How to Fix Jammed Garbage Disposal

It always happens when you don't need it to happen. You turn on the garbage disposal, it starts to chop up the stuff that you've put down the drain, and then it grinds to a stop and refuses to turn. Garbage disposals can jam up pretty easily because the blades that rotate or situated on a spinning flywheel that the motor of the appliance rotates rapidly. If anything gets underneath this flywheel, such as a bone fragment, it can jam up the gear.

In this circumstance, if you remove the bone fragment or item that is stuck underneath the flywheel that is preventing it from spinning, you'll get the garbage disposal fixed. There are some other common causes of jamming that can occur as well.

Common Causes of Jamming

Running cooked rice through a garbage disposal.
Mushy starches can make a garbage disposal jam up quickly and it seems rather mysterious to users when it happens. They run the rice through the disposal, it sounds like the drain clears, and so they turn off the disposal. Overnight the starch in the cooked rice dries out and acts like glue, seizing up the spinning flywheel. If this has occurred, run hot water for some time down the disposal to soften the starch and it may start running again. You'll want to remove the unit and inspect it for remaining starch.

A blocked drain spout.
Sometimes a garbage disposal doesn't chop up food products into a fine enough pulp before spitting it out into your drainage system and this creates a blockage. This blockage will eventually come back into the appliance and will jam up the mechanism. You'll notice water backing up into the sink basin if this has occurred, often before the appliance actually jams up. To fix this problem, don't run a snake through the disposal as this can ruin the unit. Come backwards through the plumbing underneath the sink to locate the clog.

Foreign objects in the disposal.
This happens quite a lot when there are kids living in a home! It's a lot of fun to throw weird stuff down the drain without the parents knowing about it and then when Mom or Dad turn on the disposal, the junk rattles around and jams up the disposal. Some appliances are designed to automatically shut off if they sense foreign objects in the chopping basin. If this occurs, remove the objects and then press the reset button on the appliance.

It's just humming.
Sometimes a garbage disposal gets jammed up because one of the blades inside of it jams up into the side. In this instance, you'll want to take a look at the bottom of the appliance to locate a wrench hole that will help you manually turn the wheel. This is generally a 7mm hex wrench, but there are models that have different wrenches required. Manually turn the flywheel to dislodge it and you'll feel it start to spin freely.

If all else fails, use a broom handle or a hammer if you've got a jammed garbage disposal. You'd be surprised at how often that can fix a simple jam.
Posted on Jul 12, 2014


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