Problems With a Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are designed to chop up unwanted food so it's easier to wash down the drain, and when working properly, they prove a handy tool. Unfortunately, garbage disposals may malfunction. Troubleshooting problems with a garbage disposal requires that you have a basic understanding of what could cause a performance problem, and its specific symptoms. All units need to be turned off and disconnected from the power supply before you attempt repairs.

No Response

If your garbage disposal gives you no response when you turn it on, it may be something as simple as pushing the reset button on the bottom of the disposal. If the button pops out again, the disposal may be jammed. Other possible reasons a disposal isn't running at all include a tripped circuit breaker and a blown fuse.


Foreign objects such as glass, twist ties, soda tabs or coins can cause a jam in your garbage disposal. You can insert a 1/4-inch Allen wrench through the port on the bottom of the disposal to rotate the masher plate and free the object. Or, for units that don't have a port on the bottom, you can insert a broom or hammer handle from the top, through the drain hole in the sink, and rotate the plate to dislodge the item. Reach in, with the power off, and pull the item free. Check the reset button afterward, and press it in if it's popped out.

Poor Grinding Performance

Eventually, all garbage disposals will wear out or rust internally, causing poor grinding performance, according to Repair Clinic. When this occurs, with no other observable problem, replace the unit with a new one.


If the disposer hums when you turn it on, turn it off immediately. Check for a foreign object that may be jamming it. If there isn't a jam, then the motor is likely bad and you'll need to replace the entire unit.


The disposal will need replacing if there's a leak on the inside of the disposal or near the top seal by the sink drain. If the leak originates at the drain pipe near the disposal, remove the drain pipe and remove and replace the rubber gasket, says Repair Clinic.

About the Author

Based in Texas, Cynthia Measom has been writing various parenting, business and finance and education articles since 2011. Her articles have appeared on websites such as The Bump and Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.