Why Did My Garbage Disposal Suddenly Stop Working?

Garbage disposals are useful appliances for managing food waste. They are designed to easily break down food waste and prevent it from clogging the plumbing. Unfortunately, when garbage disposal stops working, it can be a major inconvenience, and can be difficult to diagnose the cause of the problem.

This article will discuss some of the common causes of malfunctioning garbage disposal and how to troubleshoot the problem. It will provide step-by-step instructions on how to identify and solve the problem. Additionally, it will provide advice on how to keep garbage disposal in good working order.

The first step in troubleshooting a broken garbage disposal is to identify the source of the problem. Common causes of a garbage disposal malfunction include a jammed disposal, a clog, a tripped breaker, a broken motor, leaking disposal, faulty electrical connections, or a worn impeller.

Knowing the source of the problem will allow for a more effective solution. Knowing how to address each of these potential problems will help to ensure that the garbage disposal remains in working order.

Garbage disposal

Check for a Jam

Examining for a jam can be a crucial step in addressing the malfunction of a home appliance, such as a garbage disposal.

If the disposal is not running, it is important to first check the unit for any loose parts or an obstruction.

If the unit has experienced a power surge, it may have caused the motor to overload and cease working.

The most common cause of a garbage disposal jam is due to foreign objects being placed in the disposal, such as bones, fruit pits, or fibrous food items.

If a jam is present, it would need to be addressed before the disposal can be restarted.

This may require turning off the power and using a special wrench, which can be purchased at a local hardware store, to manually rotate the blades and remove the jam.

Alternatively, a professional plumber can be hired to safely clear the jam and return the disposal to working order.

Check for a Clog

Investigating a clog may help to determine the cause of the malfunction.

The first step is to check the vents for any objects that may have been accidentally dropped which could be blocking the flow of water.

It is also important to check the seals for any signs of wear and tear or damage. If the seals are not intact then the water may not be able to properly enter the garbage disposal.

Additionally, it is important to check the drain pipe for any clogs or blockages that could be preventing the water from flowing through the garbage disposal.

If all of the seals and vents appear to be intact and there are no clogs in the drain pipe, then the cause of the sudden malfunction may be a more serious problem.

In this case, it may be necessary to contact a professional service to repair the garbage disposal.

Check for a Tripped Breaker

A possible cause of the malfunction may be a tripped breaker, which should be immediately checked.

To identify if this is the source of the problem, the breaker box should be inspected for any tripped switches. If this does not solve the problem, further investigation should be conducted, such as checking the wiring and inspecting the blades of the garbage disposal. If a breaker switch appears to be in the tripped position, it should be reset to the on position.

If the wiring and blades are not damaged, the issue may lie with the motor, in which case a professional should be called to investigate further.

Check for a Broken Motor

An examination of the motor may be necessary to determine if the malfunction is due to a broken motor. Typically, broken motors are caused by a deteriorated motor, damaged wiring, or a short in the electrical circuit.

If the motor is making a humming sound, this may indicate a worn-out motor or a foreign object in the grinding chamber. If the motor is completely silent, this could be the result of a burnt-out motor or a power surge.

To determine if the motor is broken, the motor should be inspected. If the motor is not accessible, an experienced technician should be consulted to diagnose the issue.

If the motor is deemed to be broken, it should be replaced. If the motor is still under warranty, it should be replaced for free by the manufacturer. If the warranty has expired, the motor should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent further damage and to ensure the safety of the unit.

A new motor should be purchased and installed in accordance with the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Check for a Leaking Disposal

Inspection of the disposal may be necessary to ascertain whether the malfunction is due to a leak.

Blockages and clogs in the vents may be the cause of the issue and can be easily cleared. This can be done by removing any debris that is blocking the vents and ensuring that any drain clogs are cleared.

If the problem persists, it is possible that the disposal is leaking. This could be caused by a crack or a loose connection.

In order to determine the source of the leak, the disposal should be removed and inspected for any signs of damage. If any damage is found, it should be repaired or replaced, depending on the severity of the issue.

Check the Disposal’s Electrical Connections

Electrical connections of the disposal should be examined to identify potential causes of malfunction.

The electrical wiring should be checked for any frayed or damaged wires, and the power cord should be checked to make sure it is firmly secured to the back of the disposal.

If the cord is worn or frayed, it should be replaced.

The power switch should also be tested to make sure it is functioning properly.

If the switch is faulty, it may need to be replaced.

The electrical outlet should also be tested to make sure the disposal is receiving the correct amount of voltage.

If the outlet is not providing enough voltage, the disposal may not operate correctly.

Check for a Worn Impeller

The impeller is a key component of garbage disposal, and its wear over time can decrease effectiveness by up to 30%. Regularly inspecting the impeller for wear is an important part of motor maintenance and unclogging tips.

The impeller can become worn due to a variety of factors, such as debris and objects that get stuck in the blades or the age of the disposal. If the impeller is worn, it will not spin at the same speed and power as it should, causing the disposal to run at a lower capacity or stop working completely.

If the impeller is found to be worn, it should be replaced as soon as possible. Replacing the impeller is a relatively simple process, and most disposals come with instructions on how to do it. If instructions are not available, then it is best to contact a professional for assistance.

It is important to remember that replacing a worn impeller can help to restore the effectiveness of the garbage disposal and should be done as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal for a garbage disposal to make loud noises?

The normal operation of a garbage disposal can be disrupted when it is used in a manner that is not consistent with its designed purpose.

To avoid this, careful usage is recommended, including the following troubleshooting tips:

  • Avoid putting hard objects, such as bones, fruit pits, and other hard materials into the disposal.
  • Only put enough food into the disposal to allow it to grind it up easily.
  • Use cold water while running the disposal to help grind up the food particles.

If these tips are followed, a garbage disposal should not make loud noises.

How do I know if my garbage disposal is jammed?

When garbage disposal becomes jammed, it is usually caused by clogged pipes or broken blades.

To diagnose jammed garbage disposal, a visual inspection of the blades should be conducted and any obstructions must be removed.

Additionally, listening to a humming sound when the switch is engaged can help determine if the problem is related to a broken motor or if something is stuck in the blades.

If the motor is humming, but the blades are not moving, the jam can be cleared by using a hex key or Allen wrench inserted into the bottom of the disposal to manually rotate the blades.

Is it safe to use a plunger on my garbage disposal?

The use of a plunger on a garbage disposal is a common technique for resolving a clog. However, care must be taken to ensure the plunger is used correctly.

If the plunger is employed too forcefully, it can cause greater damage to the disposal and drain clogs.

The best approach is to begin with gentle plunging and, if necessary, gradually increase the amount of force.

If the clog persists after several attempts, it is best to call a professional plumber to resolve the issue.

How do I reset my garbage disposal?

The resetting of a garbage disposal can be done when motor problems or drain clogs occur.

To reset, first ensure the power to the unit is turned off.

Depending on the type of disposal, a reset button or circuit breaker may need to be reset.

If a reset button is present, press it until it clicks.

Otherwise, shut off the circuit breaker and wait several seconds before turning it back on.

If the unit still does not run, the motor may need to be replaced.

How often should I clean my garbage disposal?

Garbage disposals require regular maintenance in order to function properly and to prevent drain clogs.

Ironically, however, when proper maintenance is neglected, the very device which was meant to prevent clogs can actually become the source of a clog.

Cleaning a garbage disposal should be done on a regular basis to remove food particles and other debris that can accumulate in the unit and cause it to malfunction.


The cause of a broken garbage disposal can be complex, but the solution is simple. Taking the time to diagnose the problem and take the appropriate steps to repair it can save time, money, and frustration.

Troubleshooting the disposal requires identifying the source of the issue and taking the necessary steps to fix it. From a jammed impeller to a tripped breaker, the problem can be solved with a little patience and a few simple tools.

It is important to remember that garbage disposals are a convenient and efficient way to dispose of food waste, and when properly cared for, they can last for many years. Taking the time to diagnose and repair a broken disposal can be a rewarding experience and save time and money in the long run.

With a bit of effort, the cause of a broken garbage disposal can be identified, and the necessary steps can be taken to keep it running smoothly.