If a kitchen sink garbage disposal was used as designed, it would last anywhere from 5 to 10 years, maybe even longer. However, the average life of a normally-used unit ends up being less than 5 years, and in some cases closer to three. This is typically because people assume they can put anything down in it. Including metal.
While these machines work extremely well at getting rid of bulk food matter, they are not the end-all, be-all for trash removal. And it’s this reason that ends up being why most disposals need to be repaired or replaced. If your kitchen garbage disposal is making weird sounds, it may be time to replace it.
Signs of a Failing Machine
The most noticeable sign of a disposal going on the fritz is its operating sound. If the disposal is not whirring smoothly and seems to be struggling grinding, or humming but no motion, there is material stuck inside that doesn’t belong there in the first place.
Additionally, hearing an additional noise of a blade spinning like metal on metal right after the disposal has been turned off can be a flag that something is wrong as well. However, the tell-tale serious problem tends to be that nothing seems to flow down the drain, period. At this point, the disposal is so jammed up, that while it can keep spinning it is just moving around paste in water.
DIY Garbage Disposal Repairs
There are some things a homeowner can do that provide a basic fix for simple problems when the disposal just needs a bit of help. First, there is a hex tool that comes with every disposal. This connects to a hex socket on the center bottom of the disposal. It can be inserted and twisted in a circular fashion, which helps free up the blades and re-align them. If that doesn’t get things working again, try running hot water down the drain to free up oil and other gunk that might be blocking things.
If an object is visible, unplug the unit from the power socket, and flip the switch to confirm that the power is off. Leave the switch in the off position and use long tongs to remove the obstacle. Never, ever put your hand down the disposal to free it up, even if the unit is off and unplugged. This is probably the most dangerous and unnecessary approach for a fix. Instead, always keep your hands above the sink level and remember to use gloves to avoid cuts.
If your garbage disposal unit has completely failed or, every time it runs, there is too much noise, it’s definitely time for a replacement. Looking under the sink, a replacement job might seem simple, but it can be very complicated for a beginner.
First of all, there isn’t much room under the sink to get anything done. That means a repairer has to position themselves upside down looking up, know how to use basic plumbing tools, and go through the arduous process of disconnecting the old unit before installing the new one. Water gets spilled, and some nasty stuff can fall out as well.
Once the old unit is cleared, the new one has to be prepped. In most cases, the power cord doesn’t come connected. Instead, you have to hard wire the power cord first, check that all the parts and pipes are included, dry run everything, and then make sure to have all the right tools for the job.
If not familiar with plumbing, there is room for a lot of mistakes, which ends up requiring the job to be done again and again. This can be really frustrating and costly. Worse, if a connection is done badly, water can leak into the kitchen cabinet floor and cause dry rot over time or mold.
Avoid the Headaches, Go Professional
The better option is to have a professional plumber replace and install the disposal. This kind of expert garbage disposal repair can make sure the right size unit for the home is obtained (yes, they come in different capacity sizes) and installed correctly. That includes checking all the connections and making sure everything is running right the first time without leaks.