Your garbage disposal is one of the biggest helpers in your kitchen. Without it, cleaning up after quick weeknight dinners, family feasts, and leisurely Sunday breakfasts would be much harder. While some garbage disposal problems can be fixed with a quick repair, sometimes it’s easier and more cost-efficient to replace the appliance. If you’re not sure whether or not to replace or repair your garbage disposal, check out these five signs your appliance is completely broken.
The bulk of a food waste disposer system, which includes the seals and pipes, is located beneath the kitchen sink. Most homeowners use this space to store various items, and it is not uncommon for people to bump or jar the disposal’s pipes when reaching for an item that is in close proximity. If the pipes are struck hard enough, the pipes can shift so that they are no longer sitting properly. Retaining bolts can become loose. Pipes may move, and seals can shift into an awkward position.
When something blocks your disposal unit’s flywheel, you will start hearing a low humming sound, and you know you’ve got a jam. Un-jamming a garbage disposal is something that depends on the specific unit you own. Every single one has a function to shut off when they are stuck to the point of stalling the motor. This is so the motor doesn’t burn out. However, they are also designed so that anyone (and we mean anyone!) can remove whatever it is that is blocking your unit. Underneath every unit is a small slot, and pretty much all of them come with a tiny little wrench to match it. These are most commonly called hex-head wrenches. Yes, that little tool that you probably have no idea where it could possibly be has a very specific and important purpose. Mind blown, right?
A high-torque, insulated electric motor, usually rated at 250–750 W (1⁄3–1 hp) for a domestic unit, spins a circular turntable mounted horizontally above it. Induction motors rotate at 1,400–1,800 rpm and have a range of starting torques, depending on the method of starting used. The added weight and size of induction motors may be of concern, depending on the available installation space and construction of the sink bowl. Universal motors, also known as series-wound motors, rotate at higher speeds, have high starting torque, and are usually lighter, but are noisier than induction motors, partially due to the higher speeds and partially because the commutator brushes rub on the slotted commutator. Inside the grinding chamber there is a rotating metal turntable onto which the food waste drops. Two swiveling metal impellers mounted on top of the plate near the edge then fling the food waste against the grind ring repeatedly. Sharp cutting edges in the grind ring break down the waste until it is small enough to pass through openings in the ring, whereupon it is flushed down the drain.
We hate to say it, but stoppages in garbage disposals are generally due to “operator error”. Either we have put too much in at one time or tried to force something through, smashing it with a spoon (there is that pesky spoon again!). Pasta, rice and salad are killers of garbage disposal drains and really need to be put down the drain in small amounts; if you put half a pot of rice in at the same time you definitely stand the change up plugging up the pipes under your sink.
You should first find out whether only the disposal is broken, or if the power has gone out completely in the areas near your kitchen sink. Try resetting the circuit breaker that leads to the kitchen, or replacing a fuse if you have an older electrical box. If the garbage disposal makes no noises at all when you flip the switch, you might also want to check under the sink to see that it’s plugged in.