Valves can malfunction in various ways so it is not uncommon to need to find them. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find buried irrigation system automatic solenoid valves. Therefore, if you are about to do some extensive searching, here are some basic tips that may help you.
Often, but not always, sprinkler valves are located near either the irrigation controller or the water source to the system, and this is the 1st place you should look. If the sprinkler timer is in the garage, follow the station control wires outside and look where they enter the ground. If you know where your backflow device is, start looking on the upstream side of the unit
Probing for the Valve
The way you are going to look is to use a long screwdriver. Slowly and gently push the screw driver into the ground. The wires will follow the sprinkler pipes, hence the need for patience. Carelessly stabbing the ground will almost certainly lead to a broken pipe. What we are looking for is a valve box. The tops of these plastic lidded boxes are much closer to the surface than the pipes and wires, and tend to make a hollow “thunk” sound when probed with the screwdriver.
Another place the valves are often located in on the corners of the home, especially the back corners. These areas should be probed as well.
Uncovering the Lawn Sprinkler Valve
Once you have found the valve you will need to dig it up. First “pop” the lid off with a shovel if you can’t remove it by hand. Sometimes you may be fortunate and will find the valve cleanly in the box. Normally however, over time dirt fill the box and the valve will need to be carefully exhumed. Always be prepared to find a critters like spiders and snakes inside the box when you open it. An electric solenoid valve has a wire that is attached to it and it would be very easy to cut through the wire with your shovel. These wires are very hard to repair once they have been cut.
If you are not careful when digging around a valve that has a solenoid you could damage both the valve and the solenoid. Therefore, just dig slowly and easily when searching for a sprinkler system valve. One of the best items to use for this procedure is a hand trowel. Another method is to use a blast of water from your garden hose. The water will loosen the dirt around any wires and valves. This is where a good shop vac comes in handy!