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My garbage disposal works intermittently. More often than not there is a few seconds of high pitched whine before the breaker trips. About one time in ten, it works correctly.

There is no blockage and it spins freely with the key inserted in the bottom.

Time to go shopping for a new one?

Bonus question: would it be easy enough to install myself?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Well, I have to admit I am not a Garbage Disposal Expert, but if the key turns freely and it is tripping the breaker, then I would think it is time to go shopping.

Is it easy to install? That's pretty subjective and depends on your skills. But, in general, they are not difficult for someone who is use to doing DYI stuff around the house, especially if you are replacing it with the same or very similar model. Find a brand that you are interested in (In-Sink-Erator is pretty common, but by no means the only one), then go out to their web site and download the instructions and evaluate it for yourself.

One word of caution if you try to do it yourself. Do you have a dishwasher? If so, you will see a hose from the dishwasher going into the side of the disposal. On a new disposal the assumption is you don't have a dishwasher and this tube is sealed! If have a dishwasher and you don't open it your dishwasher will backup. Also, after you knock out the seal, remember to remove it from the inside of the disposal since it is hard plastic.

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great answer Jim. The plug in the disposals is a gotcha! –  shirlock homes May 5 '11 at 9:38
    
I'm pretty sure that my dishwasher drain goes to an outlet above the sink - not the garbage disposal - but I'll check tomorrow. Thanks for the tip! –  Kevin Lawrence May 6 '11 at 6:28
    
@Kevin-"to an outlet above the sink". That would be unusual. Please double check. Without seeing it, I am guessing you are referring to a "dishwasher air gap" (do a web search for a picture). And if that is what it is, then it will come back down to the disposal. It's code in some areas. The concern (from what I understand) is that if the sink backs up with sewage, then the dishwasher will not fill with sewage since the air gap is above the level of the sink (in other words, it will be on your floor before it goes in to the dishwasher). –  Jim May 6 '11 at 12:21
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