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Garbage Disposer Troubleshooting, Repair Tips and Parts

by 411 on Mar 29, 2017

What Is Wrong With Your Garbage Disposer?

There aren't many parts of your garbage disposer that you can service yourself. When it fails, you may have to replace it. For information about the two primary types of disposers and how they work, see the How Things Work section of our website.

Warning! To avoid personal injury or even death, always disconnect your appliance from its power source--that is, unplug it or break the connection at the circuit breaker or fuse box--before you do any troubleshooting or repair work on your appliance. Also, because some components may have sharp edges, use caution while working on your appliance.

Some problems that can occur with your garbage disposer are:

It's jammed
It hums
It leaks
It's on, but nothing's happening
It's grinding or disposing poorly
Learn more about garbage disposers
Garbage disposer replacement parts

Note: If your repair problem isn't listed, click here to email or chat with a repair expert.

It's jammed

Your disposer can jam if foreign objects get into it--coins, twist ties, plastic bread bag closures, shards of glass, soda can tabs, and so on. With most disposers, you can insert a ¼" Allen wrench into a port on the bottom, center of the disposer (under the sink). By turning the wrench back and forth, you can wiggle the masher plate inside the disposer and may be able to dislodge whatever has jammed the disposer.

When you think you've done that, make sure the disposer is unplugged and turned off, then remove the foreign object, so it doesn't jam the disposer yet again. Next check the red reset button near the bottom of the disposer. If it has popped out a bit, press it back in.

If you can rotate the masher plate back and forth but can't find a foreign object and have no success freeing up the jam, either seek expert assistance or replace the disposer.

If your disposer doesn't have the Allen-wrench port on the bottom, you can insert the handle of a hammer or broom into the top opening of the disposer and try to gently pry the masher plate back and forth. Then check the red reset button near the bottom of the disposer. If it has popped out a bit, press it back in.

It hums

If, when you turn on the switch, the disposer is jammed, you may hear the motor hum. To avoid damaging the motor, turn the disposer off right away. Then clear the jam as described in the "It's jammed" section.

If the unit hums when you turn it on, but it's not jammed, the motor is probably bad. When you have a bad motor, it's time to replace the whole disposer.

It leaks

If the leak is coming from the drain pipe at the disposer, try removing the drain pipe and replacing the rubber gasket. But if the leak is coming from the top seal of the disposer near the sink, or from inside the disposer, you need to replace the whole disposer.

It's on, but nothing's happening

On the bottom of most disposers, there's a small red button--the reset button. If the button has popped out slightly, the motor overload has gotten too hot. That's usually caused by a jammed disposer that was switched on for too long.

You can reset the overload by pressing in the red button. If the button pops out again when you turn on the unit, the disposer is probably jammed. See the "It's jammed" section.

It's grinding or disposing poorly

If the drain line is clear but the disposer still does not seem to grind up food very well, your disposer may be worn out. As disposers age, they gradually wear out and/or rust internally. Eventually, all disposers lose their ability to grind food effectively. If your disposer has reached this stage, replace it. See our Accessories page--we carry several garbage disposers.

Work on these areas of an appliance may require help from an appliance repair person or other qualified technicians.

Warning! To avoid personal injury or even death, always disconnect your appliance from its power source — that is, unplug it or break the connection at the circuit breaker or fuse box — before you do any troubleshooting or repair work on your appliance. Also, because some components may have sharp edges, use caution while working on your appliance.

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