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Sprinkler System Won’t Turn On

Sprinkler system won't turn on

Gone are the days that homeowners put a sprinkler in the yard.  People are busy and don’t want to move it every hour nor do they have the time.  Instead, many homeowners have sprinkler systems to keep their grass healthy and growing. 

What to do if your sprinkler system won’t turn on?  Take a look at the sprinkler heads.  Do they need cleaning?  Are they broken?  Maybe there is a pipe that is damaged, voltage issues, or a broken valve. Let’s take a look at all of these to see if any of them are the culprit before you call in a professional.

Why This is Important

It is important to find out why the sprinkler system is not working.  The system was not cheap when it was installed and when it is working, it is one last thing you have to worry about in keeping the yard looking nice.  The grass in the yard can dry up and need replacing if it is not watered properly.  It may take looking at the areas below to find the culprit.

Clean the sprinkler heads

Clean the Sprinkler Heads

The sprinkler heads often can become clogged, as they are so close to the ground and near the dirt.  When it rains, debris and mud flow over and into them.  Look up the manufacturer’s name of the system (should be on the door for the unit) and find the online product manual if you don’t have a copy.  It should have directions for how to clean the heads.

Broken Sprinkler Heads Can Be a Reason Why the Sprinkler System Won’t Turn On
Broken sprinkler head and valve

Broken Sprinkler Heads Can Be a Reason Why the Sprinkler System Won’t Turn On

If you cleaned the sprinkler heads and the system still won’t turn on, it could be a broken sprinkler head.  How do you know?  Look at the casing to see if there are cracks. 

Also, if you notice the sprinkler head doesn’t pop out of the ground, or maybe the head is missing. This means it is broken and you can easily replace it.  Often this happens when it is up too high out of the ground and is run over by a car or a lawnmower.  You will need to find out the brand and model number and check with the local hardware store or on Amazon.

Broken or Damaged Pipes Can Be Why the Sprinkler System Won't Turn On

Broken or Damaged Pipes Can Be Why the Sprinkler System Won’t Turn On

Sometimes the sprinkler system won’t turn on because the pipes underground are broken or damaged. Often tree roots have grown into the pipes causing them to have holes or to break. One indicator is if there are potholes or sink holes in the yard.

There can also be water in the street from the broken pipe or air or dirt in the water. These might be things you notice in the house instead of in the yard. 

Sprinkler Hooked Up to a Well

Sometimes the sprinkler system may be hooked up to a well instead of the house water supply so it may be a little trickier to find out the problem.  Most of the time, if the sprinkler system is on a well, the system not turning on is due to the well pump.

This can be because the pump needs to be primed, or it is not properly connected to the control panel.

Check and make sure your pump is drawing water and responsive to the controls. If not, you may need to prime the well or adjust the controls to the pump.

Backflow Device Valves Can Be Why the Sprinkler System Won’t Turn On

Locate the valve box. Sometimes it is green and buried in the lawn and sometimes it is above the ground.  Often the valves are not on all the way so checking these is important.  To find out if they are turned on all the way, locate the two valves.  One is for the horizontal pipes, while the other is for the vertical pipes, and make sure they are in the “on” position.

Issues with the voltage

Issues With the Voltage

Sprinkler systems have a separate control panel than the main electric panel for the home.  The yard is broken up into zones and each zone has its own transformer that needs to be plugged in.  Sometimes these come loose so they need to be tightened. 

You will also have zone wires that need to be plugged in to the correct place in order to work.  Consulting the user manual is important to make sure they are in their correct place.

Not sure if they are working?  Use a multimeter to test the voltage. The user manual will have the required amount of voltage for each zone.  If you are not getting the reading required, then a replacement is needed.

Sensors Can Be Why The Sprinkler System Won’t Turn On

The sensors will turn off the system if there is rain or snow in the area. If none of this is occurring, there may be an issue.  Now, the sensors do not always work so it is a good idea to have a technician look at them if this is the case.

Damaged Valve

Last but not least, there could be a damaged valve.  Go back again to the valve box.  To check this area, you need to test the resistance OHMS.  These are designated by the Omega symbol.

First, turn off the system. Then use the multimeter to see if you can get the range of the OHMS, as stated in the user manual.  If the reading is giving you a number below what is listed in the manual, then it is probably the solenoid that is damaged.  This operates a control valve in particular zones. 

How to Replace the Damaged Valve if the Sprinkler System Won’t Turn On

You can replace this on your own by doing the following:

  1. Turn off the backflow device water valve and the controller
  2. Open the control box
  3. Disconnect the wires from the damaged solenoid and unscrew it
  4. Put the replacement in that you ordered on Amazon or picked up at a local hardware store and see if this works.

Here is a video about the backflow valves in the south:

Maintenance of the Irrigation System

Maintenance is important to keeping systems working as long as possible. One way to do this is by running the irrigation system in the spring months. This will allow you to check to see where the water is going and also that all the zones are working.

Finding this out before the summer and hotter temps is ideal. If you have brown areas or swamps, the system may be clogging or watering too much and you can fix this.

Also, use an air compressor to blow out the lines in the winter months and make sure the lines are not clogging. Lastly, run the sprinkler once a week in the summer if you are here in Washington State. Southern states will run it more as it is hotter.  Check local information in your state for the amount of water needed.

Other Issues

Maybe the last time the sprinkler system was running, the water started pooling next to the home. Be careful of this as it can weaken the foundation and structure of the home.



One way to keep water away from the home is by landscaping. You don’t want plants growing over the sprinkler heads and roots growing into the lines, as mentioned above. Being careful with the landscaping and planting plants and trees is important.

Negative Grading

Another area to think about is negative grading. Does your yard slope towards the home? You can fix this by increasing the amount of soil and also more landscaping. Sloping yard toward the home can create more issues such as water in the basement and that can create mold.

When to Call a Professional

If there is an issue with the power, you may need a professional to help and assist you with reprogramming the unit.  It is hard for the homeowner to know what the settings are so an irrigation technician will know what the settings should be.

Also, if you are unsure what is causing the issue, call a professional.  They are trained to help you and to get your system working again.


Sprinkler systems are essential for homes as they take away the time a homeowner needs to move a sprinkler from one place to the next.  Some zones of the home need more watering than others and a system is programmed to do just that. 

If you are having issues with your sprinkler system not turning on, reach out to us and leave us a reply below so we can help to get your system working again. 

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