How to Turn a Lawn Sprinkler System Back on in the Spring


With spring here, it’s time to get your lawn sprinkler system up and running again to keep your grass green and healthy through the warmer months ahead. Turning a sprinkler system back on after winterizing it in the fall can seem daunting, but it’s actually a straightforward process that anyone can handle with a little preparation and know-how.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through all the steps involved in safely bringing your lawn sprinkler system out of winter hibernation so it’s ready to water your yard again this season. We’ll cover winterization prep, charging the system, checking for leaks, programming the controller, and any other tips to ensure your system is providing optimal coverage. With a bit of time and effort, you’ll have your sprinklers back in service and your lawn looking lush again in no time.

Safety Precautions

Before getting started, there are some basic safety precautions to take when reactivating your sprinkler system:

  • Use caution around electrics – Be careful when working near any electrical connections or the system control box. Turn off power first.
  • Beware of pressurized water – Water pressure built up over winter can lead to leaks if not handled properly. Release pressure slowly and carefully.
  • Watch for slip hazards – Work areas may still be wet and muddy, so wear appropriate non-slip footwear.
  • Have help available – In case of any issues, have another person around for assistance or to get supplies.

Taking these simple precautions will help ensure the process goes smoothly and safely.

Charging the System

The first step is getting water flowing back through the system after months of disuse. Here’s how to safely reintroduce water pressure:

Locate Water Shut-off Valve

  • The main water shut-off valve for your sprinkler system is usually located near the front of your home where the main water line enters from the street.
  • Make sure this valve is completely closed before proceeding, cutting off water supply to the system.

Open End Caps

  • At the end of each irrigation line, remove any end caps installed during winterization to seal the pipes.
  • Store end caps in a safe place to reuse again for winterizing in the fall.

Slowly Turn on Water

  • Gradually turn the main shut-off valve counter-clockwise to open and allow water back into the system.
  • Open the valve fully once all lines are pressurized.
  • Turn water on slowly to avoid excessive strain and leaks from the sudden pressure.

Check for Leaks

  • With the system fully pressurized, walk around and carefully inspect all areas for any leaks: at pipe joints, sprinkler heads, valves, etc.
  • Make repairs immediately if any leaks are found before continuing.

Now that water is flowing freely through the entire system again, it’s time to check the components.

Inspecting Components

It’s important to do a thorough inspection of all system components before use each spring. Here’s what to look for:

Sprinkler Heads

  • Examine each head carefully and confirm nothing is blocking outlets, including mud, debris, insects, etc.
  • Check that spray nozzles are intact and clear of any obstructions.
  • Adjust or replace any damaged heads.


  • Open valve boxes and clear out any dirt or debris accumulated over winter.
  • Manually turn valves on briefly to ensure proper operation and water flows through.
  • Listen for unusual sounds that could indicate damaged valves in need of repair.


  • Locate filters protecting the sprinkler valves and pumps.
  • Open housings and clean out mesh screens or filter media inside.
  • Replace filter cartridges if very dirty.

Timers and Sensors

  • Inspect clock timers, ensure correct time is set, and confirm proper operation.
  • Check soil moisture sensors or rain sensors are clear of debris and functioning.
  • Replace old batteries in any timers or sensors to maintain optimal performance.

Taking time to check over these components will help identify any issues needing correction before running the system again.

Programming the Controller

With the plumbing and hardware inspected and repaired if needed, it’s time to reset your system’s programming:

  • Turn timer or controller on and ensure it powers up properly.
  • Reset current date and time if needed so schedules run as intended.
  • Review programmed watering schedules and make any adjustments based on weather or plant water needs.
  • The previous fall’s settings may need increased run times and frequency as temperatures warm.
  • Clear any error codes or faults from the system’s history.
  • Run a brief test cycle for each zone to confirm all are operating correctly.
  • Make timing or scheduling changes as needed until coverage is optimal.

Reprogramming the sprinkler controller each spring will ensure the system provides abundant moisture for thriving, green grass all season long.

First Full Watering Cycle

Once you’ve completed inspection and programming, it’s time for that important first complete watering cycle:

  • Verify all zones run and no leaks exist as water flows through the entire system, zone by zone.
  • Inspect sprinkler operation closely as each area runs – adjust heads or timers as needed.
  • Allow the full watering schedule to complete a cycle from start to finish.
  • Check for ponding or runoff in any sections that could indicate problems with heads or excessive watering times.
  • Make note of any remaining adjustments needed.

Completing this first full watering session confirms your system is ready for another season keeping your lawn properly hydrated.

Ongoing Maintenance

To keep your sprinkler system operating optimally all season long, follow these maintenance practices:

  • Periodically inspect components for any leaks or malfunctions needing repair.
  • Clean filters, screens and sensors throughout the season to prevent buildup.
  • Monitor lawn health and adjust watering durations or frequency as weather dictates.
  • Drain and winterize the system again in fall to protect it from freezing temperatures.

By providing your sprinklers a little TLC with regular upkeep, you’ll help ensure years of reliable service.

FAQs: Turning Sprinklers Back On

How do I know when it’s safe to turn my sprinklers back on in spring?

Wait until overnight temperatures stay reliably above freezing before reactivating your system – soil needs to thaw and the threat of freezing pipes has passed.

What if my sprinkler valves won’t turn on?

Verify the water supply is on and pressurized. Then check valve internals and solenoids for debris or corrosion needing cleaned out and repaired.

Why does my lawn have dry spots after turning sprinklers on?

Dry spots usually indicate a problem with that area’s sprinkler head or coverage – inspect nozzles, adjust the pattern or replace the head if necessary.

Can I turn my drip irrigation system on at the same time as the sprinklers?

Yes, although the lower pressure drip lines involve a somewhat different reactivation process. Inspect drip emitters and flush lines thoroughly before use.

How can I make reactivating my sprinkler system easier next year?

Keep detailed notes on any repairs required and programming changes made this year for reference when reopening the system next spring.

What is the best way to manage my sprinkler schedule?

Use a smart controller that adjusts durations and timing automatically based on weather and lawn conditions to maintain healthy grass with no wasted water.


While it takes a bit of work, bringing a lawn sprinkler system out of winter dormancy is a straightforward process. With some basic safety preparation, inspection of components, resetting of programming, and testing of coverage, you can have your system back up and running smoothly again just in time for spring growing season. Following the best practices outlined here will ensure your sprinklers are providing the moisture your lawn needs to thrive with no fussy leaks or malfunctions to frustrate your watering efforts this year. So get your system back online and enjoy a lush, vibrant yard all season long!