How to Tell When a Garbage Disposal's Motor Is Burned Out

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story. Learn more about our affiliate and product review process here.
A garbage disposal can wear out after years of use.

Garbage disposals are a modern convenience found in many homes. If you have a garbage disposal that is not working, there might be a problem with the motor. After years of use, the motor on a garbage disposal can wear out. But before replacing the garbage disposal, there is a way to tell if the trouble is attributed to the motor or something else. By determining the cause of the problem, you can save yourself time and money.


Step 1

Check that the circuit breaker is supplying electricity to the garbage disposal. Much time is spent by people trying to make a disposal work, only to discover that a circuit breaker has been tripped. If the circuit has been tripped, reset it by pushing it all the way to the off position and then to the on position. Try the disposal again.

Video of the Day

Step 2

Find a garbage disposal wrench, which should have been supplied with the unit when it was new. Insert the wrench into the bottom of the disposal and turn the blades back and forth with the switch on. Sometimes the motor is jammed and it can be broken free with the wrench.


Step 3

Shut off the switch that operates the disposal if the problem was not a tripped circuit breaker. Locate the reset button underneath the disposal. Press and hold the reset button for 20 to 30 seconds. Turn on the switch for the disposal to check if it works.

Step 4

Unplug the electrical cord for the disposal from the outlet underneath the sink. With the switch in the on position, insert a probe from a voltage meter into each of the ports in the outlet. If the meter lights up or sounds a tone (depending on the model you have), you can assume that the disposal is being supplied with electrical current. In this case, the disposal will have to be replaced.


Step 5

Remove the switch plate from the switch that operates the disposal if there was no current. Unscrew the screw at the center of the switch plate and pull it off the wall. Place a probe from the voltage meter on each terminal of the switch with it in the on position. If there is current, the outlet or disposal may need replacing. If there is no current, then the switch may be bad.



Report an Issue

screenshot of the current page

Screenshot loading...