Garbage Disposal Repair 101

Garbage Disposal Repair 101

Garbage Disposal Repair Troubleshooting

Garbage disposals are one of those classic American household conveniences. Plumbers hate them. We like them. We use them. Sometimes we even abuse them. When it stops working, we must take the time to fix it or deal with a sink laden with a smelly soup of ground-up food and coffee grounds. But what can you do? What should you do?

Before we look at Garbage Disposal Repairs and what can go wrong, let’s look at how to use it properly.

  • Avoid forcing large quantities through the disposal at once.
  • Avoid fibrous items, such as vegetable peels.
  • Avoid oil, grease, or fat. These are generally liquids going into the disposal but solidify inside a cool drainpipe, leading to clogged drains.
  • Use lots of warm to hot water during disposal and leave the water running for a few seconds afterward.
  • Consider composting most food items since most things introduced to the drain line can cause a clog.

Nothing Happens

If the garbage disposal stops working or does not spin, don’t despair! There are a few Garbage Disposal Repair troubleshooting steps to try.

  • NEVER stick your hand into the disposal. Just don’t.
  • Some disposals are plugged into a GFCI outlet under the sink. Check to make sure the disposal’s vibrations have not disconnected the plug. Check the circuit breaker if the disposal has a direct connection to a circuit.
  • The wall switch should be a GFCI switch. Check the switch and reset it if necessary.
  • Check the bottom of the disposal, under the sink. Feel for a small reset button and push it. Your disposal might come with a rather large Allen wrench. Feel for the hexagonal opening. Make sure the disposal switch is in the OFF position and attempt to turn the unit with the Allen wrench. Remove the wrench and try the switch.

If one of these steps is successful, congratulations! DIY projects can be so rewarding.

Poor Performance

If the switch is getting power to the disposal, but the results are less than desirable, here are a few more troubleshooting steps to try.

  • NEVER stick your hand into the disposal. Not ever.
  • If the motor is running, but the blades are not spinning, turn the disposal off—this can ruin the motor. Use the Allen wrench, as described above, and try to dislodge anything jamming the disposal.
  • If the motor is running and the blades are turning, but water continues to fill the sink, the drain is clogged beyond the disposal. Remove this clog as you would any other clog. NOTICE! Do not use caustic or corrosive drain cleaners with a garbage disposal. When the disposal begins to turn, the cleaner can be cast out of the sink and contact anyone in the vicinity. A dedicated plunger can help dislodge the clog.
  • After the clog is released, flush the drain line. Insert the drain plug, fill the sink with very hot water, remove the plug, and turn the disposal on.


If the disposal is worn or needs to be replaced, replacement is a relatively easy do-it-yourself project.

  • Flip the circuit breaker and use the shutoff valve for the water at the sink.
  • Place a short, wide container under the disposal drain to catch released water.
  • Remove the P-trap drain pieces.
  • Unplug the disposal or disconnect it from the circuit.
  • Once the disposal is disconnected from the electricity and drain, it can be removed with a twist—literally. The disposal will twist off with moderate effort.
  • The disposal will come with instructions, but installation will take these steps in reverse: install with a twist, connect to electricity, reconnect the drain, and give it a try.

Garbage Disposal Repair: Doctor Cool Can Help!

Let Doctor Cool help with your Garbage Disposal Repair questions. Call Doctor Cool & Professor Heat today at 281-338-8751 or email Doctor Cool and let our professional Residential Plumber Contractors assist with all of your Garbage Disposal Repair questions.


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