Replacing a failed garbage disposer can seem daunting. There's the usual trepidation about electricity and water, the unfamiliar sink connection and enough drain fittings to make leaks a real possibility. Then there are the hassles of comparison shopping and the suspicion that the job could run into real money. And finally, failed disposers don't often leak, at least not in the beginning, so it's easy to put things off.
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If this sounds familiar, you'll be happy to know that replacing a disposer is really fairly simple. With today's plastic waste kits, leaks are seldom a problem and the electrical connections are similarly quick and easy. Finally, retail outlets sell good disposers for every household budget. Before you buy, though, it pays to check out your old unit to make sure it's not simply jammed.
The list of things a food disposer can consume is fairly short. Soft or crisp foods are fine, but hard or stringy foods can be trouble. Disposers can be stopped in their tracks by celery, eggshells and apple seeds, as well as the usual kitchen flotsam, including pop-tabs, scouring pads and twist-ties.
Jamming is so common that every disposer comes with a wrench and an on-board circuit breaker, so don't assume your disposer has failed simply because it stops working. Use a flashlight to check for foreign objects lodged in the perimeter openings of the drum. Remove any obstruction with needle-nose pliers.
If you see nothing obvious, insert the wrench into the motor spline, found at the bottom of the unit, and twist right and left. If the motor spins freely, check that the circuit breaker hasn't tripped and then try the reset button. If these measures don't work, and your disposer's warranty has expired, it's time to replace it.
Shopping For Disposals
Disposers range between $45 and $250, and most hold up fairly well under normal use. It's common for a $50, 1/3-hp disposer with a 1-year warranty to last 10 to 12 years. So what does more money buy? Increased longevity, longer warranties, more power and less aggravation. The better units have stainless steel components, auto-reversing starts and bigger motors. Units that reverse direction with each start greatly reduce stoppages, while larger motors can chew through larger and more varied food loads.
We chose an In-Sink-Erator Pro SS (In-Sink-Erator, Division of Emerson Electric Co., 4700 21st St., Racine, WI 53406; The Pro SS has a stainless steel grinding chamber, a reversing 3/4-hp motor and a 5-year warranty. It sells for around $225.
Step 1: Removing the Old Unit
Begin by shutting off electricity to the unit at the service panel. Remove the cover from the base of the disposer, loosen the ground screw and remove both wire connectors
Step 2: Removing the Old Unit
Next, loosen the hose clamp on the dishwasher discharge hose and pull the hose from its fitting. To undo the drain crosspiece, loosen the bolts that bind the drain flange to the disposer.