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Garbage Disposals
SINK-MOUNTED GARBAGE DISPOSERS are efficient and virtually maintenance-free. Problems usually are within a do-it-yourselfer's skills to solve-once the problem has been diagnosed.
To help in the diagnosis, you need a little information and understanding about how a disposer operates: Garbage is dumped into the hopper (cylinder) of the disposer. The disposer is then turned on. A motor drives a flywheel that has impellers (or hammers) attached to it. The impellers toss garbage against a shredder ring that encircles the flywheel. The shredder ring grinds the garbage into bits, which are flushed into the sewer or septic system with water from the kitchen sink (Fig. 1).

This is probably the Number 1 disposer problem. It almost always is caused by large bones, silverware, bottle caps, or other very hard objects jammed between the shredder ring and the flywheel.
If the motor is running or making a humming sound, turn off the disposer. Most disposers have an automatic overload switch that shuts off the power in the event the flywheel sticks or there is another malfunction of the unit.
•Look down into the hopper of the disposer and see if you can spot any object in the hopper that could be causing the jam. If you can see this object, turn off the power to the disposer at the main electrical service panel. Check to make certain that you've tripped the correct circuit breaker or removed the correct fuse by switching the unit on and also by pressing the reset button, which on most units is found on the baseplate. Pressing this button overrides the automatic overload switch, restoring power. If you hear the motor humming, do not proceed until you properly shut off power.
CAUTION: Never, under any circumstances, put your hand down into the hopper of the disposer.
• Once the power is off, use kitchen tongs, pliers, or the hook of a flattened wire coat hanger to remove ungrindable debris from the hopper.
• Then, place a short length of broom handle or a rolling pin, into the hopper and against an impeller. Try turning the flywheel in either direction. Use maximum strength to overcome resistance. If it doesn't turn, double-check the hopper for objects; you may not have removed all the hard debris that's jamming the flywheel.
• You will feel (and sometimes hear) the flywheel break free. At this point, turn on the power, run water into the hopper, press the reset button, and flick the disposer switch on/off in quick sequence. This jolt should spin the flywheel and the water will flood away any loose debris in the hopper.
Some disposer models have a jam-breaking wrench that is inserted in the bottom of the unit and turned to free the flywheel (sometimes called a "turntable"). By running the disposer in "reverse," you may be able to unstick the flywheel.

Electrical Problems. If you determine that there is no debris causing the jam in the hopper, try pushing the reset button, as detailed above. Also, check the fuse and/or circuit breaker at the main electrical service entrance. If you reside in an older house, don't overlook a special fuse/circuit breaker box that can be serving the disposer and probably the dishwasher if you have one. It could be that a power overload has caused these devices to trip and, therefore, the disposer motor is not getting electrical power.
If the disposer has been working okay and then has suddenly stopped, and there is no debris blocking the flywheel, wait 15 to 20 minutes and push the reset button. Also check the fuse system. Some disposers do not have reset buttons. If your unit is one of these, let this disposer "cool" for 30 minutes or so if it has been in use and debris has not stopped it. The power will be automatically restored when the parts cool. If not, suspect a damaged overload protector. This is a job for a professional to repair. Or simply replace the disposer-it could be less expensive than a service call.
If the above procedures don't work, and there is still a humming noise, the flywheel bearings may be defective. This is unrepairable. Replace the disposer.

If the trouble is just below the opening to the sink, the problem is probably a bad seal between the sink flange and the disposer unit. To repair this:
Turn off the power to the disposer at the electrical service panel.
• Go beneath the sink and tighten the bolts (in the ring-like part) that hold the disposer to the sink. There are usually three bolts and they turn clockwise to tighten. The parts are called the "sink mounting flange" and "support flange."
• If tightening the bolts doesn't work, loosen the bolts slightly. Then block up the bottom of the unit so the sink flange protrudes slightly above the surface of the sink. Force plumber's putty under the flange. Go completely around it and push in as much putty as you can with your fingers.
• Drop the disposer back into place and retighten the mounting bolts.
• The pressure from the bolts may cause the plumber's putty to ooze out from under the flange. If so, just wipe away any excess putty. If your kitchen sink is stainless steel, use stainless-steel plumber's putty.
Gasket Leaks. Other leak areas include the drainpipe connection at the disposer, and the joint between the shredder housing and the hopper. These parts are usually sealed by gaskets. Also, your dishwasher may be connected to the disposer so look at this connection for leaks. A clamp usually holds the drainhose from the dishwasher to the disposer. Tighten this clamp or change the hose if it is leaking.
If the trouble is at the drainpipe, remove the screws (or bolts) holding the pipe to the housing, if tightening the screw/bolts doesn't stop the leak. Pull the pipe away from the housing, remove the old gasket, install a new one, and reassemble the pipe to the housing.
If the gasket is leaking between the shredder and the hopper, you probably will have to remove the disposer from the sink by disassembling the drainage trap, unbolting the disposer from the sink mountings, and removing a clamping ring that holds the hopper to the shredder housing. Depending on the model, you may be able to remove the clamping ring without removing the disposer from the sink. Once apart, a new gasket can be quickly installed. This is a factory part, however, and you might have to go to a dealer to get the specific gasket. You may, however, find an appropriate "universal" gasket.

First, run the disposer longer, giving it an opportunity to clear all garbage and flush it down the drain.
If this doesn't do it, remove the trap along the drainpipe and clean it. Use an auger or plumber's snake to rod out the drain from the trap through the drain pipe-not back up through the disposer. Never pour liquid drain cleaner down through the disposer to open an slow or clogged drain. You could damage the disposer.
If the drain is still slow, check to make sure that the slope of the drain pipe is adequate to carry away the debris, see Figures 2 & 3. A slope in the
drainpipe is preferred over a more horizontal line because it assures freer flow of the water/garbage mixture. Local plumbing codes may dictate how the drain must be connected. The slope should be about 1 inch per 4 feet of drainpipe run, or according to codes.
A broken impeller on the flywheel sometimes can cause poor drainage, although it is not

a prime consideration. If the impeller is broken, you have to replace the flywheel by removing the disposer and separating the hopper and shredder housing. This is generally not a practical project; total replacement is wiser.
If the disposer is not loaded with garbage and it vibrates excessively when you turn it on, try loosening the mounting bolts slightly. Give them still vibrating, loosen the mounting bolts a tad more. Sometimes the mounting bolts are so tight that the resilience from the mounting pads is deadened.
Noise Problem. If the disposer is not loaded with debris, noise can be caused by excessive vibration. Correct this by loosening the mounting bolts as detailed above. If the disposer is loaded, chances are that the noise is coming from a hard object in the hopper such as silverware, a bottle cap, broken glass.

Humming Noise. Almost always this is caused by a stuck flywheel. In a few seconds the fuses will pop automatically to shut down the power. However, if the unit hums and it is unloaded the hum can come from frozen bearings in the motor. Replace the disposer if this is the case.

First, press file reset button on the unit. If this doesn't start it, check the fuse/circuit breaker at the electrical service entrance to your home. If this is not the trouble, the switch to the unit could be malfunctioning. There are two types of switches:
• If your disposal is a batch-feed model, you have to turn on the power by twisting a stopper in the neck of the disposer. This stopper-switch could be faulty. Have it tested by a pro.
• If your disposal is a continuous-feed model, the power is controlled by a wall switch. This switch could be faulty. The best thing to do is to turn off the power at the main service panel, remove the wires from the old switch and install a new switch.
If this treatment doesn't work, and the fuse or circuit breaker is not blown or tripped,
respectively, the trouble is a burned-out motor. Replace the disposer.

By following a couple of very simple procedures you can add life to your garbage disposer.
• When you operate the disposer, use plenty of cold water. Don't skimp, because water is what cleans the working parts and keeps it in working order.
• Load the hopper lightly-don't cram and jam garbage into the hopper as tight as you can and expect the disposer to handle it. In short, do several loads instead of one big load.
• Never, under any circumstances, put metal, glass, stoneware, or hard objects in the disposer. Do your disposer a favor and toss large bones in a garbage bag, not down the disposer.
• Never use a chemical drain cleaner in a disposer. o If the hopper jams or you accidently drop an item into the hopper that you don't want in the hopper, do not stick you hand down into the hopper. Instead, retrieve the item with kitchen tongs or pliers.
Installing A New Disposer. Before purchasing a garbage disposer, determine restrictions (if any) imposed by the plumbing code in your municipality. Most local plumbing codes permit installation of a disposer as long as requirements established by the National Standard Plumbing Code are followed:
The sink waste hole must be a minimum of 31/2 inches in diameter.
• The drain pipe from the disposer to the trap tailpiece must be no less than 11/2 inches in diameter pitched at least 1/4 inch per foot.
• The disposer must be installed in a double sink, and each basin must drain into its own trap. Installing a new disposer unit is not beyond the skills of a do-it-yourselfer. Most manufacturers include complete installation procedures with their disposer products.

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Updated: 02/2018   copyright 2012 U-Repair.com