On a typical day, your garbage disposal whisks away food scraps and pulverizes them into tiny bits. However, it might stop working at some point, and you might notice that even the reset button won’t fix the situation. So, how do you fix your garbage disposal when the reset button isn’t working?
To fix your garbage disposal when the reset button isn’t working, check the circuit hasn’t tripped, let the motor cool, and clear any obstructions. Then, manually reset the motor using a hex key. If all else fails you may have a burnt-out motor and it’s cheaper to replace the entire unit.
It can be incredibly frustrating when your garburator isn’t working, especially if you’re staring at the leftovers from your last meal. Thankfully, fixing this issue is straightforward. Let’s take a closer look at the process in four easy steps so you can get your garbage disposal back up and running again.
Garbage Disposal Reset Button not Working: 4 steps to fix
Your garbage disposal has a built-in safety system that will automatically turn off the appliance in case of a jam, overheating, or electrical issues. In some cases, operating the garbage disposal without water or unknowingly dropping items such as jewelry into it can cause the disposal to jam.
It should then pop out a small button that you can press to reset the appliance if nothing else is wrong with the unit. However, sometimes the reset button may not work, leaving you in a panic.
I’ve put together four steps for you to follow to fix your reset button, starting with the most common and easy fix.
1. tripped circuit breaker
The first thing you should check when your garbage disposal reset button doesn’t work is the circuit breakers. Sometimes a garburator can trip a circuit breaker and this can happen either in the fuse cupboard itself (if the unit is hardwired in) or on the plug socket (if this is a GFCI unit). If a circuit has tripped, it may be causing the reset button not to work.
A garbage disposal unit can be hardwired or can be plugged in using a GFCI (tripper socket designed to be around wet areas, safety feature).
Note: One possible reason why your garbage disposal tripped the circuit is due to the garbage disposal unit overheating. You could try following step 2 (Motor Overheating) before resetting the circuit or your GFCI if it continues to trip.
tripping circuit board
You should first check the main circuit panel to see if the circuit has been tripped. It’s probably labeled something clear in the circuit cupboard. If so, reset the circuit breaker’s lever and try the reset button again.
More times than not garbage disposals are not hardwired in and may utilize a GFCI. A GFCI is a plug socket that detects an interruption in current and cuts the power immediately. GFCIs are designed for safety purposes – imagine a hair dryer being dropped into a bath – this is a prime example of where a GFCI would cut power instantly preventing electrocution.
Often dishwashers and garburators share the same GFCI so it’s possible either your garbage disposal or dishwasher caused a trip. If your GFCI has tripped, try resetting it (by pressing the red RESET button) and then testing the garbage disposal reset button again.
If your GFCI keeps tripping it’s also possible your GFCI unit has gone bad as they have an average lifespan of fewer than 10 years. To test this, you can try plugging in your garbage disposal unit to another socket and gauging how regularly trips occur. I’d also recommend following the rest of this article if your circuit continues to trip, as it could be caused by an overheating motor or jammed blades.
2. motor overheating
Sometimes garbage disposals can overheat and a telltale sign of this is when you hear a humming, followed by the unit cutting out. Either that, or it’ll randomly cut out whilst being used. The most common causes of overheating are a jammed motor or overuse.
When the motor rapidly overheats, the unit will cut out and your reset button will pop out. This cuts out electricity to protect the motor. The reset button won’t reset the motor until the unit has cooled down sufficiently.
Note: In addition to following the steps below, you should also check for any jams in the blades by following step 4.
You should follow these steps to reset your garbage disposal if it has overheated:
- Make sure the garbage disposal unit is ‘off’
- Wait 10 – 15 minutes for the motor unit to cool down
- Turn on a cold stream of water and let it run through the unit to speed up this process
Once the motor has cooled sufficiently, turn the unit on again and try pressing the RESET button. Hopefully, you’re now able to use your garbage disposal again, but I’d also recommend following my final two steps below to ensure there are no jams that caused the motor to overheat.
3. Jammed blades
Where you’ve checked the circuit and have let your garbage disposal cool down, it’s likely the blades are jammed or you have a burnt-out motor. Within this section, I’ll go into why your unit may have jammed in the first place and how to rectify the situation.
A garburator can become jammed for a variety of reasons: food stuck in the disposal, overload, something non-food related is in the disposal or the blades of the disposal are dull/damaged. Where the blades of your unit are jammed, you won’t be able to use the reset button.
Some food items can also cause your garbage disposal to jam. They include:
- Coffee grounds
- Bones or bone sediment
- Seafood shells
- Stringy or fibrous vegetables like the outer layers of onions
- Large quantities of starchy foods such as rice, potatoes, and pasta
It’s important to be mindful of what you’re putting down your garbage disposal, as there are many more food (and non-food) items that you should avoid.
To be on the safe side, it’s best to discard items you’re unsure about into the trash bin instead. Grease and starchy foods can quickly cause clogs in your pipes, so it’s wise to dispose of these items carefully.
A recommended way of disposing of grease after cooking is to pour the hot liquid into a durable container, such as a coffee can. Let it cool down completely and then either discard the container or scoop the solidified grease into the garbage bin.
What you’ll need:
- Garbage disposal wrench (on Amazon) or a ¼-inch hex key (also on Amazon)
- Non-contact voltage detector (on Amazon)
- Wooden handle broom or plunger (on Amazon)
- Replacement wall switch (if needed)
Once you’ve gathered the above tools, proceed with these easy-to-follow steps:
- First, disconnect the garburator from the power source. Doing so prevents injuries that might occur if the garbage disposal turns on accidentally while you’re trying to fix it.
Simply unplug the garbage disposal’s power cable from its wall outlet, turn off the wall switch that controls the disposal, or turn off the breaker that controls the garbage disposal on your home’s electrical service panel.
- Fit a garbage disposal wrench into the center opening at the bottom of the disposal. You can also use a ¼-inch hex key in place of the wrench. Insert it into the opening and rotate it clockwise and counterclockwise to release the jam.
- Insert the end of a wooden broom or plunger handles into the garbage disposal through the drain opening in the sink. Use the broom or plunger to rotate the grinding plate at the bottom of the disposal to free up the jam.
If your disposal has grinding walls, push the wooden handle against the grinding wall until it rotates.
- Rotate the disposal wrench or hex key again to ensure you’ve released the jam from the plate or wall.
- Reconnect the garbage disposal to the outlet beneath the sink and try the reset button again.
4. Worst case: burnt-out motor
Where you’ve confirmed there’s power to the unit, have let the unit cool, and have cleared any jams (and the blades turn freely) but the reset button still won’t work, unfortunately, you may have a burnt-out motor.
Replacing the motor on a garbage disposal is the most costly repair for a disposal, so replacing the unit would actually work out cheaper. You can opt to replace it yourself or hire a professional.
A new garbage disposal goes for around $75 to $250, with installation from a professional priced between $120 and $600.
After replacing your garbage disposal, remember to thoroughly clean it every once in a while to keep it performing optimally.
Hopefully flipping the breaker switch, letting the motor cool down, and unjamming any clogs enables your garbage disposal reset button to work. If not, unfortunately you may be faced with replacing the entire unit.