Troubleshooting Your Garbage Disposal

350705_garbage_disposal.jpg  You know this time that you didn’t drop a spoon or knife into the garbage disposal, but it seems to be stuck or simply not working anyway.  There are so many parts and areas that could be the root of the problem that you aren’t sure where to start.  Troubleshooting your garbage disposal can be a simple process, if you have a checklist of items to evaluate.



When troubleshooting your garbage disposal, it is important to remember the cardinal rule of repair – never stick your hand in the hopper (into the drain where the disposal is).  This is the most important safety precaution for the entire process.


If your garbage disposal is not turning on and is making no noise whatsoever, you probably have some sort of electrical issue.  Start by pressing the reset button on the bottom of your unit (all garbage disposals have them).  If that doesn’t work, you may need to verify that the circuit breaker has not been tripped back at your main electrical panel.  If neither of these are the issue, you have either a faulty disposal or a bad switch.  Find the switch powering your disposal, then turn off the circuit breaker that powers it.  Replace your switch and return power, testing the switch to see if it functions properly now.  If the unit still won’t turn on, you will have to replace the unit.


If your garbage disposal won’t run and you hear a humming noise upon flipping the switch, you should turn the switch off as soon as possible.  If you leave it on, you will quickly either cause the reset button to pop out and stall the disposal or trip either the fuse or circuit breaker itself.  Typically, this means you have something stuck in between the impeller or impellers and the shredder ring, causing the flywheel to be stuck.  To repair the damage, turn off the circuit breaker, use the offset wrench that came with the unit, inserting into the flywheel turning hole on the bottom of the unit, and turn it clockwise to dislodge the stuck impeller or flywheel.  If you would rather, you could use a wooden broom handle or other long, thin device that is similar to try and free the object through the drain at the top of the unit.  Remember, never stick your hand inside the drain.


If your disposal leaks, there are several problem areas to check.  If it leaks at the sink flange, you should check that the bolts are tight enough.  If this is not a problem, you may have a leak in the plumbers putty that needs to be repaired.  If the leak occurs at the dishwasher connection, tighten the clamp on the hose or replace the hose itself if it is leaking.


If you have a problem with slow drainage, you should check for clogs and obstructions.  Never use a chemical cleaner to clean out the garbage disposal; try giving it more time to grind up the garbage, or remove it and clean out the blockage.

3 Responses to “Troubleshooting Your Garbage Disposal”

  1. Reem says:

    I was able to successfully unblock my garbage disposal by loosening the bottom screw. I did this while garbage disposal was still installed in the sink. Now the garbage disposal is clear and it works. However, I can’t tighten it back now. Seems like I have to hold the bolt that is on top of the disposal if I wish to fasten the grip from the bottom.

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