Help – My Garbage Disposal Stopped Working!

The Short Answer Is: The most common reasons for a kitchen garbage disposal not working are jamming, overloading, and electrical issues. Jamming occurs when foreign objects or tough food scraps obstruct the disposal's blades. Overloading the disposal with excessive waste can trip its safety mechanisms, while electrical issues like a tripped circuit breaker or a faulty switch can disrupt power supply, causing the unit to stop functioning.

If your garbage disposal is not working and you don’t know why, it’s natural to feel frustrated. A broken garbage disposal means more inconvenience as you use your kitchen, at least until it’s repaired. But, why wait for a plumber when you don’t have to?

When you know the common issues that cause garbage disposals to stop working properly and how to fix them, it’s not so big of a deal that your garbage disposal stopped working – quickly troubleshoot the problem and fix it yourself!

Mr. Plumber explains what causes common garbage disposal problems Indianapolis area homeowners often face, as well as what you can do to correct them without a call to us. If your garbage disposal stopped working, we recommend you give our troubleshooting tips a try before giving us a call. If you find you do need a plumber’s help to solve the problem, just contact us and we will quickly dispatch a skilled plumbing technician to assist you!

Why Is My Garbage Disposal Not Working? Check The Following

If your garbage disposal stopped working and does not turn on at all, problems with the unit’s power source are possible causes. Or, it is likely that the garbage disposal was overloaded, which causes its reset switch to trip in order to prevent damage.

  1. Verify That the Garbage Disposal Is On and Plugged In
  2. Locate the reset button beneath the garbage disposal – if the button has popped out, it is likely that the garbage disposal stopped working because it tripped its built-in circuit breaker, probably due to overloading. Press in the reset button – if it does not stay depressed, wait about 10 minutes and try again. If the reset button stays in, flip on the garbage disposal’s power switch to see if the unit starts back up. 
  3. Check the circuit breaker at your home’s electrical panel – verify the garbage disposal’s circuit has not been tripped and reset the breaker if necessary.
  4. Check the garbage disposal’s wall switch – remove the switch plate and check for loose connections, tighten them if necessary. 
  5. Check the point where those wires connect to the unit. They may have come loose due to the garbage disposal’s vibration and need tightening.

If your garbage disposal stopped working and still does not turn on after you take these steps, call your plumber for assistance. Your plumber is able to assess the unit and its electrical connections to determine where the issue has occurred that prevents the unit from running. If the issue cannot be repaired, your plumber helps you select a new unit and installs your new garbage disposal.

Unit Hums, but Garbage Disposal Stopped Working

When you flip the power switch on, if the garbage disposal makes a humming noise yet does not do anything, the flywheel within the disposal is most likely jammed. If you experience this problem, stop the garbage disposal right away! If it continues to run while there is a jam, the motor may burn out and permanently ruin the unit, and then you’ll need a new garbage disposal.

Before you attempt to troubleshoot this possible reason why your garbage disposal stopped working, turn off power to the unit at your home’s electrical panel to prevent accidents. Verify the power is off at the electrical panel and also turn off the garbage disposal’s wall switch.

  1. Use the wrench that was included with your garbage disposal – stick it into the turning hole at the bottom of the lower grinding chamber. 
  2. Turn the wrench clockwise – this works to dislodge items jamming up the garbage disposal’s flywheel or impeller. If the jam is dislodged, you will be able to freely turn the wrench. 


  1. Find a long stick, such as the handle of a wooden spoon or other wooden kitchen utensil, and stick it down through the drain opening. Maneuver the stick as a lever to dislodge the jammed flywheel. If this works, the flywheel will easily rotate.
  2. Shine a flashlight into the garbage disposal and look for the material that caused the flywheel to jam – oftentimes, it’s a bone or utensil that accidentally made its way into the drain.  
  3. Use a Pair of Pliers to Grasp the Item and Pull It Out

After you have dislodged the jam, turn electricity back on at the home’s electrical panel. At the garbage disposal, press its reset button, located on the bottom of the unit. Run cold water down the drain for a few minutes while flipping the wall switch on and off in short bursts. This should wash material left in the chamber down the drain and out of the garbage disposal.

If your garbage disposal does not work after attempting this process, call your plumber for repairs. He or she is able to remove difficult items if applicable. Or, your plumber examines your unit to identify other causes of a jammed flywheel, such as rust or corrosion.

Garbage Disposal Smokes

If you experience the humming noise and jammed flywheel situation described above, the unit may start to smoke as the garbage disposal stopped working. The smoke may have been produced by the motor frying, in which your garbage disposal needs to be replaced. Or, it could be from a fried circuit, which may be fixable.

First, turn off power to the garbage disposal then take these troubleshooting steps:

  1. Remove the Lower Cover of the Garbage Disposal
  2. Examine the wires that connect to the garbage disposal – are there burnt wires? 
  3. If wires have burned, remove the burnt portion of wire and damaged wiring insulation.
  4. Reattach Wires to the Correct Connections
  5. Replace the Lower Cover
  6. Restore Power and Test the Unit

If this does not fix the problem or you are not comfortable working with the wires after your garbage disposal stopped working, call your plumber. Your plumber is able to assess if the unit can be repaired or if the motor is in fact fried and the entire garbage disposal needs to be replaced. 

Garbage Disposal Does Not Drain

If your garbage disposal stopped working to clear waste down the drain, there is likely a clog. When the unit turns on but water backs up into the sink or doesn’t flow into the drain at all, this issue points to a clog either within the garbage disposal or the sink’s drain piping. 

To troubleshoot this reason why your garbage disposal stopped working, try these steps:

  1. Remove the waste left in your sink. Scoop it out and throw away in the trashcan.
  2. With about 2 inches of water in the sink, use a cup plunger to plunge the drain. Use medium pressure and maintain a strong seal with the plunger fully covering the drain opening. This may clear the clog entirely, but if it does not, continue with the following steps. 
  3. Look down into the drain for obstructions. If you see anything, use pliers or tongs to remove it. After removing material, run water and turn the garbage disposal back on to see if the drain flows smoothly. If not, continue.
  4. Go underneath the sink, place a bucket below, and unscrew the bolts that fasten the discharge pipe to the unit.  
  5. Disconnect the garbage disposal drain trap and pull out the disposal trap along with the discharge drain line. Examine for obstructions in this line and clear them out. If no obstructions are found in this line, the clog may be in the sink’s plumbing.
  6. Use a Sink Auger in the Drain Line to Clear the Clog
  7. If you are able to remove the clog, reassemble the drain trap and discharge tube.
  8. Run water and flip the garbage disposal’s power switch on to test the drain. 

If your efforts to clear a clog and restore drainage through your garbage disposal don’t work, it’s time to call a plumber for help. There is likely an obstruction further down in the drain line that needs to be removed before your garbage disposal is able to properly drain.

Avoid clogs in the future and prevent a situation where the garbage disposal stopped working by practicing good garbage disposal use habits.

  • Always use plenty of cold water when operating the garbage disposal. 

  • Keep water and the garbage disposal running for several seconds after food waste has finished grinding to fully flush matter down the drain line. 

  • Use a drain strainer to prevent unwanted objects from entering the garbage disposal. Keep it positioned over the disposal drain until you are ready to use the garbage disposal.

  • Cut matter into small pieces before inserting them into the garbage disposal. 

Garbage Disposal Repair Service from Mr. Plumber

If your garbage disposal stopped working and you are unable to troubleshoot the issue, it’s time for professional plumbing repair. Mr. Plumber’s licensed plumbing technicians will have a look at your equipment to determine the exact reason your garbage disposal stopped working and make the necessary repairs to get it back up and running again, or install a new unit if you choose. 

For garbage disposal repair or replacement in Indianapolis and throughout the Central Indiana region, call Mr. Plumber today!

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