If you are experiencing problems with your garbage disposal, you are not alone. Disposals are one of the most problematic parts of your kitchen. The good news is most of the time the disposals are repairable. In fact, many times it is pretty simple to get a jammed disposal going again, and it can save you the cost of a plumbing service call, or a new disposal.
Symptoms and Repairs
There are a number of ways that a disposal can go wrong. Knowing the symptoms and possible repairs can go a long way.
Symptom 1: Lots of noise in the disposal.
Repair 1: Most likely something has fallen into the disposal that should not be in there. Sometimes it can be hard to see, but if an object, or any part of an object has fallen into the disposal, it will need to be removed. This is the really unpleasant part because you will need to put your hand into the nasty, slimey drain hole. That said, using disposable latex gloves can make this repair much more tolerable. Make sure the power is off to the disposal, then reach in and feel for anything solid. Remove everything possible, and try the disposal while running water down the drain. Repeat the process until the disposal sounds normal.
Symptom 2: The disposal is dead, and will make any noise at all. It plugs up and will not drain.
Repair 2: Most disposals have a reset switch on the underside. This is a small red square button that you can push. Its purpose is to turn off the motor of the disposal before it burns up. If an object has fallen into the disposal and jammed the rotating blade, it will trip the reset switch. If you push the button, you can usually get the motor to run again when you turn on the disposal. If not, you might need to check the main electrical circuit breaker. Once you have pushed the reset button you might hear a humming noise (symptom 3), or you might hear a lot of noise (symptom 1), and you would need to perform the repairs for those symptoms.
Symptom 3: The disposal is humming, so it has power but it does not do anything else. Might also be plugged up and will not drain.
Repair 3: When the motor is humming but does not turn the blades that can be for one of two reasons. First, if there is something obstructing the blade, the motor can not turn it, though the humming noise is indicating that it is trying. Otherwise the motor itself might have gone bad in which case it would need to be replaced. If it is an obstruction, you will need to turn off the disposal, and use the disposal tool, which is basically a long “S” shaped alan wrench, to free the motor. The tool is inserted into a hole right in the middle of the underside of the disposal. If you don’t have the tool, an alan wrench of the correct size will do the same thing. The tool is inserted and turned which will free up the blade inside the disposal. Usually the blade is jammed because there is an object in the disposal that should not be, and at this point you would need to perform the repairs for symptom 1.
Symptom 4: Disposal leaks underneath.
Repair 4: The repair for a disposal leak will depend on where the disposal is leaking from. If it is from the drain connection it might just need to be tightened or the connection washers might need to be replaced. If it is leaking from the top it might need to be removed and replaced with a new seal at the top. If it is leaking from the bottom through the disposal it will need to be replace because the grinding chamber inside the disposal has cracked and is leaking into the motor area below. There are also times when it will leak from the side, when the disposal is cracked. Disposals will crack if hard objects have been in the disposal when it was on. Sometimes the blades will throw the objects against the inside walls of the disposal so hard that it will actually crack the walls of the disposal. In this case it would need to be replaced.