Insinkerator Jams and How to Reset a Garbage Disposal

How to Fix a Garbage Disposal Jam

By Mark J. Donovan

Insinkerators, or garbage disposals, have a tendency to break down periodically. Insinkerator jams are fairly common just due to the fact that people abuse them. It’s amazing what gets purposely and accidentally shoved down an insinkerator. When an insinkerator is turned on the motors and blades inside it work to shred the contents in it.

The shredded material can then more easily pass through the sink drain. Sometimes, however the insinkerator jams shortly after it is turned on. This is due to the motor effectively stopping due to the high torque on the cutting blades trying to cut through the food and other debris in it.

Often a humming sound can be heard at this point as the cutting blades stop turning. The humming sound is coming from the high electrical current still trying to turn the motor and blade assembly. Eventually even the humming sound will stop when there is a jam. Most of the time when an insinkerator jam occurs a diy homeowner can resolve the insinkerator jam on their own.

To avoid calling a plumber to fix your garbage disposal most of the time all you need to do is follow the steps described below.

Fortunately insinkerators are designed to shut off when they become jammed and the blades are unable to rotate anymore. In addition, current to the motor is automatically shut off via a circuit breaker to ensure the motor is not burned out and destroyed. As a matter of fact, you’ll typically find a reset button on the garbage disposal itself that you need to push to restart the insinkerator, after it has automatically cut off and you’ve subsequently removed the jam.

Insinkerator Jams and How to Reset a Garbage Disposal

After cleaning out an insinkerator jam, plug the unit back in and press the reset button once. Note that you should always unplug a garage disposal when removing a jam. In the process of pushing the reset button listen for a clicking sound. This will indicate that the garbage disposal unit has been reset. Once reset, you can then turn on the cold water faucet and throw the switch to the insinkerator to see if it again operates. As a side note, you should always turn the cold water faucet on when using an insinkerator as the water helps to aid in the grinding of the food debris and keeping the garbage disposal blades cool.

If the garage disposal doesn’t operate after cleaning it out and resetting it, and it doesn’t even produce a humming sound, then there’s a very good chance the motor has been permanently damaged. In this situation, you may want to consider calling a plumber, or replacing the motor, or replacing the entire insinkerator unit itself.

If the garage disposal partially works, or still just hums, turn it off again and unplug it. Then, using a flash light, inspect the insides of the garbage disposal carefully looking for any debris that is still stuck in it. If you see any debris in it, use a large screw driver to remove it.

Never put your hands down into a garbage disposal, even if the unit is unplugged. While removing the debris with the screwdriver, also push the end of the screwdriver down into one of the holes in the base of the insinkerator and try rotating the screw driver in a circular motion. This effort will cause the blades to move and potentially release any debris stuck in them. If and when the blades begin to turn freely you can then remove the screwdriver, plug it back in, and try testing the unit again. With any luck you’ve eliminated the insinkerator jam and your garbage disposal should be operational again.

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