Garbage Disposers (Disposalls) operate like huge blenders that grind up the food until it is fine enough to wash down the drain.  To accomplish this, they have a big rotating chunk of metal, or jaw, in the disposer's neck (called the grinding chamber).  Disposers must make the food particles small enough to allow them to pass between the outer edge of the jaw and the wall of the grinding chamber as you run water through it.  The space that the food particles must pass through is only about the thickness of a penny.  With a little understanding of how disposers work, you may help reduce the need for a repair or service call.

    The motors that turn the jaws in most domestic disposers are usually strong enough to easily shred almost any kind of food.   But, like most electric motors, the motors on these disposers have very little of their rated power when they first try to start.  Only when they get up to speed do they develop a significant amount of strength.  If a hard seed, or a lot of stringy strands from food like celery, become lodged between the grinding chamber wall and the jaw, the motor may not have enough starting power to overcome the jam.  This is why it is good to keep food out of the disposer's neck (grinding chamber) until you first, turn on the water, second, start the disposer, and only then allow the food scrap to wash down the drain opening into the disposer. The disposer should only be used with the water running.

    If your disposer is making a humming sound, do not let the unit be on for more than a few seconds, or it could over heat and burn up the motor, or at least trip its internal or external circuit breaker.  The internal type circuit breaker resets itself after a few minutes.  The external type of circuit breaker is located on the bottom of the disposer.  It appears as a small button that extends out when tripped. Simply push it in to reset it.

    If inappropriate items such as broken glass, screws, or other noncompressible objects get into the disposer, they can cause a jam that may not be repairable.  They should be quickly picked out with a needle nose pliers before someone turns the disposer on, and makes the object irremovable.  Be sure to only do this with the wall panel circuit breaker off.

    When normal food particles lodge and prevent the disposer from starting, it will be necessary to break up the particles by working the disposer's motor shaft back and forth.  Most disposers have a hexagonal shaped hole at the center bottom of the unit, that will accept a 1/4 inch Allen wrench.   With the wall panel circuit breaker off, and the water running, you can apply much more torque with your hand than the motor can at starting.   This should shred any normal food matter and allow it to wash down the drain.

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