needed to resolve the problem. At this point I should say that for those of you who are do it yourselfers, you will get wet.
The most common sign of a problem is a brown or dry spot in the lawn. This commonly happens when a spray nozzle is plugged or a rotor head has quit turning. Fixing a spray nozzle is as simple as replacing the nozzle and filter in the head. A rotor that has failed can sometimes be dealt with by changing the guts and cap of the head. In most cases it is simpler to replace the whole head.
Another sign of trouble is a soft or wet spot. This can have many causes ranging from a broken head to a cracked pipe. A related sign to these are holes or wash-outs near the heads. The first cause of these signs can sometimes be connected to the problem in the previous paragraph where a rotor is putting all the water in one spot and letting the rest of the area dry out. In the case of holes or wash-outs the likely cause is a cracked head or fitting below the head. As you would expect, the fix for this is to dig up the head and replace the parts as needed.
A more subtle problem is a constantly seeping head. This and the greater problem of a station that won't shut-off are both signals of a bad diaphragm or debris in the valve. Although taking apart the valve and replacing the diaphragm will often fix the problem be prepared to change the valve if it fails to. In the valve does need to be replaced, be prepared to cut and repair more lines than the one directly connected to the valve due to a lack of room to work. Do not worry about this because it is very common.
A harder problem to deal with is a station that fails to come on. Before getting too frustrated with how to find the cause there are two main suspects to check. The first is all the wire connections. Even in the best conditions corrosion or rodents can break a connection. The next thing to check is if there is power to the solenoid of the valve. If the solenoid is buzzing but the station stays off the solenoid is most likely bad and should be replaced. If the solenoid is silent there is probably a broken wire.
While these are the most likely causes of these problems, they are not the only ones. I hope I have given you the answers to some of the questions out there.
Michale Holmes has been designing and repairing both residential and commercial sprinkler systems for over twenty-five years. As well as having extensive experience in all fields of landscaping from construction to maintenance he is also the author of The Homeowners Guide to Sprinkler Systems which can be found at http://mrhirrigation.com