Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting – 15 Common Problems with Easy Solutions

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Last updatedLast updated: June 11, 2021
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A garbage disposal is one of the most important pieces of equipment in any kitchen. It ensures the hygiene of the kitchen as it helps you to dispose of the waste. While they are usually very reliable, sometimes issues might arise. If such issues happen, all you might need is a small nudge, or push, to make the equipment start working as normal. In this garbage disposal troubleshooting guide, we will consider some of the things that might happen to your reliable garbage disposal and what you can do when such happens.

With this guide, there is no need to call in the services of a professional. You will be able to handle any of the problems yourself. Garbage disposals are very straightforward to use and use a simple system to operate. Since they are some of the most-used equipment in the kitchen, they are liable to damage. At the end of this post, you will know what you ought to do to ensure that your garbage disposal continues to work.

Know your garbage disposal unit

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsIn this section, we will provide you with all the information you should know before starting to diagnose the problem. These include the main parts of a garbage disposal and the types.

Main parts of garbage disposals

While there are several models of garbage disposal on the market, some things remain constant in all the models. Some of the parts found in almost every garbage disposal unit include:

  • Motor

The motor is arguably the most important part of the equipment and it comes in different sizes. You have up to four standard sizes.

The motor might also be an induction motor or a permanent magnet motor. As the name implies, the permanent magnet motor employs permanent magnets to work. The magnets in the motor create a consistent flux that ensures that your motor runs immediately after you switch it on.

For most people, this type of motor offers more effectiveness, especially when used with foods that are rich in fiber.

The 1 HP motor of the Waste King Knight is one of the best of its kind on the market.

  • Grinding Chamber

This is another important part of the machine. The grinding chamber is often proportional to the size of the motor – the larger the motor, the larger the grinding chamber. Due to the motor size, you might have more or less torque and power. You will find different types of grinding chambers. A stainless grinding chamber is regarded as the best type because it is very durable and is easier to clean.

  • Mount

The mount is what connects the garbage disposal to the kitchen sink. There are two main types of mounts. The plastic mount is considered inferior to the metal mount. The metal mount offers better durability and will give a higher level of stability.

All of these parts combine to help you get rid of waste in your kitchen.

The unit is installed to the underside of the sink, and all the waste that passes through the sink goes through the collector. It should be noted that only solid waste goes to the garbage disposal. When it collects the waste, it transfers it to the grinding chamber.

When the garbage disposal is switched on, the impellers turn quickly, this forces the waste against the wall of the grinding chamber. This movement pulverizes the waste. The pulverized waste is then passed through the chamber wall.

Unlike what many believe, garbage disposals have blunt teeth and not sharp blades.

Types of garbage disposals

As we have said earlier in this article, the basic design of the garbage disposal has remained constant through the years. However, this doesn’t mean that all garbage disposals are the same. Instead, there are two types of garbage disposals. These are the batch feed and the continuous feed.

The continuous feed garbage disposal is an excellent type that comes with a simple mechanism. It is pretty easy to use and comes with an open-mouth design. It is easy to power it OFF and ON.

On the other hand, the batch feed design is more complicated. Here you need to place a lid on the mouth of the waste disposal before turning on the disposal.

When compared, many report the batch feed design type to be the safer of the two. In this design, you cannot run the machine if the drain is not closed. This makes it much safer to use. There is little chance of someone getting injured. With such a design, the disposal will not work while someone has their hand stuck in the disposal or if you have a wanted object in the drain.

The downside of this safer design is that it is more expensive to get.

A benefit of the batch feed is also that it uses a relatively smaller amount of water to run, unlike the continuous feed that requires up to one gallon of water daily. Pair this with the best stainless kitchen sink and you will have a kitchen that is the envy of all.

Safety tips when using the garbage disposal unit

One good thing about the garbage disposal unit is that it doesn’t need plenty of maintenance or supervision throughout its lifetime. However, when you are using the disposal, keep in mind these safety tips. They will help you to safely care for the unit even when there are repairs to be made.

Power down during repairs

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsIt doesn’t matter the type of garbage disposal that you have – it is highly recommended that you switch it off before you start to repair or clean it. This isn’t just about switching it off but might also include unplugging the unit completely from the power outlet. If that is not possible, you should kill the power to the kitchen via the circuit breaker. This is a dangerous device and should be treated as such.

Use pliers or tongs

During troubleshooting, do not dip your fingers into the system to remove any debris or unclog the machine. Using pliers or similar tools will remove any chances of injury to your fingers. If there are any fibers in the blade, most of the best garbage disposal units come with a wrench. Use the wrench to untangle any fibers.

Now that we have seen some of the most important things to know about garbage disposal, let us now delve into some of the common issues that are encountered by users and how to solve these problems.

Humming noise

Here is how to solve this issue

  • Check to see if the flywheel is obstructed.
  • If so, remove any obstructions using the Allen wrench
  • If you do this and it still doesn’t work, reset the unit from the RESET button at the bottom.
  • If after doing all these things and the device continues, then you might have to call in a professional for aid.

Poor draining

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsSometimes, the problem might be that there is slow draining. Most of the time, this issue is caused by clogging. So you have to de-clog the machine.

  • Remove the bolts that connect the pipe to the disposal
  • Remove the drain trap and the drain pipe for the discharge
  • Clean out any clogs that you find
  • If there are no clogs there, then you need to use a sink auger to remove the clog that likely lies on the branch drain.
  • Reassemble the trap and make all the connections you earlier removed
  • Run some cold water, switch on the disposal and check the draining now.

Not turning on

If you observe that the machine fails to turn ON even after you have flipped the switch, then that is an issue. If it is switched and fails to give the humming sound that indicates the motor is running, then you very likely have an electrical problem that is stopping current from entering the unit.

If this is what you face, then the tips here can help you. We begin with the most probable factors and find out what can be done.

  • The first thing that you should do is check if the unit is plugged into the socket. You would be surprised how many people fail to check this obvious solution. Many customer service agents that we interviewed said that many of the users failed to plug their machines into the outlets.
  • If you check and see that it is plugged into power, then your garbage disposal might require a hard reset. The RESET button lies at the bottom of the machine. So locate it and press it. This button will likely help to get the machine up and running once more.
  • If after pressing the RESET button the machine still fails to start, then you have to ensure that the circuit breaker isn’t tripped. A tripped circuit breaker will stop your device from switching on. If you notice this, then reset the lever.
  • If you have carried out the four steps outlined so far, with no success, then you might be having an issue with the wiring of your unit. If it isn’t a wiring issue, then the garbage disposal might need to be changed.
  • Identify the outlet and switch that controls the unit. Turn off the circuit breaker before you disassemble the machine.
  • After you have disassembled it, check the wire connections for any loose wires. If you find loose wires, simply tighten them.
  • If you don’t observe any loose connections, then the problem might be with the switch, and it will need to be changed.
  • After changing the switch, turn on the machine.
  • If you have done all of this and the machine still doesn’t work, then you might have to completely change the system.

Leaking

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsThis unit can suffer leaks from different points. Some of the places where leaks might occur include the sink flange, the hose away from the disposal, and the hose to the disposal.

Sink flange leak

  • As always, switch off the power to the disposal.
  • Loosen the dispenser mounting ring beneath the sink
  • Tighten the three mounting bolts that connect the flange to the sink
  • Failed plumbers putty might cause leaks too so push the flange above the sink’s surface
  • Use new putty between the flange and the sink
  • Tighten the mounting bolts again
  • Reinstall the unit and test for any leaks

Connection leaks

  • These occur from the hose that connects the sink to the disposal
  • Tighten the hose clamp on the hose from the dishwasher that is entering the garbage disposal.
  • If leaks continue, change the hose

Drainpipe leak

There might also be leaks from the pipe that carries water from the garbage disposal to the drain pipe.

  • Ensure that bolts holding the pipe are tight
  • If there is still leaking after tightening, remove the bolts and pipe, then replace the gasket seal between the disposal and the connecting pipe.
  • Tighten the bolts again

Doesn’t grind properly

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsHere is how to solve the problem.

  • Switch off the power to the garbage disposal
  • Use the wrench that came with the unit to dislodge any stuck flywheel or impeller.
  • If you don’t have the wrench, you could pass a wooden object through the drain opening, and use it to unstuck the flywheel.
  • You could also pass light through the disposal and remove any stuck object with tongs.
  • Once the object has been dislodged and the flywheel unobstructed, power ON the machine.
  • Before you switch ON the machine, press the RESET button on the bottom
  • Test out the flywheel by switching it on for some seconds while running water through it.

Foul smell

If you have a smelly garbage disposal, here is what to do.

  • Switch off the unit
  • Scrub the visible part of the unit
  • Pass soapy water through the housing of the disposal
  • Pour ice and salt through the disposal 

Garbage disposal troubleshooting by brand

There are some pretty popular brands of garbage disposal on the market. In this section, we will consider how you can troubleshoot some of the most popular models from these brands.

Insinkerator

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsA common problem in these models is the jamming of the flywheel.

Step 1

Unplug the unit or switch it off from the circuit breaker panel. Drain the sink or find a way to remove the water. Insert the wrench into the unit until the flywheels move freely.

Step 2

Reset the unit via the RESET button at the base.

Step 3

Use pliers to remove any debris found in the disposal chamber

Step 4

Turn on the water and the disposal unit.

If you don’t want plenty of issues, many reviewers recommend the InSinkErator Evolution Excel as one of the best models from the brand.

GE Appliances

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsStep 1

Press the reset button, hold it for a second, then release it. Test out the disposal unit.

Step 2

If it doesn’t work, you might have something stuck in it. Switch off the power and unplug the unit. Then find the opening at the base of the disposal and use the Allen wrench to unclog the flywheels.

Step 3

If the obstruction is not found or cannot be removed, use a long screwdriver to wiggle the plate until it can freely move. Once you do this, switch on the unit. If it still doesn’t work, then you will have to replace it.

Kitchenaid

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsSome of the problems that you might encounter here are also what we have discussed above. However, one issue common with this brand is the noise. Here is how to solve that.

Step 1

Put the wrench into the flywheel at the bottom

Step 2

Turn the wrench clockwise to free the flywheel

Step 3

You can also free the flywheel using a long screwdriver or broom handle.

Kenmore

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsIf your Kenmore garbage disposal hums but doesn’t grind, then you should only know the following step.

Step 1

Check the shredding plate and ensure that it isn’t stuck. If it is, use the Allen wrench to free it by moving it back and forth. If it still hums after freeing the plate, then you have to replace the motor.

Badger

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsIf the motor of the Badger stops while you are using it, it has likely jammed. Here is what to do:

Step 1

Switch off the machine and turn off any running water.

Step 2

Insert the wrench into the hole at the center of the disposal’s bottom and move it back and forth until it turns completely.

Step 3

Remove any debris using pliers or gripper. You can also use the RESET button at the bottom.

Whirlaway

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsOne issue with products from this brand is jamming. If that happens, you can follow the steps outlined below.

Step 1

Insert an Allen wrench into the opening on the bottom of the unit’s body. Wiggle this until it turns freely.

Step 2

If there is no hole at the bottom, use a long screwdriver through the top opening and wiggle the plate of the disposal

Step 3

If it is still jammed, then you need to get a new unit.

Emerson

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting - 15 Common Problems with Easy SolutionsOne common problem is that the garbage disposal simply doesn’t work. Here is how to fix this.

Step 1

The most likely explanation is that the safety switch has been tripped. So, press the RESET button at the bottom of the disposal to get it working again.

Step 2

If it doesn’t work, then use the Allen wrench to wiggle the plate manually.

Final thoughts

So we have provided garbage disposal troubleshooting tips for you. With this information, you can get your unit back to work without having to hire the services of a professional. It will save you time and money. With proper maintenance culture, you can ensure that your garbage disposal works well for a long time. We hope this article helps you to take proper care of this useful appliance.

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