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Sprinkler Repair Made Easy

By Brett Freeman
Sprinkler Repair Made Easy

In most cases, a sprinkler head doesn't work because the the top of its housing is broken. Over time, the top of a sprinkler head--the part that is exposed to the sun and other elements--dries out, making it more prone to cracking. Even a new sprinkler head can suffer damage if it takes a direct shot from the lawn mower or is located where it gets knocked around and stepped on.

Fixed spray sprinkler heads can suffer damage to their gaskets, preventing the "pop-up" portion from popping up or retracting. The gears that drive a rotary sprinkler head can fail. But whatever the problem, and regardless of whether you are dealing with a fixed spray or rotary sprinkler head, you can fix most broken sprinkler heads by replacing the top and the machinery inside, but leaving the body in place in the ground.

Getting the Guts Out
Most sprinkler heads are configured more or less like a jar. At the bottom or on the side of the jar is a hole where water comes in. In the center of the jar's top is an opening through which the spraying portion of the sprinkler pops up and sprays when sufficient water pressure runs into the sprinkler head. On most types of sprinkler heads, the top of this jar--think of it as the crown--unscrews.

After making sure that your irrigation system is turned off, unscrew the crown of your broken sprinkler head. Make sure it is the crown, and not the entire sprinkler, that you are unscrewing. You may have to dig down along the sides and hold the sprinkler body still to do this. Once the crown is off, remove the entire inner works from the sprinkler body. Next, block the sprinkler body opening to keep dirt out. A plastic water or soda bottle is good for this; just turn it over and drop it in.

Take the Sprinkler Guts Shopping
If your irrigation system was professionally installed, you may have to go to an irrigation supply store to find a matching replacement sprinkler head. The staff there should be able to find a suitable match, and can even install a nozzle that matches the one from the broken sprinkler head. When you get back home, all you need to do is remove the top and take the guts from the new sprinkler head, drop them into the body of the old one, and screw the new top securely back into place.

One Last Tip
If your sprinkler head broke because it is in a place where it frequently gets stepped on, you can protect it. Cut a two-inch length of heavy duty PVC pipe wide enough to fit around the sprinkler head. When the ground is wet, place the PVC over the sprinkler head, then push it down until the rim of the PVC sits about half an inch above the top of the sprinkler. Now the PVC takes the abuse and the sprinkler is protected.

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