Garbage disposal not working? As an engineer passionate about the 6 Rs of sustainability, I always attempt to repair appliances before eventually replacing them.
A very common issue that more than 90% of the time can be easily fixed is when the garbage disposal is not working, humming, not spinning, making no sound, clogged, leaking, or in need of a reset after overheating. In this post, I’ll share some simple DIY tips and tricks I use for troubleshooting garbage disposal problems.
Table Of Contents
Garbage Disposal Not Working
If your garbage disposal stopped working or is humming, there are several possible reasons: it could be due to a clog, a malfunctioning switch, a burnt-out motor, or another issue.
To troubleshoot the issue: first, ensure that the unit is receiving power and that the circuit breaker is not tripped. Next, try resetting the disposal by pressing the reset button or manually turning the blades. If that does not work, check for a clog by using pliers or an Allen wrench to rotate the blades and remove any debris. If the issue persists, it may require professional repairs or replacement.
Now, let’s look more in detail at how to fix a garbage disposal step by step!
I’m going to order those tips from the most simple to the more complex troubleshooting you can perform DIY. So you don’t have to waste time attempting something complicated if the problem has a simple solution.
Keeping safe is of the utmost importance when dealing with garbage disposal repair. To start, do not work on the unit when it is powered on, so disconnect the power to fix a garbage disposal. So, please follow those recommendations before performing any upkeep:
- Unplug the device beforehand.
- Always wear protective gloves to keep your hands safe from harm.
- Don’t use any chemicals in the garbage disposal, because those could then hurt you or the plumber/handyman when attempting to fix the unit.
How To Fix Your Garbage Disposal
Before you start fixing your garbage disposal, it’s essential to understand how it works. A garbage disposal grinder has a power cord connected to an electrical outlet and a mount that connects to the sink drain. The unit has a circular spinning plate with two or more impellers that grind the waste and send it down the drain line.
While garbage disposals are convenient, they can be dangerous if you don’t take the necessary precautions before fixing or attempting to troubleshoot them.
Step 1. Not Humming? Check If The Unit Has Any Power
Your garbage disposal is making no sound? If your garbage disposal is not making any noise (humming) or grinding, then the first thing to check is if the unit is getting power. Here are a few steps to follow if the garbage disposal won’t turn on:
A. Check the Outlet
Unplug the garbage disposal from the outlet and test another device in the power socket. If the other device doesn’t work, you’ll know the garbage disposal is not getting power.
B. Check the Circuit Breaker in your electrical panel
If the outlet doesn’t have any power, the next step is to check the circuit breaker. The breaker may have tripped, causing the disposal to lose power. You can reset it to fix the problem. Here’s how to do it:
- Find the circuit breaker box in your house.
- Locate the breaker labeled for the garbage disposal and flip it all the way off and then back on again to reset it.
If the garbage disposal has power but it is still not working, then unplug it again and remove power from it, then proceed with step 2!
Step 2. Humming but Not Turning? Resetting the Unit
If your garbage disposal hums but does not grind, then there’s likely a jam or a bad motor that’s preventing the unit from working. But the first thing to check is if the nit needs a reset.
Many people don’t know that their garbage disposal has a reset button. If the garbage disposal overheats, it can trigger a safety switch that will block its movement, so try resetting the unit by following these steps:
- Press the Reset Button: Under the garbage disposal is a red reset button. Press this button to reset the garbage disposal.
- Try turning it on again and check if it works.
If it’s still not working, then proceed with the next step.
Step 3. Remove Obstructions
If the reset button doesn’t work, there may be something stuck in the garbage disposal. Before attempting any repairs, make sure the power is disconnected, and follow these steps:
- Turn off the power.
- Use a flashlight to locate the blockage. The disc with the little blade is the area where objects get stuck in the disposal unit.
- Use a pair of pliers or tongs to remove the debris. Common items that get stuck in the disposal unit include glass chips, aquarium rocks, soda can lids, pieces of metal, and more.
Step 4. Dislodge the Obstruction
If you can’t see the obstruction, use a wrench to turn the disc and dislodge the item. Follow these steps:
- Turn off the power to avoid any accidents.
- Insert the Allen key into the hole in the center of the bottom of the garbage disposal.
- Work the wrench back and forth until it moves freely. This should dislodge the obstruction.
- If you can’t move the wrench, then put a bit of dish soap in the garbage disposal, then open the hot water and keep trying to rotate the wrench back and forth. The hot water should help you to dislodge the obstruction and the soap should act as a lubricant.
- When you are able to turn the wrench, then go back to the previous step and remove from the garbage disposal all the materials and debris that were causing the obstruction.
Remove the unit from the sink if you are unable to look inside
If you can’t see well enough what’s inside the garbage disposal from the sink, then you will have to take the unit apart. This will require some work, but overall it is quite easy to do. Here’s how to do it:
- Turn off the power: this can be done by unplugging the unit from the electrical outlet or turning off the circuit breaker that provides power to the unit.
- Place a bucket under the drain trap and garbage disposal unit.
- Disconnect the drain pipes: locate the two drain lines that are attached to the disposal and disconnect them from the unit. This involves loosening the nuts that secure the pipes to the disposal and pulling the pipes away from the unit. A wrench may be required to loosen the nuts.
- Remove the eventual dishwasher drain line.
- Remove the disposal from the mounting assembly: the disposal is mounted to the sink using a mounting assembly that consists of a ring and several screws. Don’t remove the vertical screws, instead, use a screwdriver to rotate the ring while supporting the garbage disposal with the other hand. Once the ring is unscrewed, the disposal can be removed from the mounting assembly.
Now you should be able to easily inspect your garbage disposal, so, grab your flashlight and have a look inside for any debris. Inspect especially the grinder around the internal circumference of the unit as this is where things tend to get stuck the most.
Once you removed the debris and anything else that could jam the unit, you are ready to put the garbage disposal back in its place. To remount the unit, first, connect it back to the sink mounting point, then reconnect the drain pipes.
Make sure to tighten the nuts securely to prevent any leaks.
One of the most common issues with garbage disposal is a clogged drain. If you turn on the disposal and water starts to back up into the sink, or if the water doesn’t drain at all, then there’s likely a clog in the system.
This generally happens when there too much food waste was thrown into the garbage disposal at once.
To clear out a clog, you’ll need to first unplug the garbage disposal.
- Remove any standing water from the sink. Then, using a flashlight, look down into the disposal to see if you can spot any visible clogs or debris. You can then use pliers or tongs to remove any material you see.
- Once you have removed any visible debris present, turn on the water and switch on the garbage disposal to test if the drain has been unclogged.
- If it seems like the drain is still blocked, try utilizing a powerful All-Purpose Plunger to dislodge any obstruction hindering the water from draining properly.
- In the unlikely event that these approaches don’t work, it would be best to seek assistance from a professional plumber to clear the blockage and restore the drain’s functionality.
Fix a Leaking garbage Disposal
If you notice that your garbage disposal is leaking, then it’s important to address the issue as soon as possible. Here are the steps to follow to fix leaking garbage disposal:
- Unplug the garbage disposal to prevent any risk of electric shock.
- Clear out any water and debris from underneath the sink area.
- Once everything is clear, inspect the unit to locate the source of the leak.
- Once you’ve found the source, either replace the damaged part or call a professional plumber to make repairs.
If you prefer to try repairing the garbage disposal leak by yourself, then follow those steps:
Step 1: Disconnect the Plumbing
The first step is to disconnect the plumbing. Here’s how to do it:
- Disconnect the drain line and any hose that connects the disposal to the sink.
- Remove any plastic knobs that hold the drain pipe to the garbage disposal.
Step 2: Remove the Top Cover
After disconnecting the plumbing, remove the top cover of the garbage disposal to access the damage.
Step 3: Identify the Damage
Check the garbage disposal for any signs of wear and tear. If you notice any cracks or damage, it’s time to replace the unit.
Step 4: Fix the damage
If the damage is minor, repair it with a patch kit or epoxy. However, if the damage is significant, it’s best to replace the unit.
Step 5: Re-mount the Disposal
Now, re-mount the garbage disposal following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 6: Reconnect the Plumbing
Finally, reconnect the plumbing and check for leaks before use.
Tools and Materials Needed
When performing maintenance on your garbage disposal, you’ll need a few basic tools and materials. Here are some items you should have on hand:
- Professional Plunger
- Pliers or Tongs
- Hex Key
- Towels or cloths to soak up water and debris
To keep your garbage disposal in good working order, you should clean it regularly.
First, be sure to run cold water when using your disposal to flush out any remaining waste. You can also toss a few ice cubes down the disposal to help sharpen the blades. And, to help keep odors at bay, grind up some citrus peels or a bit of baking soda in the unit once a month.
How to tell if my garbage disposal motor is broken?
To determine if your garbage disposal motor is burnt out, you should check for signs of overheating such as a burning smell or smoke. In addition, if the disposal won’t turn on or functions erratically, it could indicate a burnt-out motor. It’s important to troubleshoot the issue by resetting the motor or breaker and checking for clogs or obstructions. If the disposal continues to have issues even after these steps, it may require professional repair or replacement.
What is preventing my garbage disposal motor from starting?
If your garbage disposal isn’t working, it could be due to electrical issues or a clog in the system. Check for any signs of a burning smell or smoke, as this could indicate a damaged motor. Trying to reset the disposal by locating the reset button or flipping the GFCI switch may help restore functionality, but if it still won’t turn on, there may be a more serious issue at hand. A professional may need to be called in to diagnose and fix the problem.
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Is the garbage disposal not working? No worries! While it may seem like a daunting issue, there are plenty of quick fixes you can try before calling in the professionals. From checking for clogs to resetting the unit, you’ll be surprised at how easy it can be to get your disposal up and running in no time!
So, the next time you find yourself with a garbage disposal that’s not working, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and follow the simple DIY tips and tricks in this blog post. Who knows, you might even surprise yourself with your handyman skills!
In this way you can avoid having to replace the unit, saving money and being more sustainable. If you are eco-conscious, it’s important to try repairing and reusing things instead of disposing of them. Finally, if by any chance you have to dispose of your broken garbage disposal, make sure to recycle the scrap metal, copper cables, and every other material that you can!