Jammed garbage disposal
Garbage disposals can jam for a variety of reasons. A bone may be lodged in the drain or a utensil may have found its way between the internal impeller blades. Garbage disposals are the unsung heroes of the kitchen, taking care of our various food scraps with the flip of a switch. But from time to time, your garbage disposal may experience a jam and stop working. When a jam occurs, the disposer may shut down via an internal “breaker” switch, or the motor will keep running to no avail, causing that humming noise, which isn't good for the motor. Alleviating most jams takes just a few minutes. So make sure the disposer’s power switch is off. As an extra precaution, you can turn off the circuit that serves the disposer at your home’s electrical service panel (breaker box), and that’s up to your discretion. Next, look inside the disposer with a flashlight to see if you can spot the source of the jam. Inspect carefully around the impellers and the impeller plate, particularly the small gap between the plate and the side wall of the chamber. If you see something, try to extract it with needle nose pliers, chopsticks, or another finger-like tool. You can also use your hands, but again, that’s a safety-risk call you must make. If you got something out, try running the disposer again, with the cold water going. If your disposer has already tripped itself (no motor humming), look for the reset button on the bottom or the side of the unit underneath the sink. It’s small, so you must look carefully. Press the reset button and try the disposer again. At this point, if you hear humming once more or you hear the motor start to engage then quickly shut down, you still have a jam. If you hear nothing, try the reset button a couple more times, but chances are you need a new disposer. Most modern disposers have a manual crank— an exposed Allen-nut head located in the bottom center of the disposer unit. Turn the head with a wrench to move the motor manually. Look on the side of the unit or in the general area of the disposer for an Allen tool for this very purpose. Manufacturers often provide a little plastic bag for holding the tool, and any conscientious plumber will have stored it in a sensible location for you. If you don’t have a tool, find a wrench that fits the disposer’s crank head. Turn the manual crank back and forth, several times if necessary. You can move the motor manually in both directions, but because the automatic function moves only in one direction, going backward often dislodges the obstruction. If the crank spins easily, the jam is freed, and the obstruction has either gone down the drain or it’s moved back into the grinding chamber, in which case you should fish it out. If your disposer has no manual crank, you can move the impeller plate manually by sticking a broom handle or strong stick down into the disposer and levering it against an impeller and the drain hole in the sink. If a levering action isn’t possible, just try a simple push and pull action, as if you’re stirring a vat of hard dough. Go back and forth as needed to dislodge the obstruction. Unlike most appliances today, food disposers are reasonably priced and actually durable goods. They’re also pretty easy to replace.