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Troubleshooting a Garbage Disposer

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A garbage disposer that is not working properly can really put a damper on kitchen routine. Fortunately, troubleshooting a garbage disposer can be fairly straightforward. The most common garbage disposer problems, jamming, clogging, and leaking, are often relatively easy to pinpoint and fix.

If you find yourself in one of the following situations don’t rush to replace the disposer because troubleshooting a garbage disposer could save you some money and time.

Jammed garbage disposer The most common garbage disposer problem is jamming. If when you turn the switch on the motor just hums then you know that the garbage disposer is jammed. A jammed garbage disposer can also cause the red reset button at the bottom of the garbage disposer to pop therefore cutting off all power to the motor. If this happens the motor will not hum, it will simply do nothing when the switch is turned on.

To unjam a garbage disposer:

  1. First unplug the garbage disposer power cord. For safety reasons you do not want to work on the disposer while it is plugged in.
  2. Look at the bottom of the garbage disposer. In the center of the unit you will see an allen (hex) size keyhole. Most disposer come with the hex tool to place in this keyhole. If you don’t have the disposer tool you can look for an allen key that is the right size.
  3. Insert the key in the slot and turn the it from side to. This turns the motor and you should be able to unjam it by working it back and forth until it turns freely. If you cannot turn the motor with the key look inside the garbage disposer with a flashlight and make sure that nothing is jamming it. You may need to remove whatever is jamming the blades before it will spin freely. Really tough jams may require that you remove the garbage disposer to unjam it.
  4. Push the reset button back into the unit (if it was tripped). Then plug the disposer in and test it. Run water and let garbage disposer run for a bit to clear up anything that may have gotten in there while it was jammed.
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