×

How To Troubleshoot A Garbage Disposal

The average garbage disposal experiences wear and tear and may eventually stop working over time. If this happens, there are a few troubleshooting steps you can take to help you identify and repair the problem.

How To Troubleshoot A Garbage Disposal

The average garbage disposal experiences a lot of wear and tear and may stop working at some point. Luckily, whether your garbage disposal is making strange sounds, won't drain or simply won't turn on at all, there are some easy troubleshooting tips that may help you identify and fix the problem.

If Your Disposal Won't Turn On

If your disposal simply will not turn on at all, there are several troubleshooting options you can try. First, try to determine whether your garbage disposal has lost electrical power. You can do this by checking that it is securely plugged in and that there are no tripped breakers on your electrical panel. If everything seems in order, locate the reset button on the bottom of the garbage disposal (under your sink) and push it. It is also possible that a jammed blade could have caused your disposal to short out. Sometimes, though, your disposal will turn on but will make loud, unusual grinding or whirring sounds. This could also be a jam.

If Your Disposal Is Jammed

Garbage disposals jam when a hard object, such as piece of bone, becomes stuck in their blades. To remedy this, you will need to safely remove the object. First cut off electrical power to the disposal before attempting to do this. Then use a flashlight to look down into the disposal. Remember that it is never safe to stick your hand inside a garbage disposal, even when the power is turned off. Instead, use a pair of tongs to reach into the disposal and remove whatever is stuck in the blades.

You can try unjamming the blades with an Allen wrench by gently pushing the blades back and forth. After the blades spin freely, your disposal is unjammed. If no jammed object or electrical issue is found and blades cannot be unjammed, then your garbage disposal may need to be replaced.

If Your Disposal Won't Drain

One common garbage disposal conundrum occurs when the garbage disposal turns on but will not drain. Sinks in this scenario often become filled with water and bits of food.

Most commonly, a non-draining disposal means that there is a clog in your plumbing. Because most of the pipes connected to your disposal are rigid (and therefore difficult to remove) you should only attempt to unclog your disposal if you have previous experience removing your S- or P-trap. Otherwise, an expert should be called.

Never pour drain cleaner or other harsh chemicals down your garbage disposal in an attempt to unclog it. This could permanently damage your disposal. If cleaning your disposal's trap does not help to unclog your disposal, you may need to call a professional plumber to help.

If Your Disposal Gurgles

Food clogs can cause garbage disposals to stop draining, but they may also cause garbage disposals to drain slowly or to make loud gurgling sounds. Even if your garbage disposal drains fully, gurgling is likely caused by buildup in your plumbing that needs attention.

If your disposal still gurgles after a plumber cleans out any clogs in your disposal, then it is possible that your vent pipes may be blocked. Vent pipes connect to your drainpipes and vent sewer gas out of your home. These pipes often run all the way up to the roof, where they can become blocked by leaves, animal nests or other debris. However, it is not safe to go up on your roof to search for a blocked vent pipe. You will need to call a professional, who possesses the proper skills and equipment to work on your roof safely.

About the Author

Maria is a freelance writer and content creator with over five years of experience. Her areas of expertise include environmental news, parenting, science and feminism. Her work has appeared in such publications as Marie Claire, Narratively, Green Matters, Ravishly and The Mary Sue.