Garbage Disposal Repair – Common Problems

By HomeAdvisor

Updated November 18, 2016

Common Garbage Disposal Issues

Garbage disposals are pretty straightforward devices. They operate on a motor system that circulates rotating blades under your sink to grind up food particles and other waste. However, since these small motorized appliances are used so often in the home, they can easily get jammed or clogged. And since they are attached to the most heavily used item in the house—the kitchen sink—it’s important to keep this unit up and running. Here are a few tips to remember when it comes to garbage disposal repair.

Garbage Disposal Repair

A garbage disposal can run into many kinds of problems, some of which can be easily fixed and others that may need more advanced training. You’ll have to decide which you’re most capable of, but for safety’s sake, never take unnecessary risks if you’re not qualified to do so. Here are some common troubles you may encounter:

  • Overheating: If you flip the switch and your garbage disposal doesn’t even hum, then it’s probably overheated due to overfilling and has tripped itself off. The first step is to look under the unit and locate the red ?reset? button. If nothing happens once you push the button, then locate your circuit box and see if a breaker has been tripped. This is a common problem and something that should be done on one’s own: no use paying a professional $75 to push a button.
  • Jamming: If the unit is humming but still isn’t working, then it probably means it’s jammed (the impellers are stuck). First step, never put your hand down into the drain and into grinding chamber. This may seem like an obvious bit of advice, but it’s everyone’s natural instinct to reach into the problem and try to dislodge items by hand, so try to overcome this gut reaction. Second, turn off circuit breakers to the unit and then remove bottom housing to dislodge the blockage from beneath. Though this isn’t a difficult fix, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best to hire a professional since these impellers are able to grind more than just food, but fingers as well.
  • Last Option: If neither of these seems to be the problem, then it’s a more serious fix and it may be best to simply buy a new unit. Check your manufacturer’s warranty to see if it is covered. If not, garbage disposals aren’t too expensive (a few hundred dollars), but you have to also think about installation. Though they come with homeowner’s instructions, these appliances take time to research and install, so it may be best not to bet on your own skills when it comes to plumbing and just hire a professional.
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Avoiding Garbage Disposal Repair

  • Never Evers: Never grind fibrous foods, coffee grounds, or eggshells, bones, glass, rubber or metal in your garbage disposal. Never overfill it. And never use chemical drain cleaners to unclog it: they won’t work and you’ll be stuck with a sink full of toxic liquids.
  • Always, Always: Always run cold water while in use. Always have a drain strainer to avoid blockage. And if items get stuck in the unit for too long and your sink begins to stink, make it smell better by grinding up a small lemon peel with ice cubes while running warm water.


  1. Lisa, February 6:

    Has anyone ever had a garbage disposal that won’t shut off? I eventually had to flip the breaker. Help!

  2. warren, March 2:

    How to retrieve the reset button that has dislodge into the disposal?

  3. Janet Paine, January 22:

    Yes, my garbage disposal will not shut off. What do I need to do.

  4. Len Scholl, February 2:

    Our disposal has always functioned just perfectly. Except today. It suddenly is leaking water out of somewhere and running off the bottom. Help?

  5. Mike, February 28:

    Hello my disposal under my sink hums, but doesn’t operate. I cleared all debris from the disposal. I flipped the switch, and it still hums, but not working. What can I do?

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