Why Won’t My Sprinkler System Turn On?

Why Won't My Sprinkler System Turn On

You have this nice automated sprinkler system, so you don’t have to remember to water your lawn or plants. It’s the height of convenience — except for when it doesn’t work.

One of the worst feelings is to set the system and have no water come out. Before you let the frustration build, understand that this inevitably happens. There are many reasons why a sprinkler system might not turn on, and Andy’s Sprinkler, Drainage, & Lighting can take care of them all. Here are some of the most common reasons that a sprinkler system won’t turn on, along with how to address the issue:

Controller Issues

The controller is what tells the sprinklers to turn on in the first place. This is the first place to look for any possible sprinkler issues.


If you have programmable sprinklers, the program itself is what sends the signal to open a valve and run the sprinklers. There are plenty of things that can go wrong, but before assuming there’s a real problem, it’s best to make sure the sprinklers are, in fact, programmed to run. This is always the first thing we check (and you should definitely double-check it yourself before calling for help). Once it’s confirmed that the programming is fine, if the sprinklers still don’t turn on, we can move toward troubleshooting the rest of the system.


There can absolutely be functionality problems with the controller, and there are several common points of failure. In most cases, these points of failure will involve a voltage or resistance problem somewhere in the system. When we diagnose controller issues, we test the circuits at key points to make sure electricity is flowing.

It’s worth noting that voltage issues can occur at the valve rather than the controller itself. This is the circuit that physically allows the controller to turn on the water, and it’s a common source of trouble.


It is fairly common for sprinkler systems to have a rain & freeze sensor either tied directly to the controller (either wired or wireless), or for the smart controller to have built-in connectivity and programming for various weather scenarios. With either one, the controller will automatically skip a watering session if a weather event is detected. If the rain & freeze sensor, or internal connectivity, has problems, either of these can cause malfunctions with the controller. These type of issues can be the result of any number of causes, so it’s usually best to have an Andy’s techncian out to fully diagnose the problem.

Water-Flow Issues

A sprinkler system has more than just a smart controller. It sends water through pipes, and water-flow issues can cause plenty of sprinklers to sit and do nothing after you turn them on.

Sprinkler Heads

Sprinkler heads sit in the dirt, people and pets step on them all the time, and lawn mowers and edgers can damage them. They are constantly exposed to expanding & contracting soil and weather events. While high quality heads are designed to resist all of this, general wear and tear happens. One of the most common problems is a clogged nozzle. Sometimes a clog can be cleared by simply using a small tool or brush to clear the obstruction. Other times the nozzle may be irreversibly damaged, so a new one is needed.

If cleaning or replacing the nozzle doesn’t fix the problem, the next place to look is at the actual head. In these cases, your sprinklers might drip water instead of spraying it. Or, no water actually leaves the head, and either a leak forms underground or water flow is interrupted to the rest of the system. That may require you to replace the head altogether.


If there’s a pipe issue, it can keep water from getting to the heads. This will usually stem from leaks or blocks, and both can be located in a number of places. The trained technicians at Andy’s have been fixing sprinkler systems for over 30 years. We know the right place to begin looking and diagnose any and all sprinkler issues. This expertise allows us to isolate the source of the problem and minimize the digging that might ultimately be necessary to fix the pipes. If at any point you think you might have a pipe problem, it’s best to call Andy’s Sprinkler, Drainage and Lighting right away. Leaking pipes can lead to water damage, and that can get out of control very quickly.


Valve problems come in two categories. Like controllers, a valve can be turned off on purpose. Systems have master valves that allow you to turn off the water completely. This is common when performing certain maintenance tasks, so it doesn’t hurt to make sure your system has access to water in the first place.

Aside from a master valve, there are also valves for each zone in the system. These can be harder to access, and are controlled by the electronics attached to your sprinkler. You should not have to manually open these valves, and if they are closed, then you will need an expert to assist with troubleshooting the issue.

Regardless of the reason behind your sprinkler issues, the technicians at Andy’s can find the problem and fix it. While the issues above are the most common, there are many other possibilities as well. When you have sprinkler problems, call Andy’s Sprinkler, Drainage, & Lighting. We’ll be happy to take care of them for you.