Any time your garbage disposal is acting up, it's going to affect the rest of your home's plumbing system. If it's not breaking down food debris, that means you're likely to have a clog in the drain. Since your garbage disposal is an enclosed unit, that means that problems with the system may not be obvious nor easy for you to troubleshoot. Here's a look at some of the things you should know to help you narrow down the source of the problem.
When the garbage disposal is running, you should be able to hear the spinning blades. If all you hear is a hum from the motor, that's a sign that the blades aren't actually spinning. Turn off the disposal quickly if this is the case, because you can burn out the motor by letting it run that way. The most common cause of this problem is a stuck flywheel. This happens when food or something similar gets stuck between the impeller and the shredder ring.
Turn the breaker off so that there is no power at all to the garbage disposal. Look at the disposal case for a small hole that's just big enough for an Allen wrench. That hole allows you access to the flywheel. Insert the Allen wrench, then turn clockwise to loosen the flywheel. Keep turning the wrench until the flywheel moves with ease. Then, restore power to the disposal and push the reset button on the disposal case.
Let cold water run down the disposal drain for a few minutes, then turn on the disposal. Flip the power switch on and off in rapid bursts a couple of times to help clear out any residual debris. This should fix the problem. If it doesn't, you'll need to call a plumber for help.
Slow or Stopped Drains
When the disposal is functioning but the sink won't drain, that's a key indication that you've got a clog in the pipe. Turn the breaker off to eliminate power to the disposal. Then, unplug the unit. This ensures that you have no power at all going to the disposal, which is important.
Reach into the disposal with a pair of long tongs to see if you can clear whatever is clogging things up. If it's not a problem at the top of the disposal, though, you'll need a plumber like Allied Mechanical & Electrical, Inc. to flush the pipes out. He or she can find the clog and clear things out with a pipe snake or other treatment.