Trouble Shooting Garbage Disposal Problems

2 HEB plumbers work under a Hurst area kitchen sink

When your garbage disposal works, it makes your life easier every single day, especially when it comes to doing your dishes. When it stops working, though, it can negatively affect every waking second of your day. Suddenly, you have to deal with constant smells, backed up sinks, and kitchen scraps where they shouldn’t be. Doing dishes becomes a Herculean task. 

Our team at HEB Plumbing & Sprinkler has put together this list of troubleshooting tips to try if your garbage disposal is giving you issues so that you don’t have to dread doing the dishes anymore than you have to. 

Garbage Disposal Will Not Turn On

If you turn your garbage disposal on and nothing happens, then this is a sign of a likely electrical problem. There are several things you can check to make sure the issue isn’t just a simple fix.

  1. First, make sure the garbage disposal is plugged in. This is a surprisingly common problem and easy to fix.
  2. If the garbage disposal was plugged in, try hitting the reset button instead. The reset button operates the built-in-circuit breaker function and can be found on the bottom of the unit. Sometimes, this circuit breaker can be tripped, resulting in it turning off and refusing to turn on. If this is the case, the reset button will fix the issue. 
  3. If the reset button doesn’t work, you will want to check the main circuit breaker. If it has been tripped, resetting the circuit breaker will do the trick. If resetting both the internal and external circuit breaker doesn’t resolve the problem, this could indicate that there is a wiring issue with the switch controlling the disposal. Alternatively, the disposal itself could be faulty.

If none of these options get your garbage disposal to work, at this point you will want to call your certified plumber to come check the issue as their experience will help get to the bottom of the issue sooner and reduce the risk of electrocution.

The Disposal is Humming But It Does Not Grind the Food Down

If you can hear a humming sound but the garbage disposal’s blades won’t turn, the flywheel may be jammed. This problem is usually caused by food or a foreign object getting lodged between the impellers and the shredding ring. If this is the case, it will typically cause the appliance’s internal circuit breaker to trip. This issue needs to be fixed as soon as you notice it as ignoring the issue could result in the motor burning out which means more costly and involved repairs in the long run.  

To fix this issue, there are several steps you can take. 

  1. First, as an important reminder, NEVER put your hand into the garbage disposal
  2. To repair this issue, start by turning off the power to the garbage disposal at the electrical service panel by turning it off at the external breaker level. Make sure the switch on the wall is turned off as well.
  3. Next, take the offset wrench that came with your disposal and insert it into the flywheel turning hole located in the bottom of the unit. Don’t have the wrench? No problem! Most hardware stores sell them, and sometimes even a large allen (hex) wrench can work as well.
  4. Once the wrench has been inserted, you will need to turn it clockwise to dislodge the stuck impeller.
  5. After this, use a flashlight to look down into the disposal and try to see if you can see the object that caused the jam.
  6. Once you have located the culprit causing the jam, carefully remove the foreign object using pliers. 
  7. After the blockage has been removed, turn the power back on at the main service panel but do NOT turn on the disposal yet. Instead, press the reset button on the bottom of the disposal first.
  8. Finally, run some cold tap water into the disposal and flip the switch on and off for short bursts. This will allow the flywheel to finish breaking down any remaining debris and wash it down the drain.

The Disposal Is Leaking

Garbage disposal leaks can occur at many different points on the garbage disposal. Common areas of leaks include the sink flange, the hose that leads from the dishwasher to the disposal, and the hose that discharges waste from the disposal to the drain system. Depending on the location of the leak, you will have to try different troubleshooting steps.

Leak Is In the Sink Flange

Plumber in a kitchen fixing a stopped up sink drain

Here’s what to do if the leak is in the sink flange, or where the garbage disposal connects to the bottom of the sink.

Overtime, the constant vibration of the garbage disposal can loosen the mounting apparatus that is holding the appliance in place to the sink drain. Consequently, repairing this leak involves improving the seal between the appliance and the sink drain. 

First, turn off the power to the disposal using the external circuit breaker. Then, from the disposer mounting ring under the sink, turn the disposal to the left to loosen the unit and safely remove the unit from its mounting flange. After removing the unit, you should see the mounting bolts; tighten down the three mounting bolts holding the flange to the sink.

 If the bolts feel tight, then the leak may be caused by weakening plumber’s putty. In this case, loosen the bolts and push the sink flange slightly above the surface of the sink. Put some new plumber putty between the sink flange and the sink; it should be spread completely around the flange. 

Next, retighten the mounting bolts. This should draw the sink flange tight to the sink’s surface. Wipe the excess putty away, reinstall the disposal, and turn the power back on. Finally, check for leaks as you run water in the sink to make sure the issue is resolved.

Leak Is Located On the Hose Connected to the Dishwasher

If the leak is in the hose that leads from the dishwasher to the disposal, try tightening the hose clamp on the dishwasher hose connected to the dishwasher inlet on the disposal. If the leak continues, the hose may need to be replaced. There’s not much else to do to resolve leaks in this location. 

Leak In The Hose That Dishcarges Waste

However, if the leak is in the hose that discharges waste from the disposal to the drain system, there are more options to try.

First, locate the discharge drainpipe. It is a plastic pipe that directs the waste water from the disposal to the sink drain tap. Check the bolts holding the discharge pipe to the disposal and make sure that they are tight. If they are loose, tighten them. If this doesn’t work, remove the bolts and the pipe and replace the gasket seal between the pipe and the disposal. Reinstall the bolts and tighten them down.

The Disposal Is Draining Slowly

This is a common problem that can be caused by a multitude of different issues. The usual suspect, however, is that the drain is clogged. To troubleshoot and fix the issue, try the following steps. 

  1. First, remove the bolts holding the discharge pipe to the disposal.
  2. Disconnect the drain trap and remove the trap and the discharge drain pipe to check for clogs.
  3. If there are no clogs, this could mean that the branch drain line, which is the line that goes into the wall, is what is clogged. In this case, the obstruction can be cleared with a sink auger. 
  4. Next, reassemble the drain trap and reconnect the discharge tube to the side of the garbage disposal.
  5. Finally, run the water and see if the drainage has gotten better. If the drainage isn’t improved, there could be a worse clog or other issue further in the pipes. This is when you need to get a trusted plumber involved. 

Still Struggling With Your Garbage Disposal?

Doing the dishes and otherwise using your kitchen sink is a part of daily life, but it shouldn’t have to be a part of the day that you’re dreading. Our experienced team at HEB Plumbing & Sprinkler will do everything they can to make sure that your plumbing makes your life easier, not harder, from helping you with a malfunctioning garbage disposal to installing the sprinkler system of your dreams to everything in between. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or consultation!

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