Garbage disposals are an integral part of any kitchen. Not only do they grind up kitchen waste so it can go down the drain, but in many cases, a malfunctioning disposal means a sink that does not drain. One of the most common causes for a garbage disposal mishap is a stuck flywheel. The flywheel spins the impellers, which in turn shred the waste. If it doesn't work, neither does your disposal. Thankfully, flywheels are easy to fix.
Unlock It with a Hex Key (Offset Wrench)
Most garbage disposals come with an offset wrench, also called a hex key. With a flashlight, look under the disposal. Generally, the wrench will be molded into the base of the unit. Then, feel around the bottom for a small, six-sided hole. Fit the wrench into the hole and gently turn counter-clockwise until you make a full revolution. You should now be able to reach in with tongs and pull out any debris that was blocking the disposal.
If the hex key has been lost—or you have an older unit that didn't come with one—a wooden broom handle works equally as well. After making sure the disposal is off, simply stick the handle into the disposer through the sink until it rests against one of the blades. Then, gently apply pressure until you feel the flywheel start to spin. Remove any debris as above, and the disposer should be good to go.
Try to Reset the Unit
If neither of the above fix the problem, then it is more than likely not the flywheel, but instead the motor. Before calling a professional, check to see if the unit just needs to be reset. If the unit begins to overheat, or a fuse has been tripped, most disposal units will temporarily shut down until reset. At the bottom of the unit, there should be a small, red overload switch. If it is sticking out, then the switch has been tripped. Push it, and if it stays in, then try the above steps again.
If the disposal unit still isn't working properly after the above steps, then you may need to call a company like Roto-Rooter Sewer & Drain Service to inspect the unit or install a replacement. While many homeowners can replace a disposal on their own, an improperly installed unit can cause leaks and damage to the kitchen, making it a replacement best left to the professionals.