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How to Replace a Pop Up Spray Head

There are two ways to go about replacing a faulty spray head, either replace the entire spray body or simply replace the guts of the existing spray.

Replacing the guts is a quick fix if the casing is not damaged and unit will be replaced with the exact same model. Simply unscrew the top of the spray head and insert the new spray guts into the existing spray body.

Replacing the guts of the spray will eliminate digging the spray completely out of the ground. Instead dig just slightly deeper than the top section of the spray cap. Keep in mind that you need to use the same brand and model to replace the guts or interior contents of the spray body.

If your intention is to replace the faulty spray with a different brand, model or size you may run into problems between the difference in height between the exisiting spray and replacement spray. If the new spray is taller or shorter than the spray you are replacing it will sit too low or too high in the ground (ex. replacing a 4" shrub with a 12" spray). Even if you are replacing the spray with the same size spray using a different manufacturer or a different model you still may run across enough of a height difference to cause a problem with the spray's position in the ground. Enough of a difference to cause problems mowing the lawn etc...

If a swing joint was used to connect the spray to the pipe much of this will not be of concern because the swing joint will allow flexibility in your placement of the spray in the ground. If the spray body is connected directly to the pipe fitting and the replacement spray body is positioned incorrectly you can add a swing joint to correct the height discrepancy or attach a cut-off nipple.

A cut-off nipple is a threaded fitting that is attached between the spray and the pipe fitting on the pipe in the ground. Pieces can be cut-off using a pipe cutter to allow you to position the spray at the correct height. A swing joint will allow you more flexibility than a cut-off nipple becasue if you cut the cut-off nipple too short the cut-off nipple is no longer functional and must be replaced and re-cut using a brand new cut-off nipple. You can always save the incorrectly cut-off nipple for future use... but who needs the clutter. Another added feature which makes a swing joint appealing is it's flexibilty and durability. If you run over a spray head with a lawn mower or a car and have used a swing joint the risk of damaging the pipe or fitting in the ground is not really an issue becasue the material is flexible.

To replace the spray with an entirely different spray (model, size, or brand)...simply unscrew the entire faulty unit and screw in the new spray model.
To replace just the spray guts of your existing spray...simply unscrew the top of the faulty unit and screw in the new spray guts into the existing spray casing. Note: the same spray brand and model must be used.

Steps to Replace a Spray Head


Anatomy of a Spray

Determine which sprinkler head is at fault. Sometimes it's in an obscure place, and the only symptom is low water pressure for other sprinkler heads. Once you've identified the culprit, purchase the correct replacement head.
Dig out a small section of grass and dirt around the sprinkler head to expose the entire piece. You need to dig only about 6 inches or so. Anything deeper than that will expose the sprinkler lines.
Twist the top off the sprinkler head, which allows you to see the rest of the sprinkler head's components. You may have to gently pull on the head or, if the entire component housing is broken, unscrew the component housing and lift it up out of the ground.
Pull the broken head out of the component housing, unless it's missing, in which case you need to have previously identified what type of spray head you need for the specific area.
Install the new sprinkler head by dropping it into the component housing and screwing the top back on. Don't forget to add a new spray nozzle and filter. Typically spray nozzles are sold seperately. They are inexpensive so purchasing a brand new nozzle makes sense when replacing a spray. You can purchase the same exact nozzle as the one which was on the faulty spray. The goal is to choose a nozzle that covers the pattern and distance which suits the placement of the spray in the yard.
Turn on the sprinkler system to make sure the head sprays properly. If everything is working properly, shovel the dirt and sod back into place.

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