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How to Repair Your Own Pop Up Sprinkler Head or Sprinkler System

With an evergrowing desire to have manicured lawns that keep up with the rest of the neighborhood, more and more homes have sprinkler systems that manage their lawn to keep it green and lush. These systems may be as simple as a few sprayers to a 12 station system with a rain detector and a device that injects fertilizer into the sprinkler system. For the most part, these systems are comprised of several simple systems organized into one complex system. For that reason, many of these parts can be easily repaired or adjusted.

Many of these systems are somewhat neglected and rarely gain attention until they are not working properly due to damage from lawnmowers, grass growing over them, or any number of reasons. For this reason and others, sprinkler systems and sprinler heads often need adjustments to their spray pattern, adjustment to head height, etc.


Although many homes now have irrigation systems in one manor or another, many homeowners are compelled to do much of their own home improvement or repair due to the fiscal constraints that most people are feeling. These sprinkler systems are an easy area that you can save some money around the home and get to know your lawn at the same time.

Properly adjusting or repairing your sprinkler system will require some basic plumbing knowledge, a few tools, and most of all, the ability to follow some simple instructions. This website will show you the basics of most sprinkler systems and what areas are most likely to need repair or adjustment along with how to go about those procedures.

Repair Your Own Sprinklers: Adjusting Spray Pattern

The most common issue that arises with sprinkler systems is the need to adjust the spray patterns. Spray patterns can change over time due to several different reasons:

  • Vibration from the head can move the settings
  • Sand/sediment can become lodged in the head or the heads filter
  • Surrounding grass can move the whole sprinkler
  • The sprinkler may have been run over by a car or lawnmower or hit by something

Usually the spray pattern is one of the easiest things to adjust on the sprinkler. If your head is a simple sprayer that does not rotate, check to see if the head has an adjustable pattern. If so, you may have to rotate the head to set the beginning of the pattern, then move the adjustment on the tip of the head to "open up" the pattern to your desired amount of spray. If your sprinkler has a fixed pattern you will simply twist the head tip to the appropriate placement. You may need to twist the sprinkler body if twisting the head tip makes the sprinkler leak.

Adjusting rotating heads can be more complicated and should always be done after reading instructions for your particular brand and style of sprinkler. Some rotating heads can simply be rotated to the right position while lifting on the end of the head, but most require a tool to be placed in the top of the head and rotated toward a + or - to widen or narrow the pattern. If you do not have the tool for your brand of sprinkler you will need to find a dealer that sells that particular brand.


For instance, Hunter PGP sprinkler heads have to have their tool inserted into the top of the head to adjust them. Once inserted, you will turn the tool toward the + while the head is moving toward the -, or turn the tool toward the - while the head is moving toward the +. If you need to move the left end of the pattern you will have to rotate the whole sprinkler. That can be done by rotating the sprinkler or by unscrewing the head from the case, pulling it up, and rotating it to the desired location and sliding it back down into the grooves in the case. You will not want to do this often, especially if the sprinkler is old, because as the seal from the case to the head wears it will begin to leak. Once this seal leaks on this type of head, the head will need to be replaced.

Occasionally your spray pattern may be disrupted by sand or sediment being caught in the sprinkler's filter. With most sprayers you can simply unscrew the spray tip from the sprinkler revealing the filter. If this is the case, simply wash the filter out and replace the tip, adjusting the pattern back to its correct position. If you have a rotating sprayer or another type of head, you will want to consult your sprinkler instructions to make sure how to access the filter if the head has one.

If your head has been moved by being hit or ran over, you will want to rotate it back to its correct position. In doing so, be sure to not put too much pressure on the head as it may have been damaged. You may want to move away some dirt/sod from the head to make sure to get it back to its original position then replace the sod after making sure of the pattern and that the head was not damaged.

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Repair Your Own Sprinklers: Leaking Sprinklers

If you own a lawn or plant sprinkler system, at some point you will have a leak. It is inevitable. Just accept it. Leaks can come at the actual head tip, on the sprinkler case, between the sprinkler and the shutoff valve, or before your shutoff valve. Most leaks occur around the head due to damage to the head or sometimes due to freezing damage.

For most leaks you will want a plumber if you are not knowledgeable about plumbing repair, but some leaks can be easily repaired as a part of your regular sprinkler maintenance. If your sprinkler tip is leaking, you will probably be able to simply tighten the tip. If you do so, remember to rotate the whole sprinkler to realign the spray pattern. If your sprinkler is leaking from under the sprinkler, check to see if the leak is coming from where your sprinkler is screwed onto the riser that comes from your pipe. If so, you may simply need to tighten the sprinkler down or unscrew it, replace the Teflon tape around the riser threads, and return the sprinkler to the riser.

If your sprinkler case is leaking where the popup screws into it, remember that is generally not repairable. Make an attempt to tighten the connection, but you will probably have to replace the whole sprinkler head. The reason for that is once the o-ring has been damaged, dried out, over-compressed, or covered in calcification, it is not able to correctly seal again. It is possible to use some PVC glue to stop the leak for a short amount of time, but eventually that will no longer hold.

Repair Your Own Sprinklers: Heads Not Popping Up?


Often after a system has been working for a while, say a year or two, you will have a head that does not want to pop up as it should. This often results in water spraying straight up and usually creating a nice green area around the head while the rest of the area suffers. The same thing can also occur shortly after installation or a system repair. Generally when this happens on a new system or just after repair it is due to dirt or sediment in the line. An easy fix is to take the head off and clear out the line.

On older systems, though, this can be due to sand or sediment building up inside the sprinkler or a broken part on the head. You may be able to unscrew the sprinkler from its outer case and clean off any sand, grit or calcium build up and return it to its working order. However, remember that often these heads will develop large leaks if the head is older and is taken apart. Unless the problem is sand in the filter or sediment or a rock in the line coming into the sprinkler head, it is often an easier and less time consuming fix to just replace the sprinkler altogether, especially if it is only a $10 - $15 head.

Repair Your Own Sprinklers: Adjusting The Flow

Adjusting the flow on a sprinkler is one of the easiest and most overlooked adjustments that can be made to your overall system. If a sprinkler head regularly overshoots other heads, covering too large of an area, or if it is casting too much spray near the head and not shooting far enough, you may want to adjust the flow or the stream disruptor. You may want to adjust flow if you have too many heads on at one time and need to make it work. Cutting back on the flow of each head will spread your overall pressure better to all of the flowing heads.

The two most common ways to adjust flow are with flow inserts or with the flow disruptor. Flow inserts are the small pieces with a certain size hole that that the water actually flows through. Most brands have various different sizes of these and they can be changed out fairly easily to flow more or less gallons per minute (gpm) through a particular head. Sometimes dropping a station's flow inserts one size can make a huge difference in reach while also saving some water.

The easiest way to adjust flow is by using the disruptor screw that comes down into the stream to break it up. This disruptor breaks the stream up so that water is spread evenly from the head to the farthest reach of the stream. The more you screw it in, the stream will be broken up and its reach diminished. This disruption also cuts back a small amount on the overall flow of the head, meaning if it is in full use, the head will not put out as many gpm due to a slowing of the stream.


Joseph Davis (author) from Florida on May 24, 2012:

I'll have to do a hub soon on installing your own small system!

Cathleena Beams from Tennessee on May 23, 2012:

I repaired my own hoses, but haven't had a sprinkler system installed. Always wanted one though. Very interesting and useful hub. I voted up!

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