How to Fix Garbage Disposals – Most Common Problems

How to Fix Garbage Disposals – Most Common Problems

Whether you just installed a brand new garbage disposal or you have had one for quite some time, eventually it is likely that you will encounter a maintenance issue with the unit at some point. In fact, the longer you have a unit, the greater the likelihood you will be faced with at least one minor repair. Now before you go running for your checkbook and pouring out the last of your savings on the services of a professional plumber, there are a number of things you can do to try to deal with the most common problems you will experience with a garbage disposal.

how to fix garbage disposals

Most common problems include:

  • Loss of power due to loss of electricity
  • Jams and clogs
  • Need for a manual reset
  • Leaks


Long before you attempt to make any kind of repair to your garbage disposal, you should check out some of the following troubleshooting tips:

  1. In order to troubleshoot your garbage disposal, consider removing the cabinets off the cabinet beneath the sink. It will give you easier access to the work area. Set the cabinets and connecting screws aside until you are done working on your unit.
  2. Work Hint: For comfort while you work, you might want a knee pad.
  3. Before working on your disposal, you may want to view the owner’s manual. Review any trouble shooting guide and instructions.
  4. Check to see that you have power going to the outlet that powers your disposer. Use a wire tester to test wires or the outlet you are using. If you do not have a wire tester, plug in a small appliance you know is working to see if the appliance works: If it does, you know you have power to the outlet.
  5. Make sure that if the unit has a cord, it is plugged in the outlet.
  6. If you are, unsure if the disposal is working or not, see if there is a test button beneath the unit. Push in the test button to see if it makes the unit work. If it does not reset, the unit may be jammed or it has something wrong with it.
  7. Unplug the garbage disposer or cut off power going to the unit before you begin.
  8. IMPORTANT NOTE: READ YOUR WARRANTY COVERAGE AND LIMITATIONS. Some warranties may prohibit any efforts to fix the unit on your own otherwise you might void the warranty. Follow warranty instruction pertaining to cleaning the unit and clearing clogs.

Clearing Jams

It happens even to the best of the garbage disposals: Jams occur. Your unit may get clogged up from the passage of food waste that is too fibrous, or fats and oils passing through the unit may gunk up the grinding components. Either way, when you find yourself faced with a clog, there are a few simple steps you can implement. Do the following to clear those clogs:

  1. Gather the tools you need to take care of a garbage disposal clog:
  2. A self-service tool that usually comes with the unit when you buy it. (If a plumber installed your garbage disposal, you may find this small tool beneath the kitchen sink area.
  3. As an alternative, you can use a 1/4 inch allen wrench to work on your disposer.
  4. Another alternative tool you may need is a needle nose pair of pliers.
  5. As mentioned above, below the garbage disposal has a hole at the bottom of it that you can access to turn unit’s motor by using an Allen wrench. This allows you to manually turn the device’s motor. By moving the wrench back and forth you can try to free up the existing clog inside the unit. (The hole where you place the allen wrench is directly in the center of the bottom of the device).
  6. After you make sure the motor moves freely, if you lack any sound from the disposer, you’ll have to reset it to make it work.
  7. The garbage disposal is usually fitted with a manual reset button. It is often found at the bottom of the unit. Tapping on the unit allows you to reset the unit. After resetting the unit, try to turn it on again.

More Complicated Jams

  1. More complicated garbage disposal jams can and do sometimes occur. For instance, if a piece of broken glass falls into the unit or if a bottle cap accidently gets inside of it, you will have to remove the foreign item. Do the following:
  1. Unplug the garbage disposal.
  2. Disconnect the unit from your sink.
  3. Take a flashlight and look down into the disposal.
  4. If you can see the foreign item, use a pair of needle nose pliers and see if you can get the piece out of the disposal.
  5. DO NOT put your hand inside the unit.
  6. After you remove the jam, reconnect the disposal.
  7. Reset your power.
  8. Reset the disposal using the manual reset button. Turn on the unit.
  9. Run the water and pass through any part of the remaining clog.
  10. If the clog still remains, contact a professional.

How to Fix Garbage Disposal Leaks

Occasionally, the parts that connect your unit to your sink and the pipes connecting to your disposal may leak. Leaks can develop from a variety of issues, including:

It is possible the leak is from a problem with the gasket connecting the garbage disposal connector and the unit.

  • The leak can stem from the locking ring that holds the unit in position: The one that connects to the unit’s connector.
  • The drain going out of the unit and into the drain pipe may leak.
  • The unit can drain from the dishwasher.

There are myriad methods for why a disposal may leak. It’s a good idea to call a professional to handle any leak issues stemming from an ambiguous source. For more information on fixing a leaky garbage disposal, see the video.

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