We’ve spoken many times on this blog about the different problems that impact valves and ways to remedy the issues. However, we want to focus on specific equipment complications that, while common, require unique solutions. To ensure your irrigation system and its components remain functional and efficient, here are eight check valve troubleshooting tips everyone should know. Read on to learn more about the various mechanical challenges and outside factors that wear down your equipment. Additionally, be prepared for any possible complication by picking up new plumbing skills and knowledge!

Leaks and Ruptures

You might have a leak if you notice your irrigation system’s performance dipping. However, most instances of leakage are fairly easy to spot and diagnose. Often, these issues stem from a damaged gasket or loose bolt—damaged flappers are also common culprits. Regardless, it’s essential that you test the true cause of this problem by tightening bolts and replacing broken or damaged parts and components. Remember that even check valves that appear in good condition on the outside might suffer from corrosion and other mechanical issues the more you investigate.

Physical Check Valve Damage

Another common problem you’ll encounter is physically damaged valve checks. For instance, you may notice corrosion, cracking materials, dents caused by vibrations (a sign of a failing check valve), and normal wear and tear. Unfortunately, there’s no "quick fix" solution for a physically damaged valve—these components rely on their specific design to properly regulate water flow in your irrigation system. As such, we highly recommend replacing this component immediately. Consider consulting a professional plumbing business to help find the perfect product and properly install your new equipment.

Obstructions and Debris

As with any form of plumbing, pumps and valves develop debris buildup over time. When left unmonitored, these foreign objects obstruct water flow and cause massive problems for your system overall. In relation to your check valves, debris buildup can interfere with the mechanisms and impede proper function. For instance, mud and chemicals leave behind thick residue, making it harder for check valves to open and close.

Small objects can lodge into important components, too, causing additional operational issues for your entire system. What’s the best method for managing debris accumulation? Routine cleaning! We recommend thoroughly cleaning your check valves at least once a year—this ensures superior longevity and reduces the likelihood of future problems.

Water Hammer Phenomenon

Unless you’re very well-versed in the plumbing world, you might be unfamiliar with the term water hammer. This phenomenon occurs when fast-moving fluids are abruptly stopped or reversed inside pipes. The resulting shockwave increases pressure throughout water lines, often producing violent crashing and banging noises audible from the outside of the piping. This borderline explosion stresses your entire plumbing system, compounding over time and causing misalignment, ruptures, and more. Water hammer also leads to corrosive damage to surrounding infrastructure and, in some situations, causes fatal bursts.

But what is the catalyst for the water hammer? Often, the main culprit is a loose check valve that opens and closes irregularly or improperly. Specifically, it’s the force produced by a sudden shutting motion that creates the shockwave. Certain valve designs (such as ones with disk or swing gates) are more susceptible to this phenomenon, but simply flushing out old systems, monitoring pressure, and conducting regular inspections is enough to prevent water hammer. Furthermore, consider installing pressure reducers, regulators, and air chambers throughout your plumbing system. Lastly, replace any damaged check valves to ensure proper functionality and movement.

"Sticky Valves"

Check valves require a low-friction environment to operate smoothly and properly. In fact, many of the common issues on this list, such as water hammer and backflow, are due to "sticky" mechanics. Basically, valves perform less efficiently when more friction is present. Aside from causing operational problems, the added friction also accelerates normal wear and tear tremendously. Luckily, fixing and preventing sticky valves is as easy as regularly lubricating your equipment. This preventive measure takes almost no time at all, and commercial-grade lubricants are typically very affordable. Consider ordering and installing a replacement irrigation check valve if lubrication doesn’t resolve your sticky valves.

Improper Installation

Perhaps you’ve gone over this entire troubleshooting guide, identified potential problems, implemented the necessary solutions, and are still seeing negative results—what gives? Chances are your check valves and other plumbing equipment were improperly installed, leading to constant issues. It’s essential that the right-sized check valves are used in conjunction with the right application to ensure the best installation process. This might seem obvious, but even slightly larger or smaller valves will cause problems for your entire system.

Additionally, sloppy installation often leads to losing equipment, which is more likely to misalign during normal function or during the water hammer phenomenon. If you decide to set up your pumps and install check valves, instead of hiring a professional, ensure you spend time and attention on the process to provide the most successful application. Consult with a plumbing company to receive expert care and knowledge when in doubt.


The plumbing term “backflow” describes water flowing reversely through piping. This undesired flow direction poses a massive threat to your pump, related system mechanisms, and the general public‘s health. Backflowing water can sometimes contain agricultural runoff, such as pesticides and other chemicals, debris, human and animal waste, and other contaminants.

Backflow preventers are used to stop backpressure backflow and backsiphonage by using valves to regulate the water flow direction. Backflow is more likely to occur when the check valves are compromised. We highly recommend reaching out to a professional plumbing business when identifying and fixing backflow prevention problems. They can work with you and your local regulations to ensure your irrigation system is fully protected.

Everyone should know the basics of identifying and resolving various plumbing issues related to their irrigation systems. At the very least, understanding these eight check valve troubleshooting tips allows you to communicate your needs better when consulting with professional contractors for assistance or ordering the correct parts online. If you require help with your irrigation check valves or simply need high-quality replacement parts, feel free to contact our friendly team at Rural Water Direct!