How to Repair a Garbage Disposal

You will find a garbage disposal or food waste disposer in almost every kitchen sink in America. This means it is one of the most common household appliances. A garbage disposal is prone to several issues during its lifetime including both minor and major repairs.

The guide below offers tips on troubleshooting common garbage disposal problems and models – including the InSinkErator from Emerson – and how to fix them. Several of the repairs can be completed in 15-30 minutes and do not require professional training or attention. Others we recommend enlisting an appliance repairman for.


Below are troubleshooting tips from APEX for some of the main issues that occur on food waste disposers:


It is not uncommon for a burning smell to come out of a garbage disposal on occasion. The source of the burning smell is either its motor or motor capacitor. The smell is the result of the motor overheating which can be caused by food or other objects being jammed in the unit. “Turn off the power and then clear the unit of any debris or clogs. Flush water through the unit and attempt to run it,” says Tim O’Brien, owner of a local appliance repair service in Livermore. If the burning smell persists, you will need to call an appliance repair company near you or replace the garbage disposal.


The most obvious reason for an odor coming from a garbage disposal is food or waste stuck in the appliance. Be sure the power is turned off and the unit is unplugged and then attempt to clear the motor and blades with a tool. If the smell persists, the stopper and splash guards might need to be replaced on the unit.


The first thing to be sure of if a garbage disposal won’t start is that the device is plugged in beneath the sink. The other thing to check is if a circuit breaker tripped. You can also press the “reset” button on the garbage disposal and then attempt to turn it on. If the problem persists, there is likely an issue with the starter/stopper switch on the unit and it will need to be replaced. The starter/stopper switch is also often the reason a garbage disposal will shut off in the middle of operating.


Your garbage disposal should have a tight seal within the sink drain. If leaks start to occur from the unit the problem is either the seals or the gaskets on the unit. You can easily replace both the seals and the gaskets by removing the garbage disposal from the sink and then interchanging them with new ones. This repair is relatively easy should not require a professional appliance repair service for completion.


You will hear loud noises coming from a garbage disposal if something solid falls into it when it is turned on. You will also hear grinding noises if there is too much food or waste or the appliance is jammed at all. The loud noises can also be the result of loose or dull blades. The blades can be tightened with ease if the unit is removed from the kitchen sink. Dull blades are the sign of an old garbage disposal and it could be time to consider replacing the appliance entirely.

Your comfort level will determine how many of the repairs above you can complete on your own. If at any time during a repair you are not comfortable continuing, we recommend hiring an appliance repair service able to complete the job for you. Here are some professional companies we recommend for garbage disposal repair:

Excel Kent Appliance Repair
Kent, WA

Legacy Lawrence Appliance Repair
Lawrence, KS

Budget Appliance Fix
Milwaukee, WI

Livermore Appliance Repair Pros
Livermore, CA

Lonestar Appliance Repair
Dallas, TX
(972) 682-7751

Instant Livonia Appliance Repair
Livonia, MI