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Troubleshooting: Garbage Disposal

Updated: Mar 26




These are common signs of a garbage disposal not working and what to watch for before fixing a garbage disposal.


· The garbage disposal won’t turn on when you hit the switch.

· The garbage disposal switch is not working.

· The unit is humming but not operating.

· The garbage disposal won’t turn off.

· Puddles of water indicate a leaky garbage disposal.

· Drainage of the disposal is slow or it does not drain at all.




Gather Tools and Materials

You will need a few supplies before beginning your garbage disposal repair task:


· Screwdriver sets

· Hex key

· Garbage disposal wrench

· Flashlight

· Long nosed pliers

· Clamp

· Bucket

· Plunger



Check Electrical Connections

If the disposal shows no activity at all, an electrical problem may be the reason. This is when you’ll have to know how to reset a garbage disposal.


Where is the reset button on a garbage disposal? It is at the bottom of the unit in most cases. Once you locate it, the reset is a relatively simple task.


This is how to reset a garbage disposal once you’ve located the reset button:

· Check if the garbage disposal is plugged in.

· Press the garbage disposal reset button on the bottom of the unit, then try to switch on the unit.

· Check your main electrical panel to see if the circuit breaker to which the device is connected has tripped.

· If none of these solve the problem, the garbage disposal installation wiring needs checking.



Rotate the Impeller Plate

When you switch on the garbage disposal and it produces a low, humming sound, something is keeping the impeller plate or flywheel from turning. The humming means the motor is running even as the disposal is not operating. If it goes on for too long, the motor can burn out unless it trips the circuit breaker.


You must manually rotate the impeller to get it moving again.


· Turn off the disposal and unplug the unit. If the disposal is hardwired to the home, shut off the circuit breaker the controls it at the panel.

· Use the garbage disposal wrench and insert it into the flywheel turning hole at the bottom of the unit. Turn the wrench clockwise to free the stuck impeller or flywheel.

· You could use a wooden object like a spoon handle to reach into the disposal through the drain opening and dislodge the stuck impeller plate.



Rotate the Blades

The blades attached to the impeller plate can get stuck over time. When the blades fail to work properly, food waste can clog the sink and prevent water from draining.

The blades attached to the impeller plate can get stuck over time. When the blades fail to work properly, food waste can clog the sink and prevent water from draining.

· Unclog the kitchen sink by clearing standing water with a plunger or by bailing the sink out and pouring the excess water into a bucket.

· If you have a dishwasher, prevent dirty water from backflowing into the dishwasher line by attaching a clamp to the flexible part of the drain line.

· Insert the hex key (also called an Allen wrench) into the blade access hole at the bottom of the garbage disposal.

· Turn the hex key back and forth to rotate the blades until you feel the clog break up and the blades move more freely.




Here’s what not to put into a garbage disposal:


· Cooking fats, grease and oils. They are tough for a disposal to break down and if they do, the fat and grease can go through the drain and clog the pipes.

· Large bones, fruit seeds and cores, fibrous plant scraps and raw vegetables. This solid food waste can dislodge the internal seals and grinding blades.

· Rice, pasta and other starchy food scraps. They can clump together and keep your sink from draining properly.

· Shrimp and seafood shells.

· Large portions of meat. The remnants from grinding can line the interior walls of the garbage disposal and smell over time.

· Coffee grounds. They can clog your sink over time.

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