Why Garbage Disposal Won’t Turn ON? 6 easy things to check

You fill your sink with peels and smelly food and suddenly the disposal won’t turn on! Six causes to troubleshoot your garbage disposal and get it grinding again…

Garbage disposal units are crucial for reducing how much space kitchen waste takes up. So, it can be frustrating when the unit won’t turn on all of a sudden. If you’re wondering why this happens, you’ve come to the right place.

When a garbage disposal unit fails to turn on, first check that it’s receiving power from the wall socket and the circuit breaker. Then, check for a faulty start switch or a safety switch that has tripped. After confirming there’s a power supply and its switches are working, check for an internal jam, rusted parts that won’t move, or a worn-out motor.

Troubleshooting a garbage disposal unit can be pretty challenging, but don’t worry. This guide will help you understand what’s wrong with your unit and what you can do to get it running again.

Why Is My Garbage Disposal Not Turning On?

Even though your garbage disposal won’t turn on, always be cautious when troubleshooting it. Never put your hand or any tools inside the unit while its plug is still in the wall socket. When checking to see if it works, ensure that there’s nothing inside the garbage disposal unit before you do.

Here are the 6 likely reasons why your garbage disposal isn’t turning on:

#1 Incoming Power Issues

As you troubleshoot your garbage disposal, start with the easiest and quickest causes to rule out. In this case, you can begin the process by checking for any incoming power issues.

In simple terms, your garbage disposal might not be getting any electrical power to begin with. So, here’s what you’ll want to check:

  1. First, check that your household is not experiencing a power outage. You can do this by testing lights or other appliances in your kitchen for power.
  2. Next, check that you’ve plugged the garbage disposal unit into its power socket. Look inside the cabinet, and you’ll likely find the wall socket under or behind the unit. Also, check that you’ve pushed the plug all the way into the socket.
  3. Then, check that the dedicated circuit breaker is in the ON position. An electrical fault will trip the circuit breaker, preventing power from reaching the garbage disposal unit.
Disposal plugged in

Once you confirm that power flows to the unit, you can move on to troubleshooting step #2.

Read: Garbage Disposal Humming But Flywheel Isn’t Stuck. How To Fix It?

#2 Faulty Start Switch

Next, it’s time to look at the garbage disposal unit’s start switch. At this stage, you’ve confirmed that the unit is receiving power. However, a faulty start switch will prevent that power from reaching the motor inside.

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The start switch placement will depend on whether you have a continuous feed unit or a batch feed unit. For a continuous feed type of disposer, the switch is typically on the wall nearby. Therefore, it looks like any other switch you have in the kitchen.

When it comes to batch-feed units, you’ll find the start switch directly on the unit’s side. That’s because the stopper activates that switch.

Regardless of where the switch is or what shape it takes, it will prevent the disposal unit from turning on if it is faulty. You can test this by using a multimeter to check for electrical continuity.

When the switch becomes faulty, the only solution is to replace it with a new one. 

You can do it yourself if you have the necessary knowledge to do it safely. However, you can also engage a qualified technician to help you do it instead.

Read: Dishwasher Won’t Start – Troubleshooting Guide

#3 Activated Trip Switch

Garbage disposal units also have a built-in safety switch to protect them from damage.

Suppose there are too many items inside the unit and the motor starts to overheat. The switch will trip and stop the unit from working when that happens.

That switch will prevent you from turning on the garbage disposal unit. It will stay that way until you reset the unit.

To do that, look underneath the garbage disposal unit. You’ll find that there’s a small protruding button. All you have to do is press that button to reset the switch, and your disposal unit will return to working normally.


Read: 3 Reasons Why Dishwasher Door Is Squeaking

#4 Internal Jam (disposal won’t turn on)

Another likely reason your garbage disposal refuses to turn on is that there’s a severe internal jam. There is a long list of items that you can and can’t put in your garbage disposal. You must know what those items are to prevent this problem from happening.

You should only place food scraps into the unit and not solid food bits like bones. However, solid food bits aren’t the only things that can cause a severe internal jam. 

Other items can also do the same, like:

  • Metal utensils like forks, spoons, and knives.
  • Broken glassware or ceramics.
  • Jewelry that slips off your hands like rings.

The only solution to an internal jam is to remove it from the unit. Depending on how severe the jam is, you might have to remove the unit entirely from under the kitchen counter and turn it over to shake the jam loose.

Remember: you should never troubleshoot your garbage disposal unit while you have it plugged in. Instead, always disconnect it from its power source (by removing its plug or turning off its circuit breaker) before working on it.

Read: How To Winterize A Dishwasher

#5 Rusted Parts

Depending on the age of your garbage disposal unit, you must also consider the condition of its moving parts. For instance, an older unit is likely to have rusted parts inside.

Rusted parts will struggle to turn and grind the food scraps that you put into the unit. That will prevent the unit from working despite receiving a regular power supply.

For some garbage disposal brands and models, you can buy replacements for the rusted parts. However, you should also consider upgrading to a new model instead.

#6 Worn-Out Motor

Last but not least, it’s also possible that the unit’s motor has become worn out. Garbage disposal motors are typically very durable and long-lasting, seeing as the appliance only has one purpose.

However, the motor will undoubtedly wear out after being used for many years. Worse yet, it can wear out ahead of its time if you repeatedly overload the motor with too many items or by putting in things that are hard to grind.

Unfortunately, there is no repairing a worn-out motor. The motor is built into the appliance, which means you’ll have to replace the entire unit to have a working garbage disposal again.

disposal won't turn on

Read: Here Is Why Whirlpool Dishwasher Not Drying Dishes

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some frequently asked questions that you’ll find helpful when troubleshooting your garbage disposal unit:

Why Did My Garbage Disposal Suddenly Stop Working?

When your garbage disposal suddenly stops working, check its safety switch for a trip. It’s likely that the unit was overheating and tripped the switch to protect itself from damage.

Is There A Restart Button On A Garbage Disposal?

Yes, if your garbage disposal unit overheats and stops working, there’s a restart or reset button you can press. Typically, you’ll find it on the unit’s bottom. After giving the unit some time to cool down, press the button to get it running again.

How Do I Know If My Garbage Disposal Is Plugged In?

You can check that your garbage disposal is plugged in by looking in the cabinet that houses it. In most homes, you’ll find the wall socket in the cabinet, directly behind the garbage disposal unit.

How Do I Manually Start My Garbage Disposal?

You can manually start the unit by inserting a tool into the hole underneath the unit, at the center. That tool is usually a standard Allen or hex key that you use to turn the unit manually to free it from jams and get it running again.

Can You Turn A Garbage Disposal Off?

Yes, you can turn a garbage disposal unit off in several ways. Continuous-feed units will have a wall switch you can turn off. However, you turn batch-feed units on and off by turning the stopper that activates its switch. Of course, you can also unplug the unit from the wall socket or turn off its dedicated circuit breaker, as well.

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