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Troubleshooting Garbage Disposal Problems

It’s probably not necessary to remind you not to put your fingers down a garbage disposal unit, but here’s a friendly reminder anyway. It’s not going to remove your fingers or make hamburger of your hands, but it can bruise you up pretty well if you switch it on when you’re reaching in there, or if you dislodge something that’s impeding the impeller. The impeller forces materials against the sides of the cylinder, which are designed to present cutting surfaces to reduce what’s put inside into drain-friendly bits that pass through the perforations and down the drain.

1) No Power

If you activate the disposal and don’t hear any hum from the motor, chances are there’s an issue with power getting to the unit. Some of us don’t use the disposal very often, so, taking care to run some water, make sure that you’re hitting the right switch.

If you are certain that you’re hitting the right switch, but still getting no power, make sure that the unit is plugged in. It sounds pretty basic, but appliance servicemen report that this is the most common problem that they encounter.

If it’s properly plugged in, and there’s no power, the next thing will be to see whether the reset has tripped. Generally, this will mean that a small red button on the bottom of the disposal has popped out a small distance. Press it back in to re-engage the mechanism.

If that doesn’t fix the problem, check to see whether the circuit breaker serving the disposal has itself tripped, and reset it if necessary.

If you’ve eliminated those causes, it’s possible that there’s a problem in the switch itself. Make sure that you have switched off the proper circuit breaker before you pull the switch, generally on the wall or under the sink.

Pull the switch out and inspect the wires. It may be that one of them has detached, in which case the fix is simply to reattach it. Or it may be that the contacts have become oxidized, in which case some contact cleaner and a scrub with steel wool should set things right.

Make sure to switch on at the main service panel before testing. If your disposal still doesn’t work, a new switch may fix the problem inexpensively. It’s worth a shot trying.

If your disposal still doesn’t work, it may just be time to get a new one. Naturally, if you are uncomfortable with any of the above steps, it’s best to call in the guys from Dave’s appliance to check things out for you.

2) You Hear the Motor Hum, But the Disposal Doesn’t Grind

Probably the flywheel is jammed, though usually this trips the reset button pretty quickly. You don’t want to have the motor trying to move a stationary flywheel for long, because this can quickly damage the motor.

Almost always, there’s some object stuck in the unit that’s preventing its operation.

For starters, shut off both the wall switch and the circuit breaker. You don’t want to accidentally bump the switch and have it start up when you’re trying to remove something from the grinding chamber.

You should have received a special offset wrench with your unit. If you’ve misplaced it, a large hex wrench may suffice. Insert the wrench and turn it clockwise to release the flywheel/impeller assembly. You should feel it begin to turn freely. If you don’t have a wrench that will work, a local seller of your brand of disposal may be able to get one for you.

You can also try your luck with the wooden handle to one of your kitchen implements. Again, you should feel the flywheel unstick and begin to move freely if you can move the impellers clockwise.

Get a flashlight and get a good look into the chamber, if you can. Remove any foreign objects or debris with a needle nose pliers or similar implement.

Switch power back on at the mains, hit the reset button, run some water and hit the wall or under-sink switch. Anything left should be easily disposed of by the unit.

If it’s still not working, it’s time to call Dave’s appliance.

Leaks

Leakage at the Flange

The most common leak issue develops at the flange, because the vibration of the disposal motor loosens the seal.

Turn off the power at the mains before anything else.

You should see a mounting ring. Turn the disposal counter-clockwise from the bottom to loosen it and detach it from the ring.

This should expose 3 bolts that secure the flange to the sink. Tighten them.

If the bolts don’t seem loose, it could be that the plumbers putty that helps make the seal has deteriorated or come loose. Loosen the bolts and push the flange a little ways above the sink to provide room to bead on some new putty (it’s best to remove what you can of the old). Retighten the bolts and wipe away any excess with a rag.

Reinstall the disposal unit on the mounting ring, switch on at the service panel.

Run some water and check for any leaks.

Leakage at the Dishwasher Connection

Often dishwasher wastewater is discharged into the garbage disposal. Check to see whether the clamp has loosened up and tighten it down. If it’s not the clamp, it’s probably time to replace the hose.

Leakage at the Discharge Drainpipe

A rigid plastic pipe discharges water from the disposal to the sink drain trap. The issue may be with the gasket, and the treatment is the same as with the flange. Attempt to tighten the bolts, and if that doesn’t suffice to replace the plumber’s putty in the same way.

If the Disposal Drains Slowly

There’s probably some clogging. Disassemble the drain pipe and the trap, and remove any materials that may be impeding the flow of water and disposal debris. If you can’t find any, the problem is likely further along and needs snaking out with an auger.

A handy guide to what not to put down your disposal:

Bones are not generally a good idea.
Potato peels, pasta, or other starchy foods.
Grease.
Fruit pits.
Celery or other very fibrous materials.
Coffee grounds.
Egg shells.

As always, if you have any questions or need help, the friendly and knowledgeable folks at Dave’s Appliance are happy to help!

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