How do I Adjust a Sprinkler Head?

How do I Adjust a Sprinkler Head?

Posted on September 23, 2014
sprinkler water on the green grass lawn

sprinkler water on the green grass lawn

As time passes, sprinkler heads will need to be adjusted.  Because of repeated use, sprinkler nozzles can come loose and become turned, spraying in the wrong direction.  Dirt and debris can also become lodged in sprinkler heads, causing poor coverage.

As a homeowner, you can do a simple check of your sprinkler system by turning on a single station at a time.  We recommend that you check your sprinkler system on a monthly basis.  The majority of newer controller models have a test function that you can use to check your system.  Most are preset to run for two minutes per station.  You can simply walk through your property as each station runs and examine the sprinkler heads to see if they are spraying where they’re supposed to be spraying and adjust them as necessary.

When it comes to adjusting sprinkler heads, it is much easier, and quicker, to do it when your sprinkler system is running.  There are two main types of sprinkler heads to adjust, spray heads and rotary (rotor) heads.  Every yard will have spray heads, but not every yard will have rotor heads.  Keep in mind that you WILL get wet.

Spray Heads

If the spray radius of a spray head has been shifted (spraying on the sidewalk, on the house, into the street), the first thing you’ll want to do is tighten the nozzle.  The nozzle is the little top part of the spray head when it is popped up at watering.  The nozzle controls the spray of the water.  While the system is running, tighten the nozzle the way you would a screw or lid – righty-tighty.  If after you’ve tightened the nozzle it is still not spraying in the proper direction, tighten the stem of the spray head.  Again, while the system is running, hold the stem with your fingers, very carefully, and rotate it until the water is spraying in the right direction.

Sometimes the water coming from the spray head will spray too far.  If this happens, use a flat-blade screw driver to adjust the screw on the top of the spray head.  Tightening the screw will block some of the water flow and will shorten the distance that the water sprays.  Loosening the screw will allow the water to spray a longer distance.

Other times there can be dirt or debris that becomes lodged in the nozzle of the spray head, causing some of the water to be blocked.  You could have a 360º nozzle, but it is only spraying 270º.  The top of the nozzle will have a tiny picture showing what type of radius the spray head is supposed to have (90º, 180º, etc.).  There is no picture on a spray head that sprays 360º.  Water comes out the top of a 360º nozzle and sometimes dirt or even a small snail can become stuck in the top.  If this happens, use a marking flag or something similar to dislodge the debris.  Since your system is running while you do this, the water pressure will help to clear the debris easily.  The non-360º nozzles spray water out the side.  The size of the radius determines the size of the opening on the side.  If the opening is obstructed, use a credit card or key ring card to clear out any debris.

Shrub risers have nozzles just like the pop-up spray heads in the lawn and can be adjusted and cleaned in the same way.  Keep in mind that it is very important to get in the shrub/flower beds to observe what direction the water is going.  It doesn’t take much to cause water to start spraying on the house or onto windows.

Rotor Heads

There are several different types of rotor heads.  When it comes to adjusting them, they are all different, but they are all adjusted with the same principle in mind.  Most rotor heads require a special manufacture’s key for adjusting.  This key comes when you buy a new rotor head or if the key is lost, you can get one from a local irrigation supply store.  Each manufacturer has a different key so you’ll need to look at the rotor head to figure out its brand and model number.  Fortunately, some rotor heads can be adjusted with a flat-blade screw driver.

As with the spray heads it’s best to adjust the rotors while your sprinkler system is running.  Use the key or screwdriver to turn the screw on top of the rotor head.  There will be arrow indicators showing which way to turn the screw to increase or decrease (positive vs negative) the spray radius.  If your rotor is spraying your fence, it would be just a matter of slightly decreasing the spray radius.

Sometimes the water from a rotor head will be a big tall stream without any water being diffused to water the grass below it.  (Picture water coming out of a garden hose with no nozzle.)  There is another screw on the rotor head and when it’s turned “down” it will cause the water to be diffused and get it to spread out, watering all of the grass in its path.

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