You may not appreciate your garbage disposal until it stops functioning. You realize how much you depend on this kitchen workhouse when it leaks or stops working. Minimize downtime by diagnosing and repairing the machine yourself.
Anatomy of a garbage disposal
It’s important to understand the machine to maintain and troubleshoot problems. A garbage disposal is a grinder sealed inside a watertight casing. You can view important parts of the disposal from its exterior.
- The mouth in the sink leads to the grinding chamber, which chops food into bits to be flushed down the drain. Impeller blades are mounted on the spinning floor of the chamber, and a grinding ring runs around the perimeter.
- Under the sink is a port near the top of the disposal where a hose from the dishwasher disgorges wastewater into the grinding chamber.
- Another port near the bottom of the machine drains everything from the grinding chamber into the drainpipe and out to the sewer or septic system.
- On the underside of the disposal, you’ll find a red “reset” electrical breaker switch and a hexagonal slot into which an Allen wrench can be inserted.
Here’s a list of common garbage disposal issues and how to fix them.
- A high-pitched whine instead of the usual low rumble probably means a hard object has jammed between the blades and the grinding ring. To fix this problem, turn off the machine and unplug the power under the sink. Shine a flashlight into the chamber to spot the blockage, then use tongs or pliers to pluck it out. Restore power and run the machine. If this doesn’t free up the grinder, use the Allen wrench that came with the machine by inserting it into the slot on the bottom and making a few turns to free up the impeller.
- When you turn the disposal on and hear a loud racket from the grinding chamber, a foreign object like a spoon or broken glass has fallen in. If it’s a piece of silverware, simply pluck it out. Follow the procedure above if it’s something at the bottom of the chamber.
- If the disposal does nothing when you turn it on, first check that the power cord hasn’t come unplugged under the sink. After that, push the interior circuit breaker reset button on the bottom. If the disposal is still not working, check the switch in the breaker panel.
- When the disposal leaks into the cabinet beneath the sink, check the two hoses connected to the dishwasher and the drainpipe. If the leak is not there, check all the way up the unit to the sink mount for a leak. If any of these three connections are wet on the outside, they need tightening.
- If water is leaking from any of the seams of the machine casing, an inner seal has ruptured. The cost of repair will be so high it’s best to buy a new garbage disposal.
- Always run water into the drain when using your disposal.
- Do not put fibrous fruits and vegetables into the disposal. Asparagus, celery and broccoli stalks can jam the machine. Consider composting instead.
- Once a month, fill the grinding chamber with ice cubes, add lemon juice, and run the machine until it clears. This sharpens the blades, clears potential obstructions and removes odors.