If the garbage disposal in your house isn't working right, it may not break food down properly. This can leave you with clogs in the drain. Since the garbage disposal is contained in a unit under the sink, some malfunctions may not be as readily apparent. Here are a few tips to help you identify some potential garbage disposal issues before they become serious problems that affect your home's plumbing.
Any time you turn on the disposal, you should hear the blades spin. If you don't, and all you hear is the motor humming, that's a sign that the blades aren't turning. Shut the disposal off right away. If you put food into it without the blades spinning appropriately, it can clog the whole thing up. Leaving it on and running in the hope that the blade might free up and spin is likely to burn out the motor.
When the blades aren't spinning but the motor responds, that's an indication that the flywheel responsible for turning the blades is jammed up. That happens any time food particles get trapped in the space between the shredder ring and the impeller or around the edges of the flywheel. Luckily, you can fix this fairly quickly.
How to Free the Flywheel
Shut off the breaker that supplies power to the disposal. Then, look for a small hole on the garbage disposal case. Insert an Allen wrench into that space and turn clockwise to loosen it. Keep turning until the flywheel spins easily. Once the flywheel is turning again, you can restore the power to the disposal. Then, push the reset button found on the case of the garbage disposal.
Turn on the cold water at the faucet and let it run for two or three minutes. Then, turn the disposal on and off several times in brief bursts to clear out any residual debris. That should restore the function of the disposal. If the Allen wrench doesn't loosen the flywheel up and restore the function of the disposal, you'll need to call a technician who can service the unit.
Visible Indications of Clogs
If the disposal itself is working, but the sink isn't draining, that's a sign that there's something clogging the pipe. While you can reach out to a plumber to flush the pipes, you might even be able to clear the clog out on your own.
Shut off the main power to the disposal at the breaker panel, then unplug it. Once you're certain that there's no power to the disposal, you can reach in with a pair of tongs or something to clear the clog. If the backup is at the top of the disposal, this should work. If not, you may need to have a plumber disassemble the pipes to clear it out.
If you have to replace your disposal, look at some of the garbage disposals reviews to find one that's durable and long-lasting before you invest.