Solving Your Most Common Irrigation Problems
Keeping your sprinklers on target
A broken sprinkler will shoot a geyser of water high into the
air and the problem is usually spotted pretty quickly. Here are
some more subtle and often overlooked problems that can also
occur with sprinkler systems:
Adjustments - make sure your sprinklers are
spraying onto the grass and not on sidewalks, driveways, or the
street. The nozzles can get knocked out of adjustment over time
and need to be inspected regularly.
Runoff - make sure you are not running your
sprinklers too long on sloped or compacted soils. Most
sprinklers apply the water faster than our soil can accept it
and even a slight incline can magnify this. If you need to run
your sprinklers for 30 minutes in order to apply the water the
lawn requires but there is a run-off problem, break the time
into shorter multiple cycles. Three ten minute cycles with an
hour of soak time in between will add up to the full 30 minutes
Obstructions - make sure your sprinklers
spray pattern is not blocked. Sometimes the shorter pop-up heads
are unable to pop up high enough to spray over the grass height.
This will cause all of the water to puddle around the head and
the lawn will show stress where the water should be reaching.
Using a taller pop-up head will fix this problem. Sometimes
shrubs growing at the edge of the lawn can block the spray from
a sprinkler as well. If this happens, prune the shrub away from
Keeping your drippers dripping
The most common problem you can have with drip emitters is
clogging. When you slow the output down to rates like one gallon
per hour, it doesn't take much to clog up that little hole. If
you have a single emitter that isn't flowing, the answer is
simple. Replace the emitter.
If you have a whole section of emitters not flowing there
could be a couple of things going on:
- The poly tubing was damaged and allowed a lot of dirt
into the system.
- There is something pinching or kinking the tubing.
- Roots may have invaded the tubing.
Sometimes emitters will put out too much water. If it is one or
two of them they have just worn out and need to be replaced. If
all of your emitters have high flow rates then the problem is
most likely a failed pressure regulator. There is no way to
repair these, so it has to be replaced.
Keeping your bubblers bubbling
Ensure that the water doesn't overflow the basin when allowed
to run for the time programmed into the controller. Adjustable
bubblers can be knocked out of adjustment and dirt berms can
deteriorate. You also want to make sure the basin is the right
size for the plant or tree. The water absorbing roots are at the
drip line or beyond.
Bubblers don't clog as easily as drip emitters but it can
happen. Simply remove the affected bubbler from the riser and
flush out the line before installing a new one.
Keeping your valves valving
Valves are simply on and off switches so there are only two
possible malfunctions. They either don't turn on or they don't
turn off. There are very few parts to a valve and they can be
easily repaired. Irrigation valves work both electrically and
hydraulically to open and close. Some common electrical problems
with valves are:
- The wiring connection at the valve has been corroded
from not using waterproof connectors.
- The solenoid has failed.
- The wiring between the valve and the controller has been
The main hydraulic problems with valves are:
- There is dirt or debris inside the valve.
- The diaphragm has a hole or tear.
Keeping your controller from acting so crazy
When things start going wrong with an irrigation system, the
controller is usually the first thing people blame. In most
cases it is either a programming error or the problem lies
elsewhere such as the valves. Here are some common symptoms and
1. The irrigation keeps
starting over again after it's finished.
This is almost always caused by extra start times being
accidentally entered. Check the programming to be sure that it
contains only the start time you want. Delete any unwanted start
times. Duplicating information in more than one program can also
cause this. Remember that a dual program controller is like two
controllers in one box. If you have the same information in two
programs for the same stations, you have told it to run them
2. The irrigation seems to
run at strange times.
Again double check to make sure that only the start times you
want have been entered. Remember to check in all of the programs
that your controller has available. Also double check that the
start times are correct as to A.M. and P.M. If this seems to be
OK then check to make sure the controller is displaying the
proper current time and day. If this is incorrect re-set it and
check on it the next day. One of the most common reasons your
irrigation will run at strange times is if you've lost your
programs and the controller has reverted to the factory default.
3. No matter where I
turn the dial or what button I push the controller won't
With electronic type controllers, a power surge can cause
them to freeze or lock-up. Don't panic most of the time there
isn't permanent damage. All you have to do is remove the power
to the controller for a short time to allow the microprocessor
to â€œre-setâ€ itself. If your controller has a back up battery
feature, make sure you unplug this as well. You don't want the
processor to hold any information that may be causing the
problem. Usually one to two minutes is sufficient for this
process. After that, re-apply power to the controller and
re-program as usual. If the symptoms do not go away after this
procedure, contact the manufacturer to locate a service center
to repair the controller.