Garbage disposers are among the worst offenders when having kitchen sink back ups. This is usually the result of an object, inadvertently being washed into the sink drain and impeding the grinding chamber. (NOTE: Garbage disposers are intended as a companion to the dishwasher. Therefore, garbage disposals are to be used for disposal of small food particles and biodegradable organic matter that arrives in the sink while rinsing dishes.) In the event the garbage disposal is jammed due to a foreign object falling into the grinding chamber, without notice, the disposer’s circuitry will overload and cut out power before the garbage disposer will overheat and self destruct. If your disposal does not make a sound when turned on, the internal circuit breaker has tripped. Do not attempt to reset this until you have determined why the circuit has been interrupted. Resolve the cause first. Though the circuit breaker is tripped, be sure the switch supplying power is in the off position. You may even want to disconnect power from the main circuit panel as an extra safety precaution.
Here are the steps to trouble shooting the garbage disposer:
- Before looking into the disposer, be sure power is disengaged and there is no way anyone will inadvertently supply power to the garbage disposal while you are working on it.
- Use a flashlight and peer into the grinding chamber of the disposer.
- If you see an object that would obstruct the ability for the grinding chamber to move, look for a 1/4″ allen wrench. Most garbage disposals come with a 1/4″ allen wrench.
- Beneath the garbage disposer, in the center, you will see a hexagonal hole. This is where you will use the 1/4″ allen wrench. Turn the kitchen sink faucet on, if the sink still drains. Insert the allen wrench in the hexagonal hole beneath the disposer. Begin working the wrench clockwise and counter clockwise. This should help work the obstruction loose. When the chamber feels it is moving more freely than when you first started working with the wrench, turn the faucet off. Reach into the disposer (all power off) and remove the obstruction.
- Back to the bottom of the disposer, find a button. This is the internal circuit breaker for the garbage disposal. Push it. Resupply current to the garbage disposer switch if you turned it off at the breaker panel. Turn the water on, then the switch. The garbage disposer should work if it has not burned itself out. If there is still debris left in the grinding chamber, you will need to repeat these steps.
Avoid using a plunger. Only plunge the disposer as a last option. Plunging could force the seals in the disposer out of place and create leaks.
Diagnosing and fixing the drainage problem for a sink, shower or tube may be a long and difficult process. Be safe. If fixing the issue is something that is risky or not being understood, contact a drain service company. The range of pricing for a company who cares to do the job correctly is within $145.00 – $225.00. This depends on material used in piping, age of the house which would help the plumber understand the plumbing code that was used in assembling the plumbing system, access to the plumbing and what is assumed to be creating the blockage.
Adding a garbage disposal unit to an old drain line, composed of cast iron or galvanized pipe is not recommended. This can be done. However, the piping material will develop pitting inside the pipe. This will provide a place for food particles to lodge. Then, more particles are added. You may not see a problem for quite a while. However, where the food particles are building, bio-mat is also building in the line. Here, you now have the problem of carbon material and moisture stuck in place. Using the idea of having a protein stain on an article of clothing being laundered; you would use a protein detergent to remove the stain. The same principle applies here, carbon material such as decaying food, lies against the pipe, which is also a carbon material. This aides in weakening the walls of the pipe.