A Garbage Disposal Guide: Repair Vs. Replacement

When your disposal starts to act out, does it just need a tune-up, or is it time to say goodbye and invest in a new one? This indecision can lead to more significant issues, requiring either more substantial repairs or an entire replacement. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the subtleties of deciding whether to repair or replace your garbage disposal unit, ensuring your kitchen remains both functional and pleasant.

Signs Your Garbage Disposal Needs Repair

Your disposal doesn’t necessarily have to sputter to a halt to need attention. Some common signs can alert you to a problem before it escalates. Here are some red flags that suggest it’s repair time for your garbage disposal:

Clogs and Slow Drainage

A disposal that takes longer to drain water or shows signs of backing up indicates a potential clog. While you might be tempted to reach for a chemical cleaner, these can damage your system over time and cause erosion. A plumber’s snake, a disposal wrench, or even a mix of baking soda and vinegar followed by hot water can help dislodge the clog.

Unusual Noises

Grinding metal against metal or any other unexpected new sounds could be due to foreign objects stuck in the blades. Avoid using the unit further to prevent damage. Use a flashlight to look down into the disposal, and if you can see the item causing the noise, use pliers or tongs to remove it once the unit is turned off.


A leaky disposal presents both an operational and sanitation issue. If you notice water pooling under the unit, it’s crucial to address the issue immediately. The cause could be a loose or damaged seal, a cracked pipe, or a malfunctioning flywheel. In any case, turn off the power to the disposal before the examination.

Unpleasant Odors

Your disposal processes waste food, which can leave behind bacteria and organic matter that emit an unpleasant odor. Regular maintenance, including cleaning the disposal, can help keep odors at bay. However, persistent foul smells can indicate a more significant issue, such as a buildup of waste in the grinding chamber that needs to be removed.

When It’s Time to Replace Your Garbage Disposal

Sometimes, a garbage disposal issue is more trouble than it’s worth to repair, especially if the unit is starting to show its age. Below are common indicators that it might be time to replace the entire disposal:

Frequent Clogs and Jams

A garbage disposal that consistently clogs or jams despite regular maintenance could have damaged blades or a flywheel that no longer functions correctly. If you’re having to reset or manually free the unit routinely, it could be a sign that the mechanics are failing.

Motor Burnout

If the disposal is not turning on despite no power issues, the motor may have burned out. Some disposals have a reset button located at the bottom that you can try, but if it keeps happening, the motor or the entire unit might need to be replaced.


Garbage disposals typically have a lifespan of about a decade with regular use. If yours is nearing or past this age and you’re experiencing multiple problems, a replacement makes more sense than multiple repairs.

Cracks or Dents

Physical damage like cracks or dents isn’t always visible. If you notice that the disposal vibrates more, it could be an indicator of physical damage that is causing the unit to operate less efficiently or potentially unsafely.

Investing in quality and considering longevity can help you make the right choice for your home and your budget. Whether you decide it’s time for a new unit or a well-deserved repair, regular maintenance, and mindful usage can significantly extend the life of your garbage disposal. Remember, a little care goes a long way in the world of disposals.

For more information, call Spartan Plumbing Inc. We’ll be happy to help you.

Spartan Plumbing Inc.

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