My lawn has an underground sprinkler system. Many of the heads are old, leaking, and hard to adjust. So I've been swapping them with Rainbird 5000 series heads. They look like this:

enter image description here

Here's the thing. These things are impossible to dig up by hand. I spent 3 hours last night replacing 3 of these. They just screw off of the valve beneath them, counter clockwise, but can be a little stiff. I had to use one of those neat grippy jar opener things to get the 3 off, and my hands are now trashed.

The head, as you can see in the picture, has a texture. There must be some wrench or tool that works to quickly grip and twist these things off, without having to dig like crazy all around them in the yard (destroying the lawn in the process).

What tool would work for this? What tool is best for this?

  • These have the plastic threads? To be honest, I've never had a problem! Usually grass has overgrown that has to be pulled out, or a brick/slab has to be removed, but never the excavations shown in the photo below. Why are they jamming? Were they over-tightened in the first place?
    – winwaed
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 13:47
  • @winwaed installed long before we moved in, so I suspect just over-tightened and old.
    – Haney
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 14:19

3 Answers 3


There are a few tools available to help you with this process.

I would suggest getting a donut sod cutter or a Sprinkler Head removal tool.

They're designed to cut a small hole around the sprinkler head to allow easier access without having to dig up a big area around the head.

sod cutter

You can also get a sprinkler head wrench to help free the head from the pipe.

sprinkler head wrench

You could get away without having the wrench if you have access to a pair of channellocks, but, the right tool for the job always makes things easier.

note: images are from Amazon and Home Depot

  • 1
    Worth noting, I went with a strap wrench since it was the cheapest option. We'll see how it pans out in a few days. :)
    – Haney
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 21:07
  • 1
    @Haney I don't see why it wouldn't work.. Hell, if you can unscrew an oil filter with one why not a sprinkler head :)
    – matt.
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 21:10

A Strap Wrench would be the generic approach to this (intended as an example of the type, not a specific recommendation of brand or store) (and in my usual process of answer the question then read other answers and comments, I see that's what you did in a comment - If you'd like to post that as an answer I can get rid of this one):

strap wrench

If you don't care about the ones you are removing (because you are removing them to replace them) Chain Locking Pliers would also be an option - more robust, more prone to damaging or marking what they are used on (intended as an example of the type, not a specific recommendation of brand or store):

chain locking pliers


I dig out enough earth around them to get my hands in there for better leverage. I dig a wider hole about half way down the head then grab and twist.

But your local hardware store, or sprinkler store should have a special tool.

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