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Garbage Disposal Repair – The Complete Problems & Solutions Guide14 min read

Garbage Disposal Repair – The Complete Problems & Solutions Guide14 min read

How to Easily Fix a Garbage Disposal & Save Money

I know it’s not pleasant when water doesn’t drain. I know how it feels.  What’s the issue? Garbage disposal clogged, jammed, not draining or leaking?  Just following this garbage disposal (Insinkerator) guide. 

This guide is all you need to quickly diagnose and repair most garbage disposal problems.

The vast majority of homeowners resort to a plumber the moment the garbage disposal doesn’t work, or if it does act weird. 

I am particularly guilty of that until I called a plumber friend of mine to walk me through diagnosis and repair.  

What I heard from him is that 8 out of 10 calls with a garbage disposal problem can be dealt with by the homeowner, saving anywhere between $150 and $200.

Common Garbage Disposal Problems & Troubleshooting

Like with anything home, proper maintenance of garbage disposal will keep you out of trouble.  A few other times it’s the user issue that would cause the trouble.

If you are new to tackling the garbage disposal then you are in for a pleasant surprise. You will know and be able to easily correct the most common issues.

This is what you will encounter most of the time.

  • Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On (or) Not Working (no sound or noise)
  • Garbage Disposal Humming
  • No Power (or) Wall Switch for Garbage Disposal Not Working 
  • Jammed Garbage Disposal
  • Garbage Disposal Reset button Doesn’t Work
  • Garbage Disposal Draining Slowly
  • Garbage Disposal Not Draining
  • Disposal Grinds Poorly
  • Leaking Garbage Disposal

 Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On ( no sound)

There are a couple of reasons for this.  If you are lucky you can get it back to work. If not the chances are your garbage disposal is shot and need to be replaced.

Don’t worry even then they cost between $100 and $300. Not very expensive.

Most common is when you overload the disposal with more trash than it can handle.  With any overloading, the motor wouldn’t have enough power to grind and so it stops and shuts down.

You may have stuffed so much that it actually got jammed.  Check “How to Unjam” section to rectify this simple problem.

Simply after removing the load and making the disposal clean, you should reset the popped out button. Make sure your motor is not overheated and if so leave it sit for 15 minutes to cool it off before running the garbage disposal.

If after all these you still don’t have it running and don’t hear a hum or any noise, then check for power supply. 

You know the power is there, and the reset button is in the compressed position and the shredder plate is turning freely (i.e. no jam), then you may have a defective unit. Or it is shot.

Contact manufacturer if you are under warranty.

How to Fix Garbage Disposal Humming Problem

When your garbage disposal’s impeller arm and the shredder can’t turn freely and it stuck you get a constant hum.

This is by far the most common problem.  I went out of country locking my house for 2 straight months. 

It was peak summer so the sludge, grime and whatever were inside the garbage disposal just dried.  Apparently my builder was sloppy to put in a ⅓ HP in there. 

Not having enough torque and a completely dried residual trash inside the garbage disposal just kept it stuck and it was humming.   My wife, an uninformed one, kept running, not knowing the difference between humming and a grinding sound. 

The solution, in this case, is to clean the inside well… But how? Well, we’ll see…

The first step with any sharp objects is to seek safety, so unplug the disposal or turn off the switch and make sure no electricity to the garbage disposal.

Never insert your arm inside.  Blades aren’t sharp, so it’s probably not going to chop your fingers, however, even a ⅓ HP motor is enough to cause an injury. 

Step 1: Pour Hot Water and Let it Soak

Hot water is a good cure. It melts any solid fat or oil. If it doesn’t drain after 10 minutes, spread lavish baking soda and pour vinegar inside the chamber so it starts loosening the dried residue. 

Repeat the hot water treatment and see if it drains.

Allen Wrench Hole and Reset Button underneath insinkerator garbage disposal

Step 2: Use an Allen Wrench

Find a hole located at the center of the baes (right next to the reset button). Get the right size Allen wrench, insert in that hole and try to move it back and forth. Perform until the wrench turns the assembly easily. This is considered unjamming the garbage disposal unit.

Step 3: Reset the Trip Button Under the Disposal Unit

Check whether the trip switch located below your disposal unit is tripped. If you see the red button popped up then you need to push it. This is considered a restart or reset.

Step 4: Clear Any Stuck Objects

If you can’t get the wrench to move, there is something heavy that is stuck inside.  You need to get a flashlight and look into the drain (hole in the sink) by moving the splash guard flange as necessary.

If you see any silverware or any objects stuck it’s simple.  Get a needle nose plier and remove the object. You may want to wiggle back and forth to loosen the object that is stuck.

Step 5: Turn on the Garbage Disposal

Turn the disposal unit.  By now you shouldn’t see the unit humming. Repeat the process once again if you find it humming.

No Power (or) Wall Switch for Garbage Disposal Not Working

You need to get a tester to trouble a no power issue.

There can be two common issues and they are relatively easy to work with. 

If there is any kind of power spike, the breaker in the breaker box will trip.  You must first confirm that the break is turned on. You may optionally turn it off and then turn it back on.

No use a power tester to see if you get the power.  I use a non-contact power tester. It’s extremely safe as I don’t have to touch any live wire.

Once you have confirmed the breaker is fine and the power is on, you should test the power at the switch. 

Remove the wall plate and use the same non-contact tester to check if you are getting the power.  If you do get the power at the switch and when you turn it on, you don’t have the garbage disposal running we can fix that too.

Turn the switch on and now use the tester to see if the power is coming down to the garbage disposal, if not then it’s the wire that is a problem

But if you see the power coming through, then you may want to check the reset switch located underneath the garbage disposal.  

Turn the power off and compress (push) the red button so it’s reset.  Now turn the power switch on and by now you should have garbage disposal running.

How to UnJam a Jammed Garbage Disposal

First, know that there is a jam is the first step.  Usually, you will either hear a humming sound but grinding.  There is a possibility of a jam, but you may never know.

But if you keep the garbage disposal humming for more than 30 seconds there is a protective mechanism to trip the reset button.  This is to safeguard the motor from overheating or burning.

Now if the reset button has tripped you will never know whether the garbage disposal is jammed or there is a power issue.

Like mentioned earlier, you need to get a flashlight and see through the drain hole in the sink.

Do you see a foreign object stuck inside the unit?

Garbage disposals are constructed with cooked and some raw food for disposing of in mind. 

If anything like plastic or metal (spoons, silverware, keys, etc.) drops and finds its way inside your disposal, the disposal will not be able to grind the object. 

This will cause a jam. You must first stop the disposal.  Do not run it. Using needle-nose pliers remove the object from the shredding plate gently.

Use caution and do not stress it out and bend the shredder.  You may need to move the shredder slightly to remove the stuck object.

No foreign objects in disposal but jammed for a clog?

Even though we might assume that the garbage disposal will grind every bit of food and drains them all out, it doesn’t happen.  

Due to the usage of fat and other food particles, you will always have sludge in the garbage disposal.  Over time they form a thick crust.  

If the disposal is not maintained and cleaned the leftover residual waste will eventually build up and clog the unit.

To prevent this from happening, you need to clean it regularly.  Once the water is drained spread baking soda into the drain and pour vinegar. The two reacts well and breaks the buildup.  Let it sit for an hour or so, and run hot water.  

This periodic cleaning will not cause a jam. However, if you did end up with a jam due to clog, here is what you can do.

Shake and Spin with an Allen Wrench 

When your disposal is clogged and not let the disposal work, you can try to spin it with an Allen Wrench. 

There is a hole in the bottom of the disposal unit, right at the center. As explained above, insert an Allen wrench and wiggle it back and forth. 

The manual torque should be enough to break the stuck food particles.

Use may pour some dish soap (as a lubricant) in the drain while you move it with Allen wrench. 

Brute Force Method

If the above method doesn’t work, then you need to use more force from above the sink.

The way you do it is simple.  Get two strong sticks. I used the backside of two hammers. 

Insert them inside the sinkhole.  There are two impeller arms to ease the flow.  You should use the sticks to push the impeller arm.

This will put enough torque on the shredder and eventually cause it to move.

 Garbage Disposal Not Draining (or) Draining Slowly

This one is easy to identify.  If you have a puddle of water stagnant you know it’s not draining. 

Or if it takes a few minutes to drain, then you know it’s draining slowly and likely will be clogged.  

You have one of two things, it’s either clogged in the disposal (very unlikely) or in the drain pipe.  This is a simple issue to resolve though.

Disposal Unit Cleaning

You may first try to see if it’s a minor clog in the disposal unit and try to clean it with this method 

Remove the water – as much as possible.  Then put in baking soda and vinegar and let it sizzle and leave it for a few minutes.  Then use the allen wrench (at the bottom of the disposal) to give it a good few spins.  

Run hot water to see if it’s draining. 

You may also use dishwasher soap and try to the same. Repeat this task until the water flows faster. Repeating these steps a couple of times will help the water to flow and break any small clog in the garbage disposal unit.

If you are unable to clear the clog, then it’s a plumbing issue.  Do the following.

Cleaning Drain Pipe Clog:

Since you may not know where the clog is, you should remove the pipes.  How do you do that? 

Simple, remove the drain pipe that connects the disposal to the main sewer line.  

You may also remove the pipe that connects the dishwasher.

Make sure to keep a bucket underneath to catch excess water.  This might get nasty at times.

Once you have removed the connecting pipe, you should clean them and make sure there is nothing stuck.  

I usually straighten a coat hanger made of steel (from cleaner) and use it to clean any clog. You may use a long screwdriver and such to push or pull the clog and remove the blockage.

You can put it back after removing any clogs.

Disposal Grinds Poorly

You need water when you stuff solid trash in the disposal.  This is to allow the shredder and the impeller to move the solids easily and grind them effectively.

Not Grinding Due to Less Water

If you are noticing that your disposal isn’t grinding well, then run enough water whenever the unit is on. 

Not Grinding Due to Non-Recommended Items

The second important thing I notice is people put stuff that shouldn’t go into the disposal.  Make sure you only stuff in recommended food products. 

Not Grinding Due to Broken Blades

Well, after trying everything else if you still see the disposal is not grinding simple trash, then you most likely have a broken blade. 

Just to confirm, remove all trash and find some soft well-cooked solid that you may be able to mash by hand with some pressure.

Stuff this solid in, run enough water and see if it starts to pick up.  If you can’t get it to grind, you most definitely have a broken blade issue.

Don’t try to fix this or call an appliance specialist to repair this.  It’s not worth it. You should be able to purchase a new unit for fairly cheap price and mount it. That’s the way to go.

Garbage Disposal Leak

Do you see water dripping from somewhere underneath the sink? You must first identify where it is leaking.  I mean the exact location where it is leaking.

Sometimes it’s at a specific spot on the garbage disposal or many a time it will be in the plumbing connections.

The leak in the Plumbing Connections

Usually, you may be able to get away with the problem by tightening the connections.  In any case, if you can’t get it to stop, remove and get a newer connection so it’s all nice and tight.

Leak Near the Sink Amount

One of the main areas is where disposal touches the sink. This needs the drain gasket and the unit mount to be replaced.

Leak near the Dishwasher Drain Pipe

This is uncommon, but if this happens, you need to verify if the connection is loose or if there is a broken dishwasher hose.

Usually, it’s a loose connection.  In this case, you may tighten the clamp that is holding the dishwasher drainpipe. Again if the drainpipe is compromised, you need to remove and replace the dishwasher drain hose with a new one.

Leaking Disposal Unit:

This is rare.  If you ever notice this, then you have the unit broken somewhere. You can’t do much about this.  Replacing the unit is the only option. In fact, that is the cheapest and fastest way to fix this issue.

Conclusion:

The problems that you may have with a garbage disposal are all easily solvable.  All you need to do is to check for the following which is 80% of all the issues.

First, make sure the power is one an is supplying the disposal unit. 

Make sure it’s not humming if so remove the clog or any foreign objects stuck in the shredder.

Finally, check if the reset button at the bottom of the disposal unit is not popped up.  If so you need to just push it in. Worst case you may need to use an Allen wrench to force turn the shaft so any clog.

It is usually simple and takes less than 10 minutes to fix most of the issues.  Try to do it yourself and save $200 you would pay your plumber.

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