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Broken Garbage Disposal

Don’t know how to fix a broken garbage disposal? We’re here to help. Read our helpful guide to find out how to fix a broken garbage disposal quick!

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You invested in a garbage disposal to add much-needed functionality to your kitchen. It usually works like a charm, but recently, it conked out. Whether you hear a whirling noise or complete silence when you switch yours on, it’s not working as it should and your sink is at risk of clogging up.

While this issue is disheartening, it’s not an impossible fix! A reputable plumber can repair your broken garbage disposal in no time. Yet, before you make the call, it helps to take a thorough look at what caused the problem in the first place.

Today, we’re sharing how to identify and diagnose the root of the malfunction. We’ll also cover a few DIY methods to try and specialized techniques that only a plumber can perform. So, put down that plunger, move out from under the sink, and read on!

What’s Behind Your Broken Garbage Disposal?


It doesn’t take long to figure out that your garbage disposal is broken. Yet, different signs and symptoms can point to different underlying issues. Let’s take a look at four of the most common causes.

Clogged Sinks

Have you noticed that the water in your kitchen sink isn’t draining as it should?

Clogs aren’t always related to an issue with your garbage disposal. In most cases, the clog originates inside of your kitchen sink pipe. If your disposal is working fine but you still see backed up sink water, there could be a range of other culprits to blame, including:

  • Grease
  • Hair
  • Sediment build-up

However, what does it mean if your disposal is broken and your sink is clogged? In this case, the malfunction in your disposal likely led to excess food waste, which is causing the clog. Thankfully, this one is a relatively quick fix. 

At-Home Clog Removal

Before you attempt any DIY repairs on your garbage disposal, be sure to turn off the disposal and completely unplug it first. Then, fill up your sink halfway with warm, soapy water. Next, plunge the sink drain using a cup plunger for at least 30 seconds but no longer than one minute. If the clog is manageable and you’re able to successfully clear it, your drain should start working again and you’ll see the water leave the sink.

Not getting anywhere? You could be dealing with a significant clog that only a professional plumber can remove. While a drain snake can help you dislodge some bigger clogs, if you don’t know how to use it correctly, it could damage your drain and lead to more problems.

In this case, it’s best to call in an expert immediately! Any type of clog can exacerbate an issue with your garbage disposal, so take action as soon as you notice one. 

Disposal Jams

You hear the disposal motor running and it sounds like the machine is trying to work, but it’s not. Or, maybe it’s working but it’s super loud and tends to start and stop erratically. In these cases, you’re likely dealing with a jam. Different than a clog, a disposal jam forms when an object gets stuck within the mechanism’s rotating plate, also called the flywheel.

At-Home Jam Repair

Again, it’s vital to completely turn off and unplug the garbage disposal before you start working on it. Especially if it’s starting and stopping intermittently, you might think it’s turned off when it’s really on. You don’t want your hand and arm down in the machine when it decides to kick back on again!

Once you’re certain that it’s off, find the special wrench that came with your garbage disposal. If you can’t find it or threw it away years ago, you can find a replacement at your local hardware store. Next, take a look at the bottom of your disposal and locate the hex-shaped opening there. If you use the wrench at this spot and turn it clockwise, it should remove the bulge that’s blocking the flywheel. You’ll know the move was successful if the flywheel starts turning smoothly.

When you’re finished, be sure to reset your disposal. To test it, turn it on and off quickly while running cold water. Your unit should work easily, without any strange sounds!

Disposal Leaks

Your disposal is working OK, but you’re noticing leaks all around the unit. Leaks can drive up your water bill and cause extensive damage to your kitchen. Let’s take a look at the steps to try yourself before calling a plumber.

At-Home Leak Repair

Begin by turning off the unit at its base. Then, it’s time to find the disposal mount and actually remove the unit. To get it out, turn it counterclockwise from the bottom. When you’ve successfully separated the disposal unit from its mount, the mounting bolts will become visible. There are three bolts in all.  Sometimes, these bolts can come loose and lead to leaks. If you notice water in this area, tightening the bolts can solve the problem in a few seconds!

Still noticing leaks?

In that case, loosen those bolts and push the sink flange up until it sits a little above the sink’s bottom surface. There could be a leak between the sink and the flange, which a little plumber’s putty can solve. Once you’ve applied the putty to that threshold, lower the flange, put the bolts back into place and tighten them.

If any excess putty is visible, wipe it away with a damp cloth. Finally, you’re ready to put the actual disposal unit back onto the mount. Turn it back on and check once again for leaks. If they’re still there, it’s time to call a plumber.

Power Issues

Sometimes, your disposal will refuse to run altogether. When this happens, there might not be a clog or jam at work. Rather, it’s more likely that you’re dealing with a power issue. If it won’t run, the unit might not be receiving any power at all. Of course, your first step should be to check and make sure that it’s plugged in!

While it sounds like an obvious move, it’s easy to forget that your disposal actually plugs into a wall outlet! Moreover, due to the myriad of items we tend to stash under our sinks and the dark environment, it’s easy to knock those plugs out of their outlets.

Plugged in but still powerless?

Your next step is to check the reset button on the bottom of the unit itself. If you see the reset button has popped out, simply press it back in and try again. If it’s still inoperable, you can try a more advanced DIY repair.

At-Home Power Repair

While it’s always smart to bring in a professional when you’re dealing with any power issue, there are some steps you can perform at home as long as you practice caution.

If you’ve tried the outlet and reset button and your disposal is still not receiving power, head to your circuit breaker. If it’s flipped, that could be the root of the problem. 

Does it look OK? If so, there are three remaining issues that could be causing this power issue, including:

  1. The outlet is dead
  2. There is a malfunction error with the circuit breaker
  3. It’s time to replace your disposal

To see if the outlet is dead, try plugging a different device into it, such as your phone charger. If that device works as it should, then the problem is with your circuit switch or disposal.

Next, you can try to replace your circuit breaker switch to see if that helps. However, unless you’re a licensed electrician, we don’t advise performing this step yourself. Go ahead and call in an experienced professional to take care of this replacement for you. If you try both of these first two options to no avail, then the only way forward is to replace your disposal unit.

Why Call a Plumber to Fix Your Garbage Disposal

If the root of your garbage disposal problem is relatively simple and straightforward, the at-home methods described above might be enough to solve the problem. However, most issues are more complex and require advanced troubleshooting and maintenance beyond a simple DIY repair. When this is the case, it’s best to trust your disposal to a reputable local plumber. 

Our team has access to the specialized tools and resources required to perform an in-depth investigation into the root of your problem. We’ll also solve it more quickly and safely than if you’d tried to go at it alone. Remember, garbage disposals can be extremely dangerous to work with unless you’ve trained and experienced in their care and upkeep. Risks include electric shock, lacerations, amputations and more. 

Hire a Trusted Local Plumber Today

You don’t have to deal with a broken garbage disposal forever. When you notice that yours is leaking, clogged, smelly, slow to drain, or simply not working at all, give us a call.

We’re a team of licensed and trained HVAC, plumbing, and air quality professionals. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we’re always here when you need us. Get in touch today and we’ll have you back up and running in no time!