How to Find Sprinkler Valves


A sprinkler system reduces the time spent watering the lawn or garden by hand. Control valves are a major part of the system that need to be accessible after installation. The controller opens and closes these valves to allow the sprinklers to water. Sometimes during installation, the valves are buried in the ground without access. In these cases, the valves can difficult to find if they require repair.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Wire locator
  • Ground-marking paint
  • Shovel
  • Locate the controller for the system. Most installers will place the controller in a utility room or outdoors.

  • Remove the cover for the control wire connections. This panel is usually located where the wires enter the controller. In most cases, the panel will be on the bottom of the controller, but may be on the back. Check the owner's manual for the location.

  • Remove the red wire from the first terminal with the screwdriver. This wire may be black or white in some cases.

  • Attach the positive lead from the wire ringer to the wire removed in the previous step. The wire ringer is the small box that comes with the locator. This box uses pulses of electricity to create a sound the locator can "hear."

  • Attach the negative lead from the ringer to the ground wire from the system. The negative lead for the ringer may have a metal rod on the end. In this case, the metal rod is pressed into the ground.

  • Turn the ringer on.

  • Turn on the hand-held locator.

  • Use a sweeping motion while walking on the lawn until the locator finds the wire. Mark the spot with the ground-marking paint.

  • Walk a circle 3 feet around the mark, still sweeping with the locator until the locator finds the wire a second time. Mark the location.

  • Continue sweeping with the locator along the path of the wire, marking the wire's location every 3 feet. Continue until the locator cannot find the wire anymore. The last spot marked should be the location of the valve.

  • Use the shovel to dig at the last location. Most valves are buried 1 foot below the surface to prevent freezing.

  • Repeat steps 3 through 11 to locate all the valves.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure to read the manual for the locator for proper settings and use.
  • You can obtain wire locators from most equipment rental companies.
  • Make sure to ask the rental location for instructions on how use the locator you're renting.
  • Set the controller to the "rain" setting before starting this process.

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  • Photo Credit Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images
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