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Why Is My Garbage Disposal Not Working? (5 Likely Reasons)

Garbage disposal

Each household is like a working organism that thrives on daily rituals. Maintaining your kitchen and keeping it clean and tidy is crucial in taking care of your personal space. A garbage disposal plays a vital role in maintaining a neat kitchen area. Since this unit is being used multiple times throughout the day, it tends to malfunction from time to time. Issues with the garbage disposal can be temporary or permanent, which is why running these diagnostics is essential.

In the article below, you can find some of the most common reasons why your garbage disposal may stop working and simple solutions that don’t require a professional.

divider 4 The 5 Reasons Your Garbage Disposal Isn’t Working

1. Water Leak

broken garbage waste disposal leaking under the sink
Image By: mariakray, Shutterstock

Water leaking in your garbage disposal is a very common issue in most households. The biggest reason for this is the constant vibration that the mounting apparatus has to endure. It is the main point that holds the appliance to the opening of the sink drain. Problems with your garbage disposal leaking can occur in several places, and if you suspect your problem is of this nature, it is necessary to check each possible location. The most common areas where a leak may occur are the sink flange, the connection to the discharge, and the connection hose to the dishwasher.

If the issue occurs at the sink flange, first check to see if the mounting bolts are tight enough. If they are, the leak may be caused by a plumber’s putty being out of order. Install a new layer of plumber’s putty between the sink flange and the sink, going around the flange. If the leak occurs at the dishwasher connection, either tighten the hose clamp or replace the hose entirely. If the leak occurs at the connection to the discharge, replace the gasket seal between the disposal and the pipe, and tighten the bolts.

2. Problems with Draining

If your garbage disposal is having issues draining the waste properly, there is likely a clog. These clogs are most likely to occur in the drain trap of a pipe that is shaped like the letters S or P. Another clear symptom of a clog will be the water backing up into the sink or not draining correctly.

Remove the drain trap and discharge pipe and clean them of any potential clogs. If necessary, search further down the drain line. Clean any debris or accumulation of waste you may find and assemble the drain trap and discharge pipe back together.

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3. Issues with the Power Source

A plumber laying under a house hold sink working on a garbage disposal
Image By: David Spates, Shutterstock

If your garbage disposal doesn’t turn on at all, you most likely have issues with the power source. There are many reasons why your garbage disposal is refusing to start and to solve this issue; it is always best to start with the most obvious answer. If you’ve done all you could on your part—checked that it’s plugged in, made sure the circuit breaker hasn’t tripped, or already tried pressing the reset button on the bottom of the unit—without any luck, there is undoubtedly a wiring problem on your unit. In this case, you can run further diagnostics or call a professional to do it for you.

After switching everything off and making sure no power is reaching the garbage disposal, inspect the wire connections. The most probable cause is loose wire connections; tightening them can quickly fix your problem. You can also replace the switch in case it has broken. If your garbage disposal still doesn’t work after trying all these steps, you may need to buy a new one.

4. Faulty Motor

Another common issue that occurs quite frequently during the life span of garbage disposals is a faulty motor. The motor to the garbage disposal can stop working when the disposal becomes too jammed or if a foreign object falls in. When this happens, you may think your garbage disposal motor has burned out, which is not always the case, so make sure to check there aren’t any jams. Since a burnt-out motor will have to be replaced, it is recommended to make sure there aren’t any other fixable issues at stake. Before jumping to any repairs, make sure to check the warranty at your disposal. If the warranty is still in place, stop all repairs and take it to the place of purchase.

Most units come with a wrench, which you can use to turn the disposal blades back and forth to ensure the motor is not jammed. Sometimes resetting the unit for around 20 or 30 seconds does the job. The reset button is on the bottom of the unit. If you persistently need to reset the unit or it refuses to turn on, the motor probably failed, and you may need to replace it.

5. Overheating

Garbage disposal
Image Credit: Minerva Studio, Shutterstock

Overheating is the main cause of your garbage disposal not working properly. You’ll be able to tell when your garbage disposal is overheating if it stops working in the middle of a task. It will often begin working again after cooling down. This can happen if you frequently use the garbage disposal without breaks and give it challenging tasks. Many people fear their motor has burnt out when this happens, but this situation shouldn’t worry you, as your unit will shortly continue working as usual.

When your unit stops working in the middle of the task, reset the unit and wait for it to cool down. After doing these steps, your unit should be working correctly again. Make sure to use it in short intervals to prevent this from happening again.

divider 4 Conclusion

Once you study this article carefully, you’ll hopefully be able to take care of your garbage disposal on your own. It’s a good idea to take care of those minor, superficial problems on your own, and if the issues get more serious, you can always seek the help of a professional plumber.

Featured Image Credit: mariakray, Shutterstock


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