• Common Garbage Disposal Problems and Repairs


    This guide will help you troubleshoot common issues with your disposal and resolve them, whether it jams, clogs or a doesn’t have power. When the disposer is down, meal cleanup takes longer and odors can begin emanating from the sink, it could also cause sink clogging, so getting it back online is a top priority.  Doing the work yourself is easy in many cases, but you’ll need to call an appliance repair technician for some of the tougher issues.

    Garbage Disposal Problems and Repairs Guide

    These tips will help you get your disposal going again in a few easy steps for many problems. Others will require professional repair, and you’ll find prices you can expect when you need to call a technician. The post concludes with a list of resources that provide additional helpful information about these common garbage disposal problems and repairs.

    Tips for Garbage Disposal Repair

    Let’s go through the most common problems with garbage disposer systems and how to fix them yourself, if possible.

    1. No Power to the Disposal

    • When the disposal is jammed, it might not rotate, but you will hear a hum or buzz. When you don’t hear anything and nothing happens, it’s not getting power
    • First things first make sure the plug hasn’t come loose or the on/off switch accidently switched
    • Check the disposal reset button on the bottom of the unit, and push it if it is popped out
    • If the unit still doesn’t have power, check the circuit breaker to see if it needs to be reset
    • If the disposal still won’t run, the issue is either a bad switch or a damaged disposal unit
    • For repairs, start by replacing the switch since it is the easiest and cheapest – hire an electrician for the work, if you are not familiar with and comfortable working with electrical equipment
    • If everything else is OK and the disposal still won’t start, it probably needs to be replaced

    2. Disposal Has Power but Doesn’t Work

    If you flip the switch and only hear a humming noise, it likely means the disposal is jammed – something is caught between the shredding ring and impellers. Here are tips for repairing a jammed disposal.

    • Turn off power to the unit at the electrical box. This is a must!
    • Use the offset wrench that came with your disposer and insert it into the slot on the bottom of the unit
    • Turn the wrench clockwise first, then back and forth if necessary, to attempt to dislodge the jam – you should feel it free up when it unjams
    • If the wrench doesn’t work, try running a broom handle or thick dowel rod down into the disposer to attempt to move the impellers and free them up
    • NEVER EVER stick your hand into the disposal unit!
    • After a jam, the reset button might need to be pushed once you’ve turned power back on
    • Turn on the water and flip the disposal on and off to dispose of the food causing the jam

    3. Disposal is Leaking

    There are three common locations for a plumbing leak and a few tips for garbage disposal leaks. Safety Note: Start by turning off power to the unit at the electrical box.

    For a top flange leak:

    • Remove the disposal by turning it counter-clockwise from the bottom
    • Tighten the mounting bolts on the flange beneath the sink or, if they are tight, remove them and replace the plumber’s putty with more or with a bead of silicone caulk
    • Replace the flange and the disposer, power the unit and check for a leak

    For a leak at the dishwasher connection:

    • Tighten the clamp on the hose connected to the dishwasher inlet on the disposer
    • If the hose is damaged and leaking, replace it

    For a leak at the discharge connected to the drainpipe:

    • Tighten the bolts holding the discharge pipe to the disposer, if needed, and run a small amount of water
    • If it still leaks, replace the gasket between the pipe and the disposer, and put the pipe back together

    For a slow-draining disposer:

    • Run the disposer for 30 seconds to clear any debris in it
    • DO NOT use chemical drain cleaners in your disposer since they will cause damage to the rubber seals
    • Remove the disposer from the mount and disconnect the drain trap
    • Check for and clear clogs in the trap, and if not exist, use a drain auger to clear the line that runs into the wall or floor
    • See our post “Clean and Unclog a Plugged Kitchen Sink Drain” for more tips on this problem

    To keep your disposer running well:

    Don’t grind potato skins, eggs or coffee grinds

    Do grind lemon peels and ice cubes occasionally

    Do pour a cup of baking soda into the disposer followed by a cup of vinegar and let it sit until it stops foaming before running water to rinse it through

    Garbage Disposal Repair Costs

    Minor repairs you can do yourself, even replacing a gasket in the disposer, are cheap. If you have to call an appliance technician for the work, expect a minimum service fee to be charged of $95 to $175 which will cover many repairs.

    DIY Garbage Disposer Repair Resources

    These pages offer more tips for getting your garbage disposal up and running again.

    LeHigh Valley Roofing – These videos show you how to clear a garbage disposal drain pipe.

    Plumbers 911 – This blog covers a range of garbage disposer repairs.

    Plumbing Help Today – Here are more tips from a local plumbing contractor for repairing a clogged disposal.


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