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Why Is My Garbage Disposal Not Working?

Drain & Sewer Tips

Posted by Spencer | December 30, 2023 | Reading Time:

Garbage disposals are one of the most useful appliances in any kitchen. They reduce cleanup time and encourage better waste management. Therefore, it’s always frustrating when your garbage disposal system is not doing its job. You’ll find yourself asking, “Why is my garbage disposal not working?” Rainforest Plumbing & Air, the leading name for garbage disposal installation in Phoenix, will look at the top reasons for your garbage disposal not working and what you can do in each scenario.

Electrical Problems

If your garbage disposal doesn’t turn on when you flip the switch, it’s usually a sign of electrical trouble. This is also the case for garbage disposals that turn off randomly mid-operation. The first thing you should do here is confirm that you have plugged in the unit correctly. Next, check the reset button underneath to ensure it hasn’t popped out. The reset button pops out when the built-in safety feature trips. Pushing it back in should restore power to the unit. If that doesn’t help, check the circuit breaker. Look for the circuit breaker controlling the garbage disposal to see if it is tripped. If resetting the break doesn’t help (or if it wasn’t tripped in the first place), you may need to look at the switch or outlet where you’ve connected the unit. Remove the cover plate and unscrew the switch to evaluate the terminal connections. If you notice any signs of charring, you may need to call in an electrician.

Jam in the Grinding Chamber

The grinding chamber in your garbage disposal system is where all the magic happens. The chamber contains a flywheel and a shredding ring, which work in tandem to rip up food and send it down the drain. If you can hear humming when your disposal is turned on but can’t hear any blades spinning, you likely have a jam inside the chamber. Sending oversized chunks of food waste or foreign objects down your garbage disposal can jam up the system. So, if you’re asking, “Why is my garbage disposal not working?” while it’s humming, you need to reevaluate what you’ve sent down there. Beyond the risk of damage to your garbage disposal, you need to be careful with what you send down there to avoid sewer problems. You can unclog the jam using a tong or wooden stick to reach the chamber. Be sure to turn off the unit first. Also, avoid using your hand to reach into the grinding chamber. You can sustain injuries even with the system turned off. Once the jam clears, turn on the unit, hit the reset button, and run some cold water to flush it out. If pushing out the cause of the jam from the top doesn’t work, you may need to loosen the impeller using an Allen wrench to get to the flywheel and shredding ring.

Drain Clogs

Is your sink full of water and draining slowly with the garbage disposal running? You have to look beyond the garbage disposal system at this point. This is a sign of clogs in the drain line. Reaching for a chemical drain cleaner may feel like a good idea, but these products can corrode the metal in your garbage disposal. A better way to clear the clogs is to use a plunger or drain snake. Both tools are good enough to clear food scraps and small foreign objects. Depending on the type of clog, you may also need to disassemble the drain to properly clear the blockages. If you’re not up for the DIY work or don’t have the tools, call a professional plumber.


Does your garbage disposal shut down mid-operation? It’s likely overheating. This happens when you’ve overloaded the system. A sure sign of overheating is your system’s internal breaker tripping. If you notice the trip, reset it and give the unit some time to cool down before you try to start using it again.

Faulty Disposal Motor

The motor in garbage disposal systems can go bad for various reasons. When it fails, it will become unresponsive with the garbage disposal on or reset too frequently. In this scenario, it’s best to replace the motor.

Get Expert Help for Your Garbage Disposal Troubles

If you’re wondering, “Why is my garbage disposal not working?” following the troubleshooting tips above should restore your unit to optimal working condition. However, if it still isn't working, don’t fret. Call the Rainforest Plumbing & Air Team in Rosemont Mesa, AZ, today for fast garbage disposal repair. We are available 24/7. Find out why we are the top choice for all plumbing solutions, including sewer line relining.
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