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Fixing your jammed or unresponsive garbage disposal yourself

When your garbage disposal won’t grind, knowing a little about it can pay off; rarely does a garbage disposal problem require a professional plumber. Whirring noise? Sounds like you’re in luck. No power when you turn the dang thing on? That should be fixable, too! If either of these seem to describe your garbage disposal woes, use this guide to help troubleshoot your unhappy machine.

Anyone fixing their garbage disposal needs to first observe a few safety rules:

  1. Never put your fingers or hands near the garbage disposal grinding blades
  2. Keep the power unplugged and the switch turned to “OFF” while working on the disposal
  3. Keep the sink clear of items that may get in your way or fall into the drain while working on the disposal

When you follow these safety tips and the steps below, we estimate that you’ll be able to find a solution to your problem within half an hour.

A jammed garbage disposal and one that won’t turn on are usually the same issue-the jam triggers an overload protector which stops the power flowing to the motor. To get your disposal working again:

1) Clear debris jammed around the disposal blades

Too much junk, especially hard objects, restricts the movement of the blades and forces the motor to work too hard.

Shine a flashlight into the drain from above to look for debris. If there is debris to remove, then:

  1. Unplug the disposal and turn the switch to ”OFF” for safety
  2. Use a vacuum, long needle nose pliers, or tongs from above to extract the debris – never try to remove debris from near the blades directly with your hands!
  3. This step is an alternative to the removal method in the step before. We recommend using the other method when possible, because it ensures that those particular obstructions are out of your plumbing for good.Insert a wrench into the hole on the bottom of the disposal and turn it until the blades spin freely.
  4. Remove all tools you were using from the disposal and the sink. Run cold water in the drain and try operating the disposal to see if your issue has been resolved. If it’s still restricted, repeat steps “a” and “b”. If it has no power, proceed to the next step.

2) Check the power to the disposal

If your disposal is completely unresponsive, it probably has no electricity flowing to the motor. To eliminate this issue:

  1. Ensure that the disposal is plugged into the outlet(yes, it’s obvious, but it’s possible to forget). Run cold water in the drain and try running the disposal. If it operates the way it did before the issue, your disposal is ready for business!
  2. Reset the overload protector(this should be done with the disposal switch “off”). To do this, find the red button on the bottom of the garbage disposal. If it’s sticking out roughly a quarter of an inch, push it back in. As mentioned above, this protector is activated when the disposal jams. It cuts electricity to the motor to prevent overheating, so the disposal needs to be cool enough for the protector to reset. Run cold water in the drain and try running the garbage disposal. If it operates the way it did before, your disposal is good to go.
  3. If neither of the above steps caused any response from the garbage disposal, the outlet which it’s plugged into may not be receiving power. In this case, it’s likely that the breaker was tripped by too many demands on the electricity at once. Check the breaker that controls the outlet for the garbage disposal, and reset it if it’s been flipped(this should be done with the disposal switch “off”). While running cool water down the drain, try running the garbage disposal to see if it’s now functioning properly.

At this point, if your disposal blades won’t spin or the disposal isn’t turning on, it may be time to replace it. A plumber can do a deeper analysis of the machine, but repairs are rarely more cost-effective or time-effective than buying a new garbage disposal would be. If you have questions about installing a new garbage disposal, options for a replacement, or other plumbing topics, feel free to contact us! We service areas in King County and Snohomish County and provide guaranteed warranties for our work.

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26016 132nd St SE
Monroe, WA 98272

(425) 458-8548


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