Help! My system won’t shut off!

The sprinklers are running for some reason when they’re not supposed to and you’ve tried everything. You’ve turned off your controller. You’ve unplugged your controller. You’ve ripped the controller off the wall and smashed it with a baseball bat and still those sprinklers are going!

You have a stuck zone valve. A piece of debris is stuck inside preventing the rubber diaphragm from closing.  This is ususally dirt,  rocks, and pipe shards that get in the mainline if there’s a break. I will normally find the last valve on the mainline and open it up to flush it after a mainline repair.

Okay, so we know shutting off the controller didn’t work. So you need to go shut off the sprinkler mainline. Just like you should have a red wrench thingy by your gas meter for emergency shut off, you should know where your sprinkler main shut off is and have a valve key if necessary to shut this off. You DO have that gas wrench, right? You HAVE changed your smoke alarm batteries and have three days  of food and water ready RIGHT?? Well if not, you better ask your sprinkler guy to show you where and how to do this. After shutting the water off, call your trusty sprinkler guy to figure out the problem.

If you have an older system with hidden or buried valve boxes, or a mature landscape that has obscured them- have your sprinkler guy locate ALL of them. You want to know where they all are BEFORE something like this happens. You wouldn’t want to own a car with a hood that didn’t open. Valves periodically need to be serviced. Moving parts wear out- just like your car.


See that rock there inside the valve on the left? It’s a good thing I installed that red shutoff valve there on the right. I can shut off the mainline and flush the valve right here, instead of running back and forth to the main shut off. You can see here I’ve flushed the valve, but that pesky rock is stuck in the intake channel of the valve. Gonna need  a tool.

This handy Rainbird pop up tool is designed to hold sprayhead risers in place for nozzling. It also works great for getting into tight spaces and tweezing out rocks. Remember playing Operation as a kid? Butterfingahs!

Aha! After much swearing I have extracted the errant pebble, and berated my co-worker to tears for not working clean enough.

I always wondered as a kid what if the kids told that woman, “NO, YOU CAN’T PLAY, STUPID GROWN-UP! GET LOST!”


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