Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting

by Dave The Handyman on October 21, 2009

The thing about garbage disposal troubleshooting is, that there are not many things to troubleshoot. It is not like an air conditioning system where many things can go wrong, the amount of problems that could go wrong with a garbage disposal can be counted on one hand. First off if your garbage disposal is leaking, you either have a bad seal that is connected to the drain line, or you have a bad seal at the sink. If this happens though you will notice it immediately, and commonly happens when you are installing a new garbage disposal. I will not be going over how to install a garbage disposal today but more of just a couple of garbage disposal troubleshooting tips that should get you on your way.

Garbage Disposal is Making a Humming Noise

This means that the garbage disposal is jammed. It does not take much to jam a garbage disposal. Think about it, the average garbage disposal only has 1/3 horsepower, some of the bigger ones can have up to 1 horsepower. The most common thing that I find inside of jammed garbage disposals are coins and thick bones. You can put skinny bones down in a garbage disposal, but do not be an idiot and put chicken bones down there, that will only get it jammed up. Also try and keep the silverware out of there also.

So on with the garbage disposal repair, getting it unjammed. Under most models there is an insert where you can put an alan wrench, usually 1/4 inch, and this insert is located on the bottom of the garbage disposal. Simply put the Alan wrench in the insert and move it back and forth until whatever is stuck in there breaks free. There are times though when you will have to dig out whatever is stuck in there manually. If you find yourself in this situation SECURE THE CIRCUIT TO THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL!!!  Do not stick your hand in a garbage disposal if the power is on – sure the power is cut at the switch but do you really want to risk it? Do not let the 1/3 horsepower fool you, that is enough power to push the blades enough to fuck your hand up!

If you do not have an Alan wrench handy, there is another method that may work. I say “may” because I have never tried it – but have read it before is to use a broom stick. Just stick the end of the broom to where it is against one of the blades and use force to loosen the obstruction. A hammer and some kind of chisel may work also – but as for me, I use an Alan key to unjam garbage disposals.

Garbage Disposal Makes No Noise When Turned On

Before you check the power – you may want to check the reset button, which is located right next to the Alan wrench insert. It is usually a square red button, and if it is popped out, just simply push it back in. The cause of this to happen is overloading the motor, which is caused by putting shit in there that should not be in there in the first place. Once you reset the garbage disposal, see the above to get the obstruction loose.

If you do not have any power – you may want to check your connections. You must understand that garbage disposals shake – alot – and if you have a wire nut that is not completely tight – it will eventually shake loose. Then not only will you have loose wire(s) hanging around, you will also have a non functioning garbage disposal.

Garbage Disposal Repair Tip

If you can hear a bunch of clatter when you turn the disposal on, but do not feel like digging it out with your hand – here is a little trick that will work 90% of the time. Get a sink stopper and fill the sink up with hot water. Take the stopper out and turn the garbage disposal on – the pressure from the hot water will usually push whatever was banging around in there through.

Keeping the Blades Sharp

I am sure that there are many ways that you can keep garbage disposal blades sharp – but me – personally, I just use ice cubes, and a couple of squirts of WD-40, usually does the trick.

When it comes to garbage disposal troubleshooting, I have fixed hundreds by using the advice above. The only thing that I left out is the replacement part, which I will cover another day. If the motor is shot – just replace the whole damn thing, it will be quicker, easier, and more than likely a lot cheaper. If you have any questions on garbage disposal repair or troubleshooting, just shoot me a comment and I will get to it when I can.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

marilee October 19, 2010 at 1:37 am

hi, could you give me any hints as to why the sink shakes when the garbage disposal is turned on? We are having problems with this at a rental house. Thanks for your time. I enjoyed reading the above advise on fixing disposals.

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