The garbage disposal is one of those modern conveniences that we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about, even though it might only be used for 20 seconds a day. Well those 20 seconds aren’t really that important anyway, right? Well, what happens when those 20 seconds don’t go as planned? You scraped off your dinner plate, turned on the cold water and flipped the switch and…….BAM, nothing. Or maybe something does happen, like your garbage disposal starts sounding like a Rambo movie or dirty water starts backing up into your sink. You could pick up the phone and call us right away for your garbage disposal repair needs, or if you have a little bit of technical skill and a basic set of tools, you can have at it yourself.
Even though we are being a bit casual about garbage disposals, dealing with one is deadly serious. These things exist for one purpose, and one purpose only – to devour anything that is put into them. They don’t discriminate. If you fail to disconnect the power from the garbage disposal, there’s a good chance that your hand might get chewed up.
Unplug your garbage disposal from the outlet below the sink or locking it out at the fuse box. It’s also a good idea to tape the garbage disposal wall switch in the off position. Never put your hand in the machine unless you are absolutely sure that there is no power. Most garbage disposals pack ¾ to 1 horsepower and have steel or alloy blades that can easily take the skin off your fingers, if not remove the fingers completely. Now, if you’re ready to go, let’s talk about what might be wrong with your garbage disposal and how you can fix it.
These are not the only things that can happen to a garbage disposal, but they are the most common. If you can’t find your problem on this list, you need professional help to repair it.
Most garbage disposals come with an internal breaker system that automatically shuts down the disposal when a certain amount of resistance is encountered by the grinding blades. If your unit shuts down unexpectedly and will not turn back on, you may need to press the reset switch (usually located on the bottom of the unit). This is the problem more than half the time.
If the reset switch doesn’t do the trick, you should check the circuit breaker next. Sometimes the breaker will pop. If this is the case, turn the breaker back on, and again reset the garbage disposal. If the disposal reset pops the breaker, you’ll need a professional plumber or electrician to fix the problem.
If there is not a popped breaker and the reset button does not work, the garbage disposal motor may have failed, in which case you’ll need to purchase a new one.
There are three distinct noise issues that can happen in garbage disposals, a metallic rattling sound (often described like the firing of a machine gun), a whirring (humming) noise and a squealing sound.
The metal rattling sound happens when a hard object falls into the disposal and is bounced around by the blades. Removing the object will eliminate this issue. Turn off the disposal, unplug it from the socket under your sink, and remove the foreign object from the disposal. If you have unplugged the unit, it is safe to use heavy work gloves to remove the object. You can also use a slender pair of tongs.
A whirring or humming noise indicates a stuck flywheel mechanism. This type of issue happens when a piece of debris gets stuck between the shredder ring and the impellers. Using the wrench that came with your disposal, manually crank the gear at the base of the machine until the blockage is dislodged. Run some water into the disposal to clear the block. Reset the unit and use as normal. If the unit cannot be dislodged this way, contact a professional to handle it.
If your unit is squealing, turn it off immediately. This can indicate a failing bearing and possible motor failure. It might also indicate a problem with the flywheel drive belt (if your unit is belt driven).
If you have done your own garbage disposal installation and are having trouble getting the unit to shut off, check the plug that you have connected your cord to. When plugs are wired to a switch, sometimes the top half of the outlet is attached to the switch while the bottom received continual power. Try plugging the disposal into the other socket. If this doesn’t work, you have an electric issue, either between the unit and the outlet or between the outlet and the switch. Unplug the machine or shut off the main breaker switch and call a professional.
For batch run commercial garbage disposals, most have an automatic shut-off that will be tripped after 15 minutes of continuous operation. You will need to have the unit professionally serviced to prevent this from happening again.
When a disposal clogs and water backs up into the sink, the cause is usually a clogged drain line. It is important that you clean this clog manually and not use a commercially available clog remover (Drano, Liquid Plumber, etc.) because the caustic chemicals can damage the unit.
Identify the drain line, place an empty bucket beneath it, and detach it from the main disposal unit. This could require a wrench (if your line is attached with dual bolts) or the release of a pressure joint (simply unscrew it). Use your finger to clear out the drain line opening in the disposal, then clear the drain line of any blockage there as well.
If the clog is further down the line, you’ll need to clear it with a drain snake or call a professional plumber to handle the situation.
There are three places that a garbage disposal is likely to leak. The first place to check is the garbage disposal drain line. Tighten the drain line bolts or the pressure seal to stop a leak here. If the pressure seal is broken, you’ll need to purchase new o-ring (available at all major grocery stores, home-improvement stores, etc.)
Another possible leak location is at the dishwasher connection. The same type of connection that is seen in the drain line will be used here. Either tighten the bolts or replace the gasket.
The worst place to find a leak is in the sink flange. Most of the leaks in this area ore due to failed upper gaskets. These cannot be replaced by the DIYer, and are expensive for plumbers to fix. Unless you have a top of the line commercial disposal, purchasing a new one will often cost the same amount as repair the old.
No matter what the problem is with your garbage disposal, the professionals at My Plumber CA can fix it. If it’s going to be more cost-effective to install a new garbage disposal, we’ll let you know that too. Let’s get your sink back in shape and put those dinner scraps back down the drain today. In the meantime, visit our garbage disposal repair page to learn even more about our services.