Garbage Disposal Not Working? 3 Common Problems & Fixes

kitchen sink with dirty dishes

When you find your garbage disposal is not working, it can be quite frustrating, but often the problem can be easily fixed. Here are some common garbage disposal problems and what you could do about them:

The Disposal Won’t Run

You should hear the motor humming when you turn on the switch. If not, there could be an electrical problem. Check that the system is plugged in; if you store items under the sink, it’s easy for the plug to jar loose. When this isn’t the source of the problem:

  • Press the red reset button on the bottom of the garbage disposal or,
  • Check for a tripped circuit breaker and reset it if necessary or,
  • Inspect the system for a wiring issue, or have a professional help you.

The Motor Hums but Doesn’t Grind

If you hear the garbage disposal humming, but it won’t turn on, a jammed flywheel is typically the reason due to stuck food waste or a foreign object. The reset button or circuit breaker usually trips in this case. Continuing to run the unit can burn out the motor.

Remember, never stick your hand into the drain; here’s how you can fix the issue:

  • Turn off the power to the garbage disposal.
  • Insert an offset wrench, or Allen key, into the flywheel turning hole—a wood spoon handle may work too.
  • Turn it clockwise to free the stuck flywheel or impeller.
  • Check the disposal with a flashlight and remove visible objects with pliers.
  • Restore power, press the red button, and run cold water while flipping the switch on and off quickly—this should dislodge debris.

Slow Draining

A pipe clog may cause your garbage disposal to drain slowly. Fixing it requires disassembling the drain trap and discharge pipe to clean out any blockages. If you can’t find any this way, the branch drain line may be clogged; it can be cleaned with a sink auger. Call a plumber if you’re not comfortable/familiar with this kind of procedure.

Garbage Disposal Leak

Smiling Man Washing Dish Plate If the unit is leaking from the sink flange, its mounting may have loosened. Turn off the power, remove the disposal, and tighten the mounting bolts of the flange. If these are tight, loosen them and push the flange up, and then insert new plumber’s putty between it and the sink. Retighten the bolts, wipe away excess putty, and reinstall and repower the disposal; run the water and look for any additional leaks.

A leak may also occur with the hose connecting the dishwasher to the garbage disposal. You can fix this by tightening the hose clamp that’s connected to the dishwasher inlet. If the hose keeps leaking, replace it. The discharge drainpipe is another potential leak point. This can be fixed by tightening loose bolts or replacing worn gasket seals.

Contact Your Local Plumber

If you can’t find a reason for your garbage disposal not working, or you don’t know how to fix it, contact KC’s 23½ Hour Plumbing. Our Coachella Valley plumbers are always ready to help. Call 760-327-8718 to request garbage disposal or plumbing repair.