A kitchen garbage disposal makes life simpler and your meal clean-up easier. You probably use your garbage disposal almost every single day, but do you know the parts of your garbage disposal, how it works or what to do if it stops working?
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Understanding how your sink disposal works and what makes it stop working can help you maintain it and keep it grinding for a long time. We’ll cover garbage disposal anatomy, some common repair issues and how to fix them when things go wrong. Here’s everything you should know about the miracle device that is the sink garbage disposal.
Where Your Garbage Disposal is Located
Your garbage disposal is the round, cylindrical device mounted beneath your kitchen sink. The cylinder you see under the sink is hollow and contains the disposal’s motor and all the mechanized parts that make it work.
The disposal’s motor receives power from a power cord that plugs into a conventional wall or floor outlet. You can probably see the power cord running from the outlet to the underside of the disposal.
How Does a Garbage Disposal Work?
When you flip that magic switch, you hear all manner of humming and grinding but what exactly goes on in the depths of your sink drain? Let’s cover the the parts of the disposal that work together to grind up food into a drain-safe slurry.
The hopper chamber is the hollow cylinder that houses the disposal. Hopper chambers have two segments: the upper and lower chambers. Food that enters the disposal collects in the upper hopper chamber before it’s shredded.
The lower hopper chamber is insulated and contains the disposal’s motor. This section also connects to the waste line. After the disposal grinds food up, that waste moves through the lower hopper chamber on its way out to the drainpipe.
Flywheel and Shredder Ring
The shredder ring sits between the upper and lower hopper chambers in the center of the disposal unit. The flywheel is a rotating metal turntable attached to the bottom of the shredder ring. This turntable catches food and prevents it from entering the lower hopper chamber until it’s small enough to pass through small holes in the sides of the shredder ring.
The inner walls of the shredder ring are covered in tiny, sharp grooves. These grooves help grind up and break down food chunks on the flywheel when you turn your disposal on. The flywheel catches food and connects to the motor and the rotating impellers.
Motor and Impellers
A garbage disposal’s motor typically generates around ½-¾ horsepower’s worth of force. When you turn it on, the motor rotates the flywheel and the impellers attached to it at up to 2000 RPM.
The impellers are the disposal’s “blades” that. When the motor activates, the impellers spin in tandem with the flywheel. The motion of the rotation flings food chunks into the grooves of the shredder ring repeatedly. This process continues until the food chunks have become so small that they slip past small openings in the shredder ring and slide down the garbage disposal drainpipe an on to your sewer line.
Waste Line Connector
The waste line connector is in the lower hopper chamber. It’s the last section food travels through before exiting into your plumbing. When ground-up food falls through the shredder ring, it enters the opening in the waste line connector and flushes out of the disposal and into a drainpipe.
How to Use a Garbage Disposal
Now that you know how your disposal works, you’ll be able to understand what you should and shouldn’t use it for, and why.
- Always run cold water while using your disposal
- Use the disposal to process easily ground-up food waste such as leftover meat and vegetables
- Make sure the disposal is plugged in before you use it
- Run the disposal for at least 30 seconds when it’s processing food
- Unplug the disposal from the wall before attempting any maintenance on it
- Clean your disposal regularly
- Ever, ever stick your hand in the garbage disposal
- Attempt to use the disposal to process grease, bones, vegetable skins, banana peels or other hard foods
- Press down on food to attempt to force it into the garbage disposal
- Run the garbage disposal without the sink on
- Stick utensils or other tools down the disposal while it’s plugged in
How to Fix a Garbage Disposal
Garbage disposal won’t start
This is an electrical problem, not necessarily a disposal problem. Look for the reset button on the bottom of the lower hopper chamber. Press it and try again. If that doesn’t work, check if the outlet that the disposal is plugged into is malfunctioning. If so, reset the breaker at your electrical panel.
Garbage disposal is clogged
The impellers are probably stuck. First, always unplug the disposal. Look for a hex-shaped hole at the bottom of the lower hopper chamber. Many garbage disposals come with a special hex wrench designed for this hole. Fit the wrench into the hole and turn. This manually moves the impellers and you may be able to force it them back and forth to un-jam.
If you can’t find the hex hole or you don’t have a wrench that fits into it, use a broomstick to try to free the impellers manually. Make sure you unplug the disposal before you attempt this.
Garbage disposal leaks
A garbage disposal is made up of many different, interlocking parts. Leaks can occur between any of these parts. Identify where the disposal is leaking, and simply tighten the relevant connecting pieces. You may also have to tighten the drain gasket or mounting screws using a screwdriver. If your disposal is cracked or worn out, it may be time to replace it.
Kitchen sink grinder doesn’t grind
First, make sure you’re running water when you use your disposal, and that you’re only processing food that the disposal can handle. If you’re doing these things, then the impellers or the shredder ring have dulled. You could replace either component parts individually, or you can replace the whole disposal.
Dallas Garbage Disposal Repair and Replacement
If your garbage disposal is not working and you can’t diagnose the problem, give the pros at Ben Franklin a call. We know how to repair, replace and unclog a garbage disposal. And, we’ll get the job done before it’s time to do the dishes again!