Sprinkler heads make watering your lawn and garden easy. Because of their location at ground level, they can become damaged quite easily thanks to lawnmowers, snow shovels, grass, dirt and any number of things in your yard. They can also become damaged from regular use, wear and tear.
Find the Problem
If you suspect problems with your sprinkler are due to a broken head, you may be right: broken sprinkler heads are common. However, some sprinkler problems don't have anything to do with the head, but are related to operational problems like stuck valves or broken water lines.
If there's a puddle in your yard, it's most likely a broken water line. If the sprinklers are staying on rather than shutting off when they're supposed to, it's most likely not a problem with your sprinkler heads, but with your shut-off valves.
Replace the Sprinkler Head
While you can't really "fix" a broken sprinkler head, you can replace it or clean it of dirt and other clogs. The sprinkler heads are the black or green fixtures that actually spray the water, and are only the delivery method of the system. The damaged head will be the only part of the system that you have to dig up. Turn off the water before you begin replacement.
Dig Around the Head
Dig carefully several inches around the broken head that needs to be "fixed." Take care when you work so you don't accidentally cut through the water line.
Unscrew the Head
Carefully unscrew the sprinkler head and remove it, without removing the riser. Be very careful to avoid getting dirt or any kind of debris into the water line.
Screw in New Head
Screw the replacement head into the riser. Make sure the entire thing is buried deeply enough—only about ½ an inch of the head should be visible above ground level. Adjust as necessary and test the new head before filling the dirt back in.
The riser connects to the water line in the ground and holds up the sprinkler heads. If this is broken from impact with the head, you should be able to just lift the head out with no resistance. You may need a special tool called a nipple extractor to remove the riser. You may be able to get it out with pliers if part is intact.
Install a replacement riser and replace the sprinkler head. Test the spray of the water and then fill in the hole.
Call a Repairman?
Should you call an expert for a broken riser or sprinkler head? You certainly can, but once you determine that broken sprinkler heads or risers are the problem, the entire repair shouldn't take more than 30 minutes (if that) and the cost will probably be around $15. Because sprinkler heads and risers are attached very simply, replacing either of them is something almost anyone can do.