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How to Repair a Garbage Disposer

This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey shows how to fix a badly jammed garbage disposer


1. Confirm that electricity is flowing to the garbage disposer by first checking the circuit breakers or fuses at the main electrical panel. If that fails to restore power to the disposer, flip the disposer's wall switch. If you hear the disposer motor humming, immediately turn off the switch. Then unplug the disposer and proceed to Step 2.

If there's no electricity to the disposer, reach inside the sink cabinet and press the thermal overload button located on the bottom of the disposer. Flip the wall switch again. If the motor hums, turn off the switch, unplug the disposer and proceed to Step 2.

If pressing the thermal overload doesn't restore power to the disposer, call in a licensed electrician.

2. Check to make sure the disposer is unplugged. Then locate the recessed hex-shaped hole in the bottom of the disposer. Insert into the hole the hex-head Allen wrench that came with the disposer.

Use the wrench to manually turn disposer's motor shaft first counterclockwise, then clockwise until the obstruction is dislodged and the motor shaft spins freely. If you can't turn the motor, proceed to Step 3.

Remove the wrench and plug in the disposer. From above, run water into the sink and turn on the disposer. If it runs smoothly, you're done.

3. If the disposer motor is still jammed, turn it with a special garbage disposer wrench.

Push the wrench down into the disposer from above and rotate it until its jaws lock onto the cutter wheel inside the disposer.

Forcefully turn the wrench first in a counterclockwise direction, then clockwise until the jam is cleared and the motor spins freely.

Remove the wrench, plug in the disposer and check its operation.


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