5 Common Garbage Disposal Problems

Question 1: Why doesn’t my disposal work when I turn it on?

Answer 1: Is there power to the disposal? If you can test this, do that first. Check your fuse-box or circuit breakers. If you have power, look on the bottom of the disposer unit. There’s a small red button on most disposers, located underneath the unit or near the bottom called the reset button. If this button is popped out, the disposal motor overload has gotten too hot. This usually only occurs if there is a jam and you leave it turned on too long. Clear the jam, described below, and reset the overload safety by pressing in the red button. You may hear a little clicking sound as you push the reset button, that’s normal. If it pops again when you turn the disposal on, the disposal is probably jammed. If you have power to the motor, it still won’t turn, and there’s no sound at all from it, your motor is probably worn out. Your best bet is to just replace the disposal.

Question 2: Why does my garbage disposal jam?

Answer 2: Your disposal can jam if certain foods or other objects are introduced. Things like corn husks, avocado leaves, or other high in fiber vegetable matter, bones, utensils, glass, etc. are examples of what can jam the disposal. Many garbage disposals have a small socket hole in the bottom center, underneath the motor. This allows you to insert a ¼” Allen wrench into it and lets you turn the masher plate back and forth inside the disposal. This will usually free any jams.

NEVER PUT YOUR HAND IN THE DISPOSAL! Always use a pliers or tongs! Many injuries including hand and finger amputations are caused by disposals every year.

Some disposals don’t have the Allen wrench socket. Instead, make sure that the power is off to the unit from the fuse box or circuit breaker panel. You can then use the handle of a broom, plunger, or mop inserted through the top opening of the disposal, and try to wiggle the masher plate back and forth to free any jams. Once you feel the masher plate moving again, you can remove the handle that you put in the disposal and put the power back on.
You want to check the red reset button located near the bottom of the disposal. If it has popped, just push it back in and try the unit again. If you are able to turn the masher plate back and forth and have not been able to free up the jam, you may have to contact a professional appliance repair person, or replace the unit itself.

Question 3: Why does my disposal leak?

Answer 3: Sometimes you’ll experience a leak somewhere in the disposal system. Check the drain connections first. If the leak is coming from the drain pipe, you can replace the rubber gasket. If it is a new installation, check the ring near the sink flange and make sure that it is tight. Some of the seals between the sink and the disposal are available, but if the leak is coming from the body of the disposal, you’re going to have to replace the garbage disposal.

Question 4:
Why does my disposal make more noise than it used to?

Answer 4: Sometimes a piece of metal, glass, bone, or other object will enter the disposal and cause quite a racket when you turn on the unit. If it doesn’t jam the unit, it may work its own way through the drain system.
Other reasons for more noise than usual include: loose mounting screws, worn bearings, broken flyweights, or the lugs or blades are worn out. Tighten the mounting screws if they have become loose.
Because the disposal is located directly underneath the sink drain, after time, the vibrations could cause the screws to become loose, or the seals may leak water into the motor and bearings. The water will wash the bearing grease away and lead to a faster than normal wear of the bearings.
The flyweights can get broken by metal objects falling in the disposal while it is running. The lugs or blades do wear over time and work less and less efficiently. A few models allow for the replacement of the shredder ring, but usually, it is time to replace your old disposal with a new disposal.

Question 5: How do I fix a clog caused by my disposal?

Answer 5: If your drain has gotten clogged because of your disposal, make sure to turn the power off at the main disconnect. Next, you will want to disassemble the trap and use a drain snake to clear the clog. Re-assemble the trap and turn the water on to verify that the clog is indeed gone, and that water is flowing properly through the disposal and drain line.

For more Appliance repair help, and for all your appliance part needs, visit AP Wagner

18 thoughts on “5 Common Garbage Disposal Problems

  1. Just wanted you to know that sometimes lo-tch works just fine. Garbage disposal was stuck-I’d flip the switch and just get a hum. There was no place to put an allen wrench. Searched for “disposal problems” and eventually got to your site which was WAY more helpful than the firs 3 that came up. Tried the old “move the masher plate with a broom handle” trick and it fixed it-thanks so much!!!

  2. Thank you soooo much. This was, by far, the most helpful site. I’m a DIY moron so thank you for telling WHERE to find the reset button. It was hidden on the bottom and toward the back so it wasn’t visible upon first inspection. Thank you for having such a large “fix it” brain … and thank you for sharing your knowledge. I did it!

  3. My Garbage disposal was stuck/jammed. I used the wrench as recommended but that would not work. The disposal was still jammed. Here’s and idea. Take a drill with the right size bit and try turning the disposal like that. It worked great for me and now I dont have to buy a new garbage disposal. Hope this helps

  4. Turned on the disposal and only got a hum. Tried the reset, didn’t work. Read your tips and tried the broom handle – worked perfectly! Saved us the cost of a repairman and/or a new disposal. Thank you!!!

  5. Thank u so much!!! for about 5 days my disposal would not turn on at all. I waited on my husband to try and fix it but his busy work schedule wouldnt allow him to. so I decided to try and fix it myself or call a repair man. Thats when I came across your site and with a push on the reset button it turned back on. I would just like to thank you for posting this, being a mom of 5 lil ones im happy to have kept the $$ that was about to go to a repair man in my pocket.

  6. You are amazing!! I tried the using the broom top then wiggled on the reset button with a drill with a very small bit moved it back and forth..and what d’ya know. it now works.saved me from getting a repairman.THANKS!!!

  7. This was a lifesaver! My husband was very excited when I called him at work and had him listen to the sound of the working garbage disposal after reading this! He is not the handyman type and this really saved us!

  8. My disposal, has a different problem, it is less then a year old and it turns on when you place the plunger in the drain and turn it to line up the magnets Ours only will work after a minute of 2 of being in the right position, it used to be automatic and now seems to be taking longer and longer to work? Any suggestions, besides returning it as it is under warranty, but would rather not go through the hassle of that if I dont have too. It is a kitchenaid superb.

  9. One of the kids tossed a lego in the disposal that jammed between the blade and the side of the unit. Pretty obvious what the problem was, but I tried knives, pliers, screwdrivers, and nothing would free it. I figured nothing was going to help in a website, but went in anyway. Your drill idea, though not at all what you intended, gave me an idea- I basically chopped the lego up with a drill until it came free. Sometimes bouncing an idea around and applying a different way does the trick- thanks!

  10. I used the allen wrench to loosen the blades to get a piece of glass out and now the disposal is leaking from the bottom. Help!

    • I just experienced the same situation, I suspect the glass that passed through must have ground away a seal in the system. Did you ever get an explanation or just replace the unit?

  11. Being a “snowbird” in Florida my disposal unit is not used 6 months of the year. The last couple of years, I have had to use the Allen key to get it started. Is there something I can leave in the unit that will stop it form seizing up while idle
    Thanks Sam

  12. The garbage disposal will only hum reset but pushed , used wrench turning all the way around with no problem turned it off let it sit turned it back on only hums Help!!!

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