Garbage Disposal Repair Guide

Nearly every owner of a food waste disposal has suffered from jamming or clogging. One of these problems can even affect your dishwasher. So, you should call a plumber, right? Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or money to call in a professional. And garbage disposal repair isn’t hard if you can diagnose the problem. In fact, there is no need to call a professional unless the problems exists within the home’s main pipeline system.

So if you already have purchased garbage disposal and it is showing you any error, read this guide.

How to Repair Garbage Disposal

Safety

The first step in garbage disposal repair is making sure you stay safe. While you won’t have your hand and arm severed in a garbage disposal, the dull grinders can still hurt you. The only thing you really need to remember is never put your fingers or hand into the disposal. You may think you’ve unplugged the garbage disposal or shut off the circuit providing it with power. But we all make mistakes. If the garbage disposal is accidentally turned on, you may bruise your fingers or hand.

Disposal Hums But Won’t Grind

Once you insert the wrench, turn it clockwise to dislodge the impeller or flywheel that is stuck. You’ll know when the object is dislodged because you can feel the flywheel freely turn. You may also use the handle of a wooden spoon, or another long, thin wooden utensil to reach down into the disposal through the drain opening. Just make sure it’s long enough that you can use it as a lever to free the stuck flywheel without getting your fingers in there. Again, you’ll know you’re successful when you can feel the flywheel start to turn freely.

With the help of a flashlight, look down into the garbage disposal. You may be able to see silverware or meat bones causing the flywheel to jam. You can use a pair of long pliers to remove the foreign object. Once you free the flywheel, turn the power back on at the circuit breaker but don’t flip the switch for the garbage disposal yet. Instead, press the red reset button on the bottom of the appliance and run some tap water into the unit. Quickly flip the switch on and off repeatedly. This allows the flywheel to spin and wash any dislodged debris down the drain.

Disposal Is Leaking

When it comes to garbage disposal repair, one of the most difficult situations you’ll run into is a leaking garbage disposal. The most common areas your garbage disposal will leak are the sink flange where the unit and the bottom of the sink meet, the hose that connects the dishwasher to the unit, and the hose that discharges the waste from the unit to the drain system.

Leak at the Dishwasher Connection

The first step in garbage disposal repair when your disposal is leaking is identifying where the leak is occurring. Start by checking for a leak at the dishwasher connection. Tighten the hose clamp on the dishwasher hose on the garbage disposal that connects the dishwasher inlet. Replace the hose if it continues to leak after you tighten the connection.

Leak at the Discharge Drainpipe

If your gasket is old, the plastic pipe that transports wastewater from the garbage disposal unit to the sink’s drain trap may leak. Check the bolts that hold the discharge pipe in place at the garbage disposal unit. Tighten them if they are loose. If this doesn’t stop the leak, remove the bolts and pipe completely and replace the gasket seal between the appliance and the pipe. Reinstall the bolts, making sure they are all tight.

Leak at the Sink Flange

After years of vibration from the garbage disposal unit, the mounting apparatus that holds the garbage disposal unit to the sink drain opening can loosen. When the sink mounting flange loosens, an expensive leak can occur. Start by turning off the power to the garbage disposal by turning off the circuit breaker that controls the unit from the main electrical service panel.

Next, turn the disposal counter-clockwise from the bottom. Remember being taught “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” as a kid? You’re trying to loosen the garbage disposal at the disposal mounting ring beneath the sink. If it’s reverse threaded, you’ll need to turn it to the right (clockwise). Once it’s loose, remove it from the mounting flange.

Tighten the three mounting bolts down that hold the flange to the sink. If the bolts are already tight, there may be a leak because of failed plumber’s putty. Loosen the bolts and push the sink flange just above the sink’s surface. Force a bead of new plumbers putty between the sink and the sink flange. This putty should completely surround the flange. From the bottom of the sink, re-tighten the mounting bolts. This will draw the sink flange flush with the surface of the sink. Wipe away any excess putty that oozes out. Reinstall the garbage disposal unit and turn the power back on from the circuit breaker. Then, run water through the sink and make sure the leaks have stopped.

Disposal Drains Slowly

There are many potential causes of a slowly draining garbage disposal. However, it’s usually nothing more than a simple clog. All you have to do to perform a garbage disposal repair on a slowly draining system is disassemble the drain trap and discharge pipe and remove whatever food waste is causing the clogged pipes.

Start by removing the bolts that hold the discharge pipe flush to the disposal unit. Then, disconnect the drain trap and remove it, along with the discharge drain pipe. Identify any obstructions or clogs and remove them. If you don’t see anything that is obviously causing a clog, the clog can probably be found on the branch drain line that goes into the wall. Use a sink auger to eliminate the obstruction. Reconnect the discharge tube to the unit’s side and reassemble the drain trap. With water running, turn the garbage disposal on and make sure the water drains as quickly as it’s supposed to.

Warning

Never put chemical drain cleaners into a garbage disposal. It’s bad enough that these chemicals rarely work. Even worse, you are left with a sinkful of toxic chemicals. These chemicals can damage the garbage disposal and will void nearly all manufacturer’s warranties. To mitigate the risk of clogs or other slow drain’s, here are some helpful tips:

Don’ts

Never grind up potato peelings. Such peelings create a starchy paste akin to mashed potatoes when they are ground up. This will always clog your drain and result in slowly draining garbage disposals. You should also never put eggshells or coffee grounds into your garbage disposal. These create minute pieces of granular waste that will adhere to any sludge already in the pipe. This is a quick recipe for disaster.

Do’s

Keep your garbage disposal system running smoothly by regularly grinding up ice cubes and bits of lemon peel. Mix a half cup of vinegar with a couple handfuls of baking soda. Treat your unit with this solution once a month to avoid odors. All you have to do is pour the mixture into the hopper while the unit is turned off. Once it’s done foaming, use running water to rinse it down the drain.

More Tips to Help Your Garbage Disposal Run Smoothly

Break up large objects into smaller pieces and grind them one at a time. Your garbage disposal is pretty good at its job, but it can only do so much. If this seems like too much work to you, just throw the food away. Disassembling and unclogging the disposal will take a lot more effort.

Also, remember to use cold water when you run your garbage disposal. This prevents any oils or grease from solidifying and clogging your drain. You should also keep your garbage disposal clean by adding a bit of dish soap once you’re done using it. Rinse this down with cold water and your drains will stay clean and your kitchen will smell nice.

Finally, make sure you don’t put anything down your garbage disposal that shouldn’t be ground. For example, you should never use your garbage disposal to get rid of fat, grease, oil or large animal bones. You should also avoid grinding foods such as spaghetti or rice that expand with water.

The Bottom Line

Garbage disposal repair isn’t hard. In fact, unless there’s a problem with the main pipeline system, you can repair your own garbage disposal system. While your garbage disposal’s impeller blades aren’t sharp, they can still bruise your fingers or hand. So, never put your hand into the grinding chamber, even if you think there is no power being delivered to the motor.