How To Replace A Broken Sprinkler Head

There are many causes that can render a sprinkler head useless or broken on your in-ground watering system. Often times issues are caused by dirt, grass clippings, or any other type of material getting stuck and damaging the sprinkler heads. You may have even ran over the head with a lawn mower. In my case, I simply purchased the house from a lazy old man who did not want to spend the time or money for an incredibly easy fix. No matter the case, there is absolutely no need to call an irrigation company to fix the issue. This is probably one of the easiest DIY jobs you can do!

What You’ll Need

  • Shovel
  • Towel
  • New Sprinkler Heads
  • Plumbers Tape

Step 1: Identify The Sprinkler Zone

The first step is to figure out what zone the sprinkler head that is broken is on. As we just bought our house, we went to the irrigation clock, and manually ran all the zones around the house for a few minutes each. Walk around the lawn and identify any sprinkler heads that may not be operating properly.

Make sure that it is actually the head of the sprinkler that is broken, and not the pipe in the ground.

In our case, during our walk through inspection while running through each sprinkler zone, we quickly found a broken head!

When I said that the man we bought the house from was lazy, I wasn’t joking!

After a short inspection period, I found both the old sprinkler head laying nearby, but I also found out why it was not attached in the first place:

His solution for a broken sprinkler head was to simply rubber band off the sprinkler pipe with some plastic bags. This of course shot off when we turned on the system, and is not the right way to do things. If you are going to be doing a DIY project, you might as well do it right!

Step 2: Dig A Hole Around The Broken Sprinkler

Now that you have identified the broken part, you will want to dig a hole around the head so that the piping is exposed around the sprinkler head. The hole does not need to be very large but just big enough that the immediate area around the head is free and clear of any grass or dirt.

If the system was not already running and shooting water everywhere, you may want to flush the line.

You can flush the line by adding some PVC pipe to the fitting and turning on the system letting it run for around 30 seconds. What this will do is ensure that all the dirt that might be resting inside the line is pushed out and not through the sprinkler head later on.

Finally, make sure to wipe down the threads with a towel to make sure they are free or debris.

Step 3: Repair The Old Sprinkler Head

New heads for a sprinkler system are not expensive, but you may not have them on hand when you notice a problem. I was the same way!

The first thing I tried to do is actually repair the head that was near by. I took it apart, then put it back together.

Once everything is put back together, screw it all in to the old line and then turn on the water system again to see if it works.

As you can see, this old sprinkler head is leaking all over the place. It was time to replace it with a brand new one.

Step 4: Determine Which Sprinkler Heads To Purchase

If you are a little more patient than me, you can pick up the tools for the job on Amazon. If you want to fix things today, you will want to head on down to your local hardware store. For me, this was Home Depot.

Purchasing Parts Online

Before heading off to the store or online marketplace, make sure that you know the manufacturer of the sprinkler heads that are already in the ground as well as the model number. Oftentimes this is not going to be visible so you may want to check other heads in your yard to see if you can find that information. If you have no idea, the only thing yuo REALLY need to know is the size of the nozzle. This should be listed on the top of the head. This will allow you to pick up the right size to easily screw into the existing pipe.

Rotor Heads?

Depending on what kind of head you are replacing, you may need to get a rotor head that goes in the same direction as the broken one.

If the broken head that you are replacing is just a full circle or a half circle, make sure you make note of this so you direct water only where you want it to go.

Step 5: Replace The Old Head With The New Head

Righty tighty, lefty loosey! Turn the old head (if installed) counterclockwise to unscrew the old sprinkler head. The pipe should be clear of dirt because of the whole you dug around the connection, but if you do get some dirt into the connection after you have removed the old head, make sure to flush the head by running water through it for 30 seconds or so.

Next, all that is left is to simply install the new head. If you want a really tight fit without leaking, place some plumbers tape around the connection, and screw the new sprinkler head on with a clockwise motion. Once everything has been screwed into place, turn the water for that zone on and give it a test!

Once everything looks good, you will want to fill the hole with the dirt that you dug up and make sure that the head is no more than around 1/2 an inch above the ground. This will make sure that it does not get clogged with dirt or grass but also ensure it remains safe from your lawn mower!

Also do not forget to set the spray! You can do this by turning the little screw on top of the new sprinkler head to increase the spray or decrease the amount of water shooting out. This will also help give you the maximum range.


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