Let’s take a look and see how to troubleshoot when a garbage disposal is not working.
Table of Contents
Locate the Switch
When you go to the garbage disposal and turn on the switch it simply doesn’t work. Here are the steps you need to take.
First flip the garbage disposal switch to the on position and listen to what the garbage disposer does. It will probably do one of two things.
It will do nothing , no hum, no noise, nothing out of it, or the disposal will hum but it won’t spin. Go back to the switch and set the switch to the off position.
Now we’re going to try to determine what caused the garbage disposal to stop working in the first place before we continue to try and fix it.
The first thing you need to do is look down into the garbage disposal’s hole. Make sure that the disposal switch is off when you’re looking into this hole. Never put your hand in a garbage disposal.
If you cannot clear the debris with a jam buster, pair of tongs or needle nose pliers call a plumbing professional. Most of these items are readily available at your local hardware or home improvement store.
Wear protective gloves if you do plan on using your hands to remove any debris and make sure that the disposal is unplugged and the corresponding breaker is turned to the off position.
Sometimes a homemade contraption like a bent wire hanger may allow you to reach down and grab or dislodge the debris. You will also need a flashlight to be able to look down into the hole and a 110-volt light bulb.
The Garbage Disposal Switch
If the disposal doesn’t spin or anything, there could be two breakers that are tripped. There’s a breaker on the disposal itself, or there’s a breaker at the main circuit panel in your home that also could be tripped.
The breaker trips sometimes to prevent the motor from burning up. To begin this garbage disposal repair procedure first make sure the switch is turned off.
Look at the bottom of your disposal and locate the little red reset button. Make sure the disposal is switched off, and push this reset button.
If this disposal’s breaker is tripped, you’ll hear a definite click when you reset this button, which means you’ve probably found your problem. Turn the disposal on. If it spins, you’ve corrected the issue. Flush it, turn it off, and you’re essentially done from here.
Tripped Circuit Breaker
If nothing happens and you still don’t hear a noise, there’s no spin or no hum, then you’ve probably got a tripped circuit breaker at the main panel.
The disposal plugs into a switched outlet under the sink near the disposal. Most of them do this.
Unplug the disposal from that outlet, and plug in your 110-volt light bulb. Your bulb should be off, because your disposal switch has been switched off. Then go up to the disposal switch and flip it on.
If you’ve got power to the disposal itself, the light bulb should come on. If the light bulb doesn’t come on, go out to your circuit breaker panel, figure out which circuit breaker is tripped, and reset it.
Then make sure that the disposal is turned off at the switch, and go back and plug the disposal back in. If the light bulb is lit and everything is okay, you may have a burned out garbage disposal. It will have to be replaced if that ends up being the case.
The Garbage Disposal’s Hum
Many times there can be a bone wedged into the chamber or a penny or soda pop cap that one of your children inadvertently dropped down the hole.
Sometimes we’ve even seen paper clips or a piece of metal. Somethings jammed so the grinding chamber can’t turn and the motor is humming.
We’re going to troubleshoot the hum issue. Flip the power switch to the off position. Make sure the power switch is flipped off.
The main tool that you’re going to need to dislodge any debris is the jam-buster wrench. This wrench is normally taped to the p-trap underneath your sink.
On the bottom of the disposal is a hex receptacle. What you want to do is stick the hex wrench or the jam-buster wrench into this receptacle and then twist this wrench back and forth to make sure the garbage disposal turns freely and that you can just take the wrench and flip it around using a finger or two.
The thing should spin freely. Make sure your power switch is off. If the power switch is on and you dislodge it, the disposal is going to spin. Before you do anything, remove the wrench from the disposal.
Then you go up to power switch again and flip it on. If you’ve cleared the debris and everything out out of the disposal including the jam buster, it should run perfectly.
Flush the garbage disposal out for several minutes. Make sure that it spins freely. You may even want to switch it on and off a couple of times. You’re done. Your garage disposal system should be good to go until the next jam.
How to Give Your Disposal a Proper Flushing
Many of the service calls that plumbers get are due to improper use of the garbage disposal. Be sure to always run cold water before you use your garbage disposal.
Take some banana peels and slowly put a few into the grinding chamber, turn on the switch and let the disposal work. Repeat the process again with a few more banana peels.
Be careful not to stick your hand all the way in the garbage disposal unless you want to lose your fingers.
Let the peels grind and when they’re done turn the disposal off and let the cold water continue to run to wash all the debris down the waste line. That’s the proper way to flush your garbage disposal.
Do’s and Don’ts When a Garbage Disposal is Not Working
Do run cold water. You always want to run cold water with your garbage disposals because even if you’re careful and you don’t dump grease down your drain there is always going to be some residual grease or oil on your plate. The cold water helps the oil solidify and go down the drain as little pellets.
Don’t put stringy things down your disposal. Things like corn husks, stems from long stem roses, artichoke, etc. The disposal can’t handle grind the stringy items into small enough pieces to pass it through the drain assembly. It will end up getting clogged and end up becoming mush.
Although some of the disposal claim that it doesn’t matter what you put in they can handle the stringy stuff. Be aware.
Do put grind hard food waste. Food items like peach pits, anything hard, chicken bones, soft lamb chop bone, or coffee grinds. There are two plates and these plates have swing arms. So the plates spin and the swing arms push swivel and through the food to the side so that the shredding ring can cut it up.
If you never put anything hard into the disposal the swing arms lockup on the post and the garbage disposal runs out of balance. This can prematurely burn out the motor, it doesn’t sound right and it doesn’t ground properly because its not throwing the debris to the side. So hard items are good for your disposal.