The garbage disposal has become a standard in almost every modern kitchen today. It tirelessly grinds and flushes away the leftover dinner scraps that we used to tediously remove over a smelly trash can in the past. They are an important workhorse of the kitchen. Until they suddenly stop working. Before you call the handyman see if these tips will work to fix the problem. Understanding the fix is easier if we understand how they work.
Disposal’s come in many sizes of horsepower but the drain attachments are for the most part uniform. In the main body or cavity is a disk attached to the motor shaft beneath. This disk has either two or four swiveling teeth or grinders that crush and flail the solids against the side of the disposal. The disk diameter is just a fraction smaller than the diameter of the cavity. It is this small space that allows the ground up waste to escape down the drain. When the motor suddenly stops it is usually because a small item (paper clip, ring, screw, broken piece of glass) has lodged between the disk and the sidewall and the motor is unable to spin the disk. There is usually a red reset button that will pop on the bottom of the disposal that needs to be pushed. If the disposal does not start or just hums, turn it off.
The first step is to TURN OFF THE POWER at a breaker or unplug it from under the sink if yours is wired that way. Sometimes the motor can be freed with a wooden broom handle forcing the disk in a counterclockwise direction. If not, using a flashlight slowly look in the drain around the sides near the disk for any item that may be lodged there. There is usually a lot of debris while your looking so don’t be fooled and be patient. When you find it, it will require a pair of needle nosed pliers to pull the item free. The disk should spin freely when pushed with the pliers. For safeties sake NEVER put your hand in a disposal to make a repair. Let your tools pay the price of any mistakes, not your fingers.
In this post I have used the term “stopped suddenly” to explain the disposal’s behavior. If your disposal has been sluggish on start up or leaking from around the motor for some time before it quit you may just need to replace it.