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Garbage Disposal Repair Guide

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1. Why doesn't my disposer work when I turn it on?
2. Why does my disposer jam?
3. Why doesn't my disposer grind or dispose very well?
4. What can I put down my disposer?
5. What can't I put down my disposer?
6. Should I run hot or cold water in the disposer?
7. How long do I run the disposer for?
8. Why does my disposer leak?
9. Why does my disposer hum?
10. Why does my disposer make more noise than it used to?
11. Why is there a bad smell coming from my disposer?
12. I just installed a new disposer, why won't my dishwasher drain?
13. Why does my disposer drain so slowly?
14. How do I fix a clog caused by my disposer?

WARNING: To avoid personal injury or death, disconnect your appliance from its power source before you start any troubleshooting or repair work. Use caution working inside any appliance.

Why doesn't my disposer work when I turn it on?

Is there power to the disposer? If you can test this, do that first. Check your fuse-box or circuit breakers. If you have power, look on the bottom of the disposer unit. There's a small red button on most disposers, located underneath the unit or near the bottom called the reset button. If this button is popped out, the disposer motor overload has gotten too hot. This usually only occurs if there is a jam and you leave it turned on too long. Clear the jam, described below, and reset the overload safety by pressing in the red button. You may hear a little clicking sound as you push the reset button, that's normal. If it pops again when you turn the disposer on, the disposer is probably jammed. If you have power to the motor, it still won't turn, and there's no sound at all from it, your motor is probably worn out. Your best bet is to just replace the disposer.

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Why does my disposer jam?

Your disposer can jam if certain foods or other objects are introduced. Things like corn husks, avocado leaves, or other high in fiber vegetable matter, bones, utensils, glass, etc. are examples of what can jam the disposer. Many garbage disposers have a small socket hole in the bottom centre, underneath the motor. This allows you to insert a ¼" Allen wrench into it and lets you turn the masher plate back and forth inside the disposer. This will usually free any jams.

NEVER PUT YOUR HAND IN THE DISPOSER! Always use a pliers or tongs! Many injuries including hand and finger amputations are caused by disposers every year.

Some disposers don't have the Allen wrench socket. Instead, make sure that the power is off to the unit from the fuse box or circuit breaker panel. You can then use the handle of a broom, plunger, or mop inserted through the top opening of the disposer, and try to wiggle the masher plate back and forth to free any jams. Once you feel the masher plate moving again, you can remove the handle that you put in the disposer and put the power back on.

You want to check the red reset button located near the bottom of the disposer. If it has popped, just push it back in and try the unit again. If you are able to turn the masher plate back and forth and have not been able to free up the jam, you may have to contact a professional appliance repair person, or replace the unit itself.

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Why doesn't my disposer grind or dispose very well?

If the food waste isn't grinding very well, check the drain line to see if it is clogged. If the line is clear but your disposer still isn’t working very well, the unit may be worn out. As disposers get older, the internal parts start wearing and rusting. Eventually, all disposers lose their ability to grind food effectively. When this happens, replace the unit. We have a variety of models available on our site under garbage disposal.

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What can I put down my disposer?

You can put down most food scraps. Pretty much anything left on your plate after you scrape the food scraps into the garbage. Just remember, whatever you put down the disposer needs to make it through the drain lines of the house to the sewer or septic system.

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What can't I put down my disposer?

Most manufacturers suggest that you don't grind fibrous food waste items such as corn husks, potato peels, or other fibrous foods. Too much fibrous material will take a long time to grind and could clog the disposer or the plumbing. You want to be careful with left-over rice and pasta as well. Always scrape as much food waste into the regular garbage or compactor as possible.

Some disposers have a secondary blade called an undercutter that turns below the turntable, and which chops the waste foods even smaller. These disposers can handle fibrous foods better than a standard disposer can without an undercutter.

Never put metal, glass, bones, or rubber down the disposer.

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Should I run hot or cold water in the disposer?

Most manufacturers recommend running cold water while disposing. You should keep the water running while the disposer is working. It’s okay to run hot water after your disposer is done. Keep running water for several seconds after the disposer is done so that the drain line gets cleared of food debris.

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How long do I run the disposer for?

While disposing, run the disposer with cold water flowing fast, maybe two gallons a minute, until the food waste is gone, then let the disposer run another several seconds just to make sure all the food waste has been chopped and drained properly.

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Why does my disposer leak?

Sometimes you’ll experience a leak somewhere in the disposer system. Check the drain connections first. If the leak is coming from the drain pipe, you can replace the rubber gasket. If it is a new installation, check the ring near the sink flange and make sure that it is tight. Some of the seals between the sink and the disposer are available, but if the leak is coming from the body of the disposer, you’re going to have to replace the garbage disposer.

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Why does my disposer hum?

Sometimes when the garbage disposer jams, you will hear a humming noise when you turn on the switch. This is a motor hum. The motor is trying to turn, but the jam won’t let it. Avoid damage to the motor by turning the unit off right away. Clear any jams as referred to above.

If the disposer hums but isn’t jammed, the bearings are frozen, or the motor windings are probably bad. If this happens, it’s recommended to replace the whole disposer unit.

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Why does my disposer make more noise than it used to?

Sometimes a piece of metal, glass, bone, or other object will enter the disposer and cause quite a racket when you turn on the unit. If it doesn't jam the unit, it may work its own way through the drain system.

Other reasons for more noise than usual include: loose mounting screws, worn bearings, broken flyweights, or the lugs or blades are worn out. Tighten the mounting screws if they have become loose.

Because the disposer is located directly underneath the sink drain, after time, the vibrations could cause the screws to become loose, or the seals may leak water into the motor and bearings. The water will wash the bearing grease away and lead to a faster than normal wear of the bearings.

The flyweights can get broken by metal objects falling in the disposer while it is running. The lugs or blades do wear over time and work less and less efficiently. A few models allow for the replacement of the shredder ring, but usually, it is time to replace your old disposer with a new disposer.

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Why is there a bad smell coming from my disposer?

Over time, sludge, scum, and grease can build up. Use an approved disposer cleaner such as Disposal Magic to clean and deodorize your disposer. If you want to go natural, grind some orange, lime, or lemon citrus peels in the disposer along with some ice cubes.

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I just installed a new disposer, why won't my dishwasher drain?

When you install a new disposer and you want to connect a dishwasher into the drain system as well, you have to make sure that you remove the plug from the connection fitting of the disposer before connecting the plumbing back together so that the dishwasher can drain.

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Why does my disposer drain so slowly?

There are a few reasons why this can happen. Is there enough water flowing as you operate the disposer? You need a lot of water when grinding food waste. It is possible that the drain line is clogged with food waste or grease. Another reason that it may drain slowly is because it is old, worn out, and just can't chop and grind food waste like it did when it was new.

You may want to try increasing the water flow. If you feel that there may be a grease clog, try running hot soapy water through the disposer to flush it out. If it isn't grinding well, sometimes the shredder ring can be replaced.

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How do I fix a clog caused by my disposer?

If your drain has gotten clogged because of your disposer, make sure to turn the power off at the main disconnect. Next, you will want to disassemble the trap and use a drain snake to clear the clog. Re-assemble the trap and turn the water on to verify that the clog is indeed gone, and that water is flowing properly through the disposer and drain line.

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