Garbage Disposal Not Working | You Can Fix It

In this post I’ll talk about why your garbage disposal is not working and the steps to take so you can fix it yourself.

Follow a few steps and you’ll have your garbage disposal working again in no time.

After a while, most homeowners find themselves with garbage disposal problems. The disposal either stops working completely or starts making a humming sound. No need to call a professional plumber in most cases as long as you can use basic tools.

This post will give you a run-down of the most common issues with garbage disposals and how to resolve each one with some simple garbage disposal repair steps. Also read all about smokeless indoor grills in my new article.


Let’s walk through a step-by-step process to get your kitchen garbage disposal working again. I’ve tried to cover questions frequently encountered, do you have a question? See if I have answered yours.

How To Fix A Garbage Disposal Not Working With Easy Solutions And Tips:

NOTE: Do not reach into a garbage disposal, it is very dangerous even if you believe it to be powered off.

1) Why Is My Disposal Humming And Not Working?

If the garbage disposal is humming but not working we know it is receiving power. The disposal is most likely jammed caused by food waste or some foreign object inside the unit. This jam is preventing the impeller from turning causing the motor to hum. Prolonged use of the disposal in this condition could cause the unit’s reset button to trip, or the home’s circuit breaker to trip. To fix a jammed garbage disposal see the list below.

To repair a disposal humming and not working:

  1. Turn off power to the garbage disposal by locating the home’s electrical service panel. Find and turn off the breaker that powers the disposal.
  2. Point a flashlight down into the disposal and look for any large foreign objects causing the jam. Using pliers remove the obstruction from the disposal.
  3. Use a 1/4 inch hex or allen wrench and insert it into the flywheel hole located on the bottom of the unit in the center. Turn the wrench back and forth to dislodge any debris stuck in the disposal. When it moves freely you will know it is no longer jammed.
  4. Next, restore power to the garbage disposal at the electrical panel. Check the disposal’s red reset button located underneath the unit and press it to make sure it is not tripped.
  5. Lastly, turn on the water faucet and test out the disposal. It should be running smoothly at this point. You did it, you fixed your garbage disposal.

TIP: After clearing the jam from the disposal, dump a cup full of ice into the disposal while it is running. This helps to both clean out any leftover food debris from the blades but can also remove any lingering odors coming from the garbage disposal.

Garbage Disposal Replace Infographic

2) What To Do When Your Garbage Disposal Doesn’t Work

If you turn on your garbage disposal and it doesn’t work, meaning nothing happens, then the problem is either the unit is not receiving electrical power or it has completely failed and gone bad. It is more likely that the issue is with the electricity.

It is very common that the disposal is just not receiving electrical power. There are a few places to check to identify power issues. If your disposal stops working, do the following.

How To Fix A Garbage Disposal Not Working:

  1. Start by making sure the garbage disposal is plugged in by checking under the cabinet. It either plugs in or is hard-wired. Just check and plug it in if needed.
  2. Locate the red reset button located under the garbage disposal and firmly press it. This is the unit’s breaker switch and can get tripped. Check the button and press it in if needed.
  3. Lastly, locate the home’s main electrical service panel. Find the breaker controlling the garbage disposal and reset it if it has been tripped.
  4. If the above steps did not resolve the issue, the unit is either broken or is not receiving electricity. Use a non-contact voltage tester on the wiring to the disposal to verify it is receiving power. If so, you can feel confident the disposal is broken and needs to be replaced. See what a non-contact voltage tester is over at Amazon.

3) How Do You Fix A Garbage Disposal That Won’t Drain?

If your disposal doesn’t drain you know there is a clog somewhere along the way. It is better to do some investigating to locate and remove the blockage instead of using a store-bought chemical product. Many times these products just make the problem worse and you will still have to open the drainpipe to manually remove the clog.

To fix a garbage disposal that won’t drain:

  1. Disconnect the waste pipe or drain line from the disposal’s discharge tube. This pipe is usually held in place with a slip nut, you might be able to loosen it by hand.
  2. Examine the inside of the waste pipe(usually white PVC) for the clog. You may need to insert a stick into the pipe to feel for and clear a clog. Food debris likes to clog where there is a bend in the pipe.
  3. If no clog is found, the problem is further back in the pipes. You will need to get a pipe snake(auger) to clear the obstruction.
  4. Re-assemble the pipe and run water through the system to verify the clog has been cleared.

Looking for other ‘Fix It’ articles? Read Eufy Smart Scale Troubleshooting for my tips on how to resolve issues.

4) How Hard Is It To Replace A Garbage Disposal?

Your garbage disposal has finally quit and it is now time to replace it. You can replace your disposal yourself with a few tools. A new disposal can be purchased from big box hardware stores in the price range of $75US to $100US.

Think about buying the same make and model to ensure the installation will go smoothly. After buying a new disposal and familiarizing yourself with the included instructions, proceed with the following steps.

To replace a garbage disposal:

  1. Shut off power to the disposal at the main electrical power panel before getting started.
  2. Loosen and remove the dishwasher drain tube. Loosen and remove the discharge tube. Place a bucket under the unit to catch any draining water.
  3. Locate the mounting ring at the top of the garbage disposal, turn counterclockwise until the mounting ears are unlocked. The disposal will come free so be prepared.
  4. Unscrew the metal face plate from the bottom of the garbage disposal and remove the electrical connections.
  5. If you have purchased an identical model of garbage disposal, you can re-use the mounting hardware and insert the new model.
  6. If you have a dishwasher you will need to remove the knockout with a hammer and screwdriver. Follow the instructions that came with your unit.
  7. Lift the new disposal in place on the mounting ring and turn the ring clockwise until it snaps or clicks in place.
  8. Reconnect the discharge tube and dishwasher drain tube.
  9. Reconnect the electrical connections as illustrated in the included instructions.
  10. Restore power to the garbage disposal and test for proper functioning.

Tip: Inspect all the pipe fittings for leaks. You may need to re-tighten these fittings to ensure it is watertight.

Tips To Fix Disposal Infographic

So there are the steps to take to identify and fix issues with your garbage disposal.

This post was about issues you may encounter with a garbage disposal and the simple steps anyone can do to resolve them.

Looking for more repair articles? Check out my new post: Instant Pot Problems, Best Guide To Fix if you own a pressure cooker and need to resolve issues.

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