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How to Tell if Your Garbage Disposal is Broken

A professional plumber fixing a broken garbage disposal

Kitchen sinks with garbage disposals make life easier for millions of Americans, providing an easy way to get rid of food waste after meals without the worry of a clog from food particles in your plumbing system. Although around 47 percent of us have garbage disposals, most of us never give them much thought until they’re not working.

There are things homeowners can do to help avoid having common problems with their garbage disposal, and learning the warning signs/troubleshooting tips, that your unit is in need of repair or replacement. Here are a few red flags that should alert you to contact a plumbing contractor for garbage disposal maintenance work:

Signs You Have a Broken Garbage Disposal

  • Bad odors – If your disposal has a persistent bad odor even after you’ve run ice cubes and running water (soapy, hot water) from the faucet and other cleaners, this may be a sign of a failing unit. A plumber can check out the unit, remove any trapped matter/food waste with pliers (DIY homeowners can use tongs to pull the material out – but be sure the unit is unplugged and there’s no chance for an accidental cycle), and get your garbage disposal running again, or replace the garbage disposal unit if needed.
  • Lag time – Your garbage disposal should make quick work of any food matter. If your disposal is taking more than a few minutes to break down food, the culprit is usually that its blades may be dull. In most cases, you won’t have to replace the unit; you’ll just need a plumber to replace the blades or sharpen them by using a hex allen wrench to access the impeller to sharpen the blades. 
  • Frequent jamming – If your disposal is jamming even when the amount of food placed in it is small or you hear a humming sound, you’ll need to have your plumber check it out. The problem could be dulled blades, a jam, or insufficient power. If a new unit is needed, we offer garbage disposal installation options and have pricing posted on our site.
  • Frequent reset button use/tripping of circuit breaker – if you have to use the reset button (typically located at the bottom of the unit) more and more, then your garbage disposal is running into an unusual issue too often for normal operation. If you are not tripping the garbage disposal’s internal reset button but the circuit breaker that the outlet is drawing power from, you may need to call a professional plumber to diagnose the garbage disposal problems, or an electrician may need to be involved if there’s an electrical problem on the circuit breaker /electrical panel side.
  • Screeching, metal-on-metal noise – If your disposal is making a metal-on-metal noise when you use it, it’s likely that some of its parts are out of alignment or are moving incorrectly. A plumbing repair company can give the device a tune-up and get it back to normal function.
  • Garbage disposal leaking – If your garbage disposal is leaking water, it can be a sign that seals within the device have broken down or that there’s a crack in the device, a gasket has worn out, or a flange is damaged. A plumber can evaluate the disposal and fix broken seals or replace a cracked device.
  • Incorrect usage over time – if you realize that you’ve been putting items down the drain line that garbage disposals are not designed for, such as:
    • Coffee grounds
    • Orange peels
    • Putty
    • Eggshells
    • Grease

Stopping the use of these down the garbage disposal may prevent a malfunctioning unit, but to make the disposal work, you may need a replacement.

Call A-1 Sewer & Septic For Garbage Disposal Repair

For Kansas City area residents seeking a reliable emergency plumber, A-1 Sewer & Septic Service is the right choice. A family-owned business, A-1 Sewer & Septic Service has been serving Kansas City for nearly half a century. Local residents can call day or night for 24-hour plumbing service from trained professionals who use the latest tools to quickly diagnose and resolve plumbing issues with sink drains, drain pipes, water heaters, sump pumps, hot/cold water lines, to septic tanks, trenchless pipe repair and more, in Kansas City. Call today for a new garbage disposal installation quote or any of the common problems plumbing systems may have!