In order for a garbage disposal to work properly, the unit must be able to receive electrical power to spin the blades. When that does not happen, the garbage disposal will simply not turn on.
After receiving the electrical power, the garbage disposal blades should be able to spin freely. If the blades are jammed, you will hear a humming sound from your garbage disposal but it will not work (grind food waste).
Sound is therefore very important in diagnosing a garbage disposal that is not working. A humming sound indicates that the unit is receiving power but not grinding/spinning.
If there is no any sound coming from a garbage disposal despite flipping the switch in the ON position, the problem is always power-related. The first thing therefore is to listen careful for any sounds coming from the disposal any time your unit is not working.
When a garbage disposal won’t turn on, it is a sign that the unit is not receiving any electrical power. This often happens when the reset button at the bottom of the unit, or the circuit breaker trips. It can also happen when the unit is not plugged to the power outlet.
To fix a garbage disposal that won’t turn on, start by making sure that the unit is properly plugged in the power outlet. Next check if the reset button or lever at the main circuit breaker has tripped. Sometimes you need to fix or replace a faulty switch.
There are 2 rules that you should abide by when working on garbage disposals:
- Always have power to the unit turned off and plugged out unless you are testing it.
- Never stick your finger or hand inside the garbage disposal.
How to Fix a Garbage Disposal that Won’t Turn On
When your garbage disposal won’t turn on, the problem could be coming from the garbage disposal itself, or from the power supply. In both of these cases, fixing the garbage disposal is usually a simple task, one which doesn’t need you to call a plumber.
As stated above, the sound (or no sound) coming from the unit will guide you on which route to follow when fixing it. Let us start with the easiest.
Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On, No Sound
When your garbage won’t turn on and there is no sound coming from the unit, the unit is not receiving electrical power. If the rest of your kitchen appliances are all receiving power and working normally, the problem is isolated to your garbage disposal.
This can be a very simple fix that will take you less than a minute to fix, or one which will need to you to replace a faulty switch. If you notice your garbage disposal is not turning on and there is no sound coming from the unit, this is how to troubleshoot it:
1. Check if the Garbage Disposal is Plugged In
Many plumbers have been called in to fix garbage disposals that won’t turn on, only to get there and find the units unplugged from power. This is a possibility in a house with several people, and especially kids.
The garbage disposal doesn’t have to be fully unplugged, but if electrical contact is lost then it will simply not turn on. Duck under your kitchen sink and check if the unit is plugged in to the electrical outlet properly.
Push the plug inside the outlet to make sure it is all the way in. I personally like to unplug it and then plug it in. flip the switch and check if this fixes the problem.
2. Press the Reset Button
Every garbage disposal has a reset button on its underside. This is usually a red button which triggers a circuit breaker whenever there is a potential for power leakage, preventing electrical shock.
When the reset button trips, it pops out, disconnecting power to the garbage disposal. Failure to send power to the motor means that the blades will not spin, and this in most cases is usually the problem when a garbage disposal won’t turn on.
Look for this button on the bottom of your garbage disposal and push it in. If indeed the reset button had tripped you should hear it click.
Plug in the power to the unit and flip on the switch. In most cases this will be enough to fix your garbage disposal.
If the reset button is ok (hasn’t tripped), dash to your main house electrical service panel box and check if the lever dedicated to your garbage disposal has tripped. If that is the case flip it back to the ON position. Check if that is sufficient to have your garbage disposal working again.
3. Fix the Garbage Disposal Switch
If the garbage disposal is properly plugged in, reset button and circuit breaker lever have not tripped, you might have a faulty switch. Don’t however rush to replace the switch until you have come to the conclusion that it is indeed faulty.
To be certain that the switch is the problem, unplug the garbage disposal outlet and plug in another electrical appliance (with a standard electrical plug) and turn it on by flipping the switch. If the appliance, say a hair drier turns on, the switch is not the problem.
In this case, you will have no alternative than to replace your garbage disposal. While you can call in a plumber to fix it for you, their charges are quite high, and there is usually no guarantee that the unit will be fixed.
The best thing is to buy a brand-new disposal and install it on your own which is quite easy. Watch out this You Tube video incase you want to see all the steps involved.
If while testing the switch you noticed that the appliance did not start as well, you have a faulty switch. Go ahead and replace it.
Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn On, Humming Sound
When your garbage disposal won’t turn on but there is a humming sound coming from the unit, it is a sign that the unit is receiving electrical power, but the blades are not spinning. This usually happens when you put in something that you should not put in the unit, which ends up jamming the blades.
If your garbage is humming but not grinding, this is how to fix it:
- Start by turning off power to the unit and unplugging it.
- Use a flashlight to inspect the inside of the garbage disposal and check if there is anything (like a spoon, folk or even shells) jamming the blades.
- Grab the item using a pair of tongs or even tweezers and pull it out.
- Plug in the unit and flip on the switch.
- If the problem is not fixed, turn off the power and unplug the power.
- Turn the blades manually. When you first bought your garbage disposal, it must have come with an Allen wrench. Get the Allen wrench and insert it in the slot under the garbage disposal.
- Turn on the cold water to the garbage disposal to a trickle and start turning the Allen wrench. If you don’t find the Allen wrench that came with your unit, use just any other wrench as long as it fits. Turning the garbage disposal manually will force it to grind whatever that is jamming the blades.
- An alternative to the step above is wooden stick. Stick the stick in the garbage disposal and turn the blades.
- After turning the blades manually for sometime you will notice that they will start spinning freely. Remove the Allen wrench or stick and plug in the unit to the power outlet. Start it once more.
Sometimes you will find that the garbage disposal wrench won’t turn. This is often happens when the blades are being impeded by something solid like a silverware. Get a strong flashlight and check inside the unit for such a thing. You may have to remove the garbage disposal to remove the item
This is usually the best way to fix a humming garbage disposal. Check also that the reset button is not tripped. If even after doing this the unit won’t turn on, you most likely have a faulty motor and the garbage disposal will need to be replaced.
And that is how to fix a garbage disposal that won’t turn on.