There is one major thing you need to know if you’re going to try to repair your own garbage disposal. Please, please, please, never put your hand down into the disposal system.  Knowing that, let’s proceed.

Garbage Disposal Troubleshooting:

If the Garbage Disposal will not turn on and it is not making a humming sound, check the power; there may be an electrical problem.  It may seem obvious, but first, check to make sure your garbage disposal is plugged in.  If it is plugged in, try pressing the disposal reset button (this should be located on the bottom of the unit).  And if your unit has a reset, the button should be popped out.

If that does not work, you’ll need to check to see if the circuit breaker has tripped and is turned off inside of your electrical service panel (most likely located in your basement or garage).

Maybe you find that the breaker has not tripped and the reset button is not popped out, then you may have a faulty disposal switch.  As you know, the switch that powers the disposal unit should be located on the wall or under the sink.

To replace the switch, first turn off the circuit breaker at the service panel which powers the disposal.  This link will take you to videos that will show how to replace your switch. Turn the power back on after replacing the switch at the service panel and check to see if your disposal is now working.

If the disposal will still not turn on and makes no noise, the garbage disposal is probably beyond repair and needs to be replaced.  This link will take you to different types of garbage disposals that you can purchase.

What if the Garbage Disposal Does Not Turn On?

If the Garbage Disposal won’t turn on but does make a humming sound when you flip the switch, it probably means that your garbage disposal is clogged and that you may have a stuck flywheel.  The reset button on the unit itself or the fuse or circuit breaker in your electrical service panel should trip and “turn off” the unit rather quickly.  The unit’s flywheel is stuck because most likely something is lodged between it or the impeller(s) and the shredder ring.  Please see the picture below showing the various parts of a garbage disposal.

Reminder: Never put your hand down into the garbage disposal hopper (grinding chamber).

garbage disposal

Make sure power to the garbage disposal is turned off at the electrical service panel.  Then take the offset disposal wrench, that came with the disposal unit, and insert the wrench into the opening in the center of the disposal’s bottom/the flywheel “turning hole” to manually rotate the motor.  If you don’t have the wrench you can pick one up from a hardware store that sells your garbage disposal model.  Some disposal models will come with this large L-shaped/S-shaped hex wrench.  Once the wrench is inserted, turn it clockwise to dislodge the stuck impeller or flywheel.  When dislodged, you’ll feel the flywheel turn freely.  If this doesn’t do it, move the wrench back and forth until the impeller is freed.

Another Method

Another approach is to try and use a wooden broom handle or similar wooden object to free the stuck impeller and flywheel going in from the top of the unit through the drain.  Place the broom-handle into the hopper/drain and against the impeller.  Use leverage to try and free the stuck flywheel, but be as gentle as you can be.  As stated above, when it dislodges you’ll feel the flywheel turn freely.  Once freed, turn the power back on at the panel, but do not turn on the disposal yet.  Go back to the underside of the disposal and press the reset button.

Now, run some tap water into the disposal and flip the switch on and off turning the disposal on for a short burst.  Turn on and off again.  This should spin the flywheel and the dislodged obstruction should be washed down the drain.

What About a Garbage Disposal that is Leaking?

If the Garbage Disposal is leaking, these leaks can occur from a couple of different locations on the garbage disposal.

Leaking at the Sink Flange

First turn off power to the disposal at the electrical service panel.  Then place a shallow bucket underneath your sink.  You will want to position the bucket underneath the “P-trap”; that is, the curved part of the pipe that leads directly from the disposal (most likely behind the disposal).

Check to see what is holding your P-trap together.  Some are held together with screws, in which case you will need a screwdriver, while others have slip nuts on both ends of the pipe, in which case you may need a pair of channel locks or wrench.

Remove the P-trap.  Do this slowly and make sure the bucket is still positioned directly beneath the trap.  Standing water inside of the P-trap may spill out and you will want the bucket to catch it.  Whether the P-trap is made with screws or slip nuts, you will turn in a counterclockwise fashion to loosen the parts and remove them along with the P-trap.  Be sure to keep the screws or nuts close for putting the P-trap back into place.

Next Step

Now, at the disposal mounting, turn the disposal to the left (counter-clockwise from bottom) to loosen and remove the unit from the mounting flange.  Then tighten its three mounting bolts at the underside of the sink.

If the bolts are tight, the leak may be caused by failed “plumber’s” putty.  Loosen the bolts and push the sink flange slightly up above the surface of the sink.

Force some plumber’s putty (obtained at any hardware store) between the sink flange and the sink, going completely around the flange.

Then tighten the disposal’s mounting bolts, drawing the sink flange tight to the sink surface; be careful to not over tighten.  The putty will ooze out, so wipe away the excess putty.

Reinstall the disposal at the mounting by turning it to the right (clockwise from bottom).

Reattach the P-trap.  Use either the screwdriver or wrench and turn the screws or nuts clockwise to tighten them.  Do not tighten them too much or you could crack the plastic pipe.  However, make sure you have replaced the screws or bolts tight enough so that water doesn’t leak.  Then turn the power back on at the service panel.

Run the disposal and check for leaks.  If this does not work, please call us, Proudfoot Plumbing, Heating and Air.  We will be glad to help.

Leaking at the Dishwasher Connection

This is for those that have a dishwasher. First try tightening the clamp on the dishwasher hose connected to the dishwasher inlet on the disposal.  If that does not work, check the hose for leaks.  Replace the hose if it is leaking.

Leaking at the Discharge Drainpipe

Look for the “waste line connector” in the picture above. First check the screws, slip nuts or bolts holding the discharge drainpipe (“P-trap”) to the disposal for tightness. If they are tight and the leak persists, remove the discharge drainpipe (as per the procedure above for removing the “P-trap”) and replace the gasket. The main drain line should have a rubber gasket on the inside.

Reinstall the discharge drainpipe or P-trap, again, as per the procedure above and tighten everything up. Run the disposal and check for leaks.  Again, if this does not work, please give Proudfoot a call.

How Do you Deal with Garbage Disposal Clogs?

Below are some tips for avoiding Garbage Disposal Clogs and Slow Draining Situations.

There are a few things to avoid when using your sink and garbage disposal to help reduce chances of clogs or slow draining.

Do not use the garbage disposal to grind up potato peelings.  They will form a starchy paste similar to mashed potatoes when ground up and will most likely clog your drain.

Do not put coffee grounds or egg shells into your disposal.  They create very tiny granular waste that will stick to any sludge in the pipe and could rather quickly create a clog.

You should maintain your disposal regularly by using it to grind up pieces of lemon peel and ice cubes. You can also avoid odors by treating your disposal every month with a combination of a couple of handfuls of baking soda and a half cup of vinegar.  Let that set in the disposal hopper with the unit turned off.  After it’s done foaming, rinse it down the drain with running water.

If All Else Fails, Call Proudfoot Services

Please give Proudfoot a call at 1-412-461-2198, or contact us and we’ll be glad to make recommendations for you on a solution for your garbage disposal problems.

Schedule Service

At Proudfoot Plumbing, Heating, and Air, we are here to help you and are happy to process your scheduling request by email if that is your preference. Please indicate what service area you require in your request, and we will get back to you within one business day of receiving it.

Contact Us from Proudfoot Plumbing