How to Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal
Garbage disposals are simple machines--basically a motor and a flywheel with impeller arms that spin and shred whatever they touch. Sometimes, though, the machine can jam on a bottle top or other debris, or trip a circuit breaker when it's overloaded. If that happens, you just need to take a quick step or two to repair it.
- Moderately Easy
- Long-nose Pliers
- Short Broomstick
- 1/4-inch (6-mm) Allen (hex) Wrench
Turn the garbage disposal on and off quickly and check to see if it has power. If it hums, the power is on but the impeller is jammed. Move on to step 3. If it doesn't hum, it may have overheated and tripped a circuit breaker. Move on to step 2.
Restore power to the machine. Most disposals have an overload switch that trips when the motor starts to overheat. To reset the switch, look for a small red button on the bottom of the housing, and if it's there, push it in (see A). If your disposal doesn't have an overload switch or the machine still won't run after you reset the switch, reset the circuit breaker that serves the disposal.
Clear the jam from underneath. On many disposals, you can insert a 1/4-inch (6-mm) Allen (hex) wrench into the bottom of the housing and manually move the motor shaft and flywheel to dislodge the jam. If your disposal has an opening for an Allen (hex) wrench, insert the wrench and move it back and forth until the motor and flywheel turn freely.
Clear the jam from above. Press the end of a short broomstick against one of the impellers, and jab in one direction and then the other until the jam breaks loose (see B).
Remove the debris. Turn off the circuit breaker that controls the garbage disposal. Reach inside with a pair of long-nose pliers and pull out whatever jammed the machine.
Turn on the cold water--this hardens any grease inside and helps the disposal chop it up--and run the disposal until all the remaining garbage is gone.
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