What to Do When Your Garbage Disposal Stops

When your garbage disposal stops working, there are a few potential solutions. First, there is generally a small red button on the underside of the garbage disposal that “resets” the system. If you get nothing when flipping the switch (and you have already checked the circuit breaker), lean down and take a look at the underside of the garbage disposal. Push in that little red button and hope for the best. If the disposal was just overworked, or if there was a power surge, this may fix the problem. Simple, clean, and cheap.

But what if it doesn’t work, you ask? Garbage disposals come with a funky looking tool, shaped like a squared-off “s” and hexagonal in shape. If you look at the end, you should see a flat piece of metal with six sides, hence the hexagon. Now, I said the disposals come with this tool, that doesn’t mean that you still have it. If you don’t, a quick trip to the hardware store will replace it for about $3.00. Now, with this tool in hand, look at the bottom of the garbage disposal, near that little red button. You should find a hole in which this tool will fit. Slip it in there and turn the wrench a few times. This manually forces the garbage disposal to turn, breaking up any hard pieces or goop that may have caused the disposal to stop. A few turns should do the trick. Hop back up and flip the switch. Fixed? Most likely so. If not, you can pay someone to come take a look at it, which will likely cost you hundreds, or you can buy a new disposal and install it yourself, costing yourself no more than a couple hours and $100.

Home Depot and Lowe’s each carry several brands of garbage disposals, ranging from about $50 to over $200, but does anyone truly need a garbage disposal that has a silencer on it? Didn’t think so. The middle of the road, 1/2 horsepower, or maybe even 2/3 HP should do it for your family. Grab the disposal you want, and make sure you have a screwdriver at home. Now the next steps for installation should be used as a gauge of difficulty, or to supplement the instructions. By no means am I an expert.

First, and most importantly, you want to go flip the breaker to the disposal and make sure no electricity is running to it. Now go study the way the pipes connect to the garbage disposal, because you are going to have to repeat it. Start by disconnecting the pipes going into the disposal. There should be one main one going into the side, that can most easily be disconnected by unscrewing the connector to the disposal. There may also be a pipe connecting the dishwasher to the disposal. If not, your job is even easier.

Your disposal either has a plug coming out of it (hopefully) that plugs directly into a receptacle under the sink, or it is wired directly. If it plugs in, unplug it, skip down a step, then come back to rewire the new disposal. If not, continue reading here. Now, go back to the underside of the disposal, and find where the wires go inside. Unscrew the faceplace right near the wires. Inside, there should be three wires. Most likely they are white, black, and either a bare copper wire, or copper covered in green plastic. These wires are joined somewhere, where the wires going directly into the motor are spliced together (either tape or little screw cap things) with the wires coming out of the wall. Disconnect the wires. Now your disposal should be hanging from the sink, but with nothing else connected to it. Take your screwdriver and slide it into one of the metal tube-like things towards the top (there should be three). While supporting the garbage disposal from the bottom, and pushing up slightly, use the screw driver to turn the base clockwise. Use a little muscle, and the disposal should disconnect from the sink and come out in your hands. Now you have successfully disconnected your current disposal. Congratulations.

Now, you need to learn how to put the new one in, which is basically the exact opposite. First, you will want to reconnect the wires to the wall, using the same screw caps or some electric tape (preferably the screw caps). Make sure you connect green to green, white to white, black to black, etc. Now, lift the disposal up, work it into the clamps, and using the screwdriver, twist counter-clockwise, and the disposal should connect right back under the sink. Now, connect the pipes back the way they were, and you are done! I recommend running a little water through it to make sure it is sealed properly before you turn the power back on. Once you make sure the pipes are sealed, turn the breaker back on, run some cold water, cross your fingers, and flip the switch to the disposal. Ahhh…music to your ears. Who would have thought changing out a garbage disposal would be so easy???

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