What’s Wrong With My Garbage Disposal?

If your garbage disposal won’t run at all, then it isn’t receiving power correctly. If it’s making weird grinding noises when you turn it on, then it’s clogged. Power failures and clogs can both lead to more severe garbage disposal problems over time. Fix them fast to save your disposal.

Before you can figure out what’s causing your garbage disposal problem, you have to identify what the problem itself. After identifying the problem, you can take steps to fix that problem. Here are four common symptoms of disposal problems, why these symptoms occur, and how you can fix them.


Clogs aren’t always evidence of a garbage disposal problem, but garbage disposal problems may lead to clogs. If the water in your kitchen sink isn’t draining, then it’s your kitchen sink pipe (not the disposal itself) that’s probably clogged. Your kitchen sink could clog for several reasons, including grease, sediment, or hair build-up. Clogs happen all the time, even if your disposal works. If your disposal isn’t working, however, kitchen sink clogs are one very common symptom.

Plunging most kitchen sink clogs is easy. First, turn off the disposal and fill the sink halfway with soapy water. Then, use a cup plunger on the sink drain for 30 seconds to one minute. If you’ve cleared the clog successfully, the water should start draining normally again. If the clog won’t budge, you may need to use a snake. Clogs can actually lead to garbage disposal problems, so if your sink starts clogging, fix it immediately.

Weird Noises

If the disposal’s motor is running, but the disposal won’t work, it sounds loud, or it starts and stops, then it’s probably jammed. Disposals jam when something gets lodged in the “flywheel,” which is the rotating plate inside the mechanism. You can fix a jammed flywheel yourself, but remember: NEVER stick your hand down the garbage disposal. Before you do anything else, turn off and unplug your garbage disposal immediately. Don’t even keep reading until you’ve turned it off! 

After you unplug the power source, you’ll need the wrench that came with the disposal. If you don’t have it, buy a replacement in a hardware store. Find the hex-shaped opening at the bottom of the disposal unit. Turn the wrench clockwise to dislodge whatever’s blocking the flywheel. When the object dislodges, you’ll feel the flywheel start to turn easily. Reset the disposal and run cold water while quickly turning it on and off repeatedly.

Power Problems

If the garbage disposal won’t turn on, then it’s probably not getting power. First, make sure it’s plugged in. It’s easy to forget that disposals have wall outlets. It’s also easy to knock plugs out of those outlets accidentally, especially in dark places. If the disposal is plugged in, check the reset button on the bottom of the disposal unit. If the disposal requires resetting, the button will be popped out. Press it and try the disposal again.

If the disposal is plugged in and doesn’t need to be reset, check the circuit breaker. The breaker could be flipped, preventing your disposal from getting power. If that’s still not the problem, then either the outlet is dead, the circuit breaker is malfunctioning, or the disposal needs to be replaced. Check the outlet first by plugging something else into it. If the outlet works, try replacing the circuit breaker switch. If the outlet and breaker switch work, you’ll have to replace the disposal.


Disposals can leak at a couple of different places. Start by turning off the disposal at its base. Then, find the disposal mount and remove the unit by turning it counterclockwise from the bottom. Once the disposal has been removed from the mount, you should be able to see the three mounting bolts. Tighten these bolts to make sure they’re not leaking.

If the disposal’s still leaking, loosen the mounting bolts and push the sink flange up until it’s slightly higher than the surface of the sink. Apply fresh plumber’s putty to the threshold between the flange and the sink. When you’ve applied enough, re-attach the unit by putting the bolts back and tightening. Wipe away excess putty that squeezed out. Finish re-installing by replacing the disposal unit on the mount. Turn the disposal back on and look for leaks.

Going without a garbage disposal for any length of time is a great way to teach yourself to appreciate yours. Learn how to solve simple garbage disposal problems like these on your own, and you won’t need to worry every time something goes wrong.

Didn’t see your problem here? Can’t figure what happened? No worries! Just call Benjamin Franklin Plumbing® of Dallas today. We can figure out what your disposal’s problem is and fix it effectively all in one fell swoop.