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In order to attempt to fix your garbage disposal, it first helps to understand how it works. The disposal's motor powers a flywheel that throws garbage against a shredder. The resulting pulp is then flushed down the waste line. There are two types.

Continuous-feed type

Flip on the wall switch, the motor goes on and turns the shredder. With water running, scrape garbage into it continuously.

Batch-feed type

This one you load with garbage first, then turn it on. The switch is located in the disposal's sink mounting bracket and is activated by inserting and turning a stopper.

Except for the switch, both types work pretty much the same and are repaired similarly.

Jams are probably the most common problem because of over stuffing. Avoid packing the shredder hopper tightly. Don't put hard waste items such as bottle caps, clamshells, glass, etc. Small bones can actually be grinded and even help prevent buildups. Disposals are primarily intended for biodegradable garbage. Always keep cold water running fairly full into the hopper. Not only does it move waste from the hopper to the line, it helps remove congealed grease. Even after shutting the disposal off, allow the water to run for a minute to clear the drain line. Never use a chemical drain cleaner; it will damage internal parts.

To gain access to the hopper for cleaning or removing debris

a.. Shut off power at the service panel. Unclamp the dishwasher drain hose and pull it off. Loosen the slip nuts on the drainpipe and disconnect the trap.
b.. Support the unit from below (it's fairly heavy). Rotate the lower mounting ring enough to free the disposal.
c.. Remove the cover plate from the bottom of the disposal. Label the wires, then unscrew the wire connectors from the power cord and pull the cord free.
d.. Unscrew and remove the disposal's outer shell and sound insulating plastic foam.
e.. To open the hopper, use a heavy hammer with a protective wood block against the hopper locking ring. Unlock the tabs. This might require extra force.

Clearing a jam:

a.. Shut off power
b.. Some units come with a hex key that is inserted into an opening on the underside of the disposal. Rotate the key in both directions to free the jam. Turn the unit on and try to use it. If still jammed repeat.
c.. If the unit does not have a hex key or if that method did not work, use a broom handle by inserting it into the hopper and pushing it against the hammer (that knob looking protrusion on the flywheel). Move the flywheel back and forth. This should remove the problem-causing item.
d.. Never put your hand into the disposal.
e.. If the disposal won't start after unjamming, wait about fifteen minutes for the motor to cool, then press the reset button-if there is one-on the underside of the disposal. Make sure the power has been restored.
f.. After unjamming, throw several ice cubes into the disposal and grind
them. This will help remove any remaining residue.

Stopping leaks

Most leaks are caused by loose screws or damaged gaskets between the unit and the sink, the drain pipe or between the hopper and the motor housing. Check all three sites to locate the leak.

a.. At the drainpipe - tighten the drain gasket screw. If leaking persists, remove drain elbow and replace gasket.
b.. At the sink - tighten screws on sink mounting with an offset
screwdriver (or hex key). If it still leaks, shut off the power and remove
the disposal, then remove the ring and replace the gasket.
c.. Between hopper and motor housing - replace the motor housing gasket. Shut off the power and remove and disassemble the unit. Lift off the gasket. Coat the top of the new gasket with silicone sealant before reassembling. If you run into any trouble with any of these procedures, or for more serious problems, call a qualified service technician.