Lawn Sprinkler Not Working? How to Troubleshoot the Problem

Investing in an inground sprinkler system is a good choice for increasing the value of your home and contributing to the environment as much as you can. While it is an additional expense that can range anywhere from $1,700 to $3,300, depending on where you live and the size of your lawn, it will save you time and money in the long run.

The more money you initially invest, the less you will have to spend on maintenance, but, even then, you will have to face the fact that a sprinkler system will encounter issues at some point throughout the years.

Knowing how to detect and troubleshoot a problem on your own can do more than just cut the maintenance costs. So, in order to help you, we came up with a few possible scenarios, symptoms, and effective solutions.

What You Will Need to Troubleshoot the Problem

Before we get into the specific scenarios related to the lawn sprinkler not working, we should let you know that these are mostly related to defective sprinkler heads, gauges, or valves.

Bearing this in mind, you should consider the present symptoms and react as soon as possible. The basic set of tools that you should have on hand is a screwdriver, shovel, and a multimeter that will help you get all the measurements right.

Scenario #1: A Single Sprinkler Head Is Defective

It is safe to say that among the most common mechanical problems with the inground sprinkler system are defective sprinkler heads. Whether you are talking about a single head or multiple heads being defective, the most common symptoms are damaged plastic casings, water being sprinkled everywhere, or heads not popping out at all.

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What are some common triggers?  Usually, it is either the heads being set too high or someone not looking and accidentally stepping on the plastic casing. The most efficient solution for this problem is replacing the sprinkler head system. Still, if that is too expensive for you, or there is no time to wait, we suggest you try cleaning out any dirt and debris and resetting the sprinkler head to the adequate pattern.

Scenario #2: Defective Sprinkler Zones

The second common issue related to lawn sprinklers not working is usually caused by defective valves or electrical signals not reaching the target destination. There are two possible symptoms — either a single zone doesn’t want to turn on, or all sprinkler zones are not working.

If just one sprinkler zone is defective, the first thing that you will want to do is use your multimeter and test the voltage on the controller. If it is below 24 volts, you will probably need to replace it. Another common trigger may be that the wires are defective, which means that you may not need to replace the whole controller, but just a few wires connecting the common and zone terminal.

Last, but not least, a single defective sprinkler zone can be caused by faulty valves that need to be rebuilt or replaced (this is the most expensive scenario).

On the other hand, if not a single sprinkler zone is working, the most probable cause is a faulty terminal; once again, use a multimeter to read it. If the value is below 22 volts, you will need to buy a new one.

Scenario #3: Leaking Around the Valves

The two most common triggers for this scenario are either a broken body of the valve or a damaged diaphragm. If it is the latter, you might be able to open the valve on your own and rebuild it.

If the whole valve casing is broken, then you will simply need to get a new one. The easiest solution is tightening the anti-siphon device that is around the valve,  ensuring there is no space for leakage.

Scenario #4: Low Water Pressure

While a common trigger for this issue is a faulty backflow device, which is quite easy to fix, the more serious case involves a leaky water line and will require you to dig into the ground in order to repair it.

The last scenario is that a water line is somehow restricted, and, while it is not leaking, it doesn’t allow smooth water flow, either — if this is the case, we suggest you call in an expert who will find the faulty pipe and effectively troubleshoot the problem.


While investing in a proper sprinkler system is a smart decision, it does come with its own risks and maintenance costs. We laid the most common scenarios and solutions,  remember it is your duty to check the system every now and then to ensure that there are no faulty components affecting the water distribution.

Lawn Sprinkler Not Working

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