I have never had a problem with my garbage disposal or that circuit before, however I am now having issues with it. Every time I turn it on, it immediately trips the breaker.

I'm not even sure how to begin troubleshooting this to try to fix it, first time homeowner here. Any help would be great.


The disposal comes on for a fraction of a second before the breaker is tripped.

I have tried the advice below, I cannot see anything in the disposal and it spins freely when driven by the hex socket in the bottom of the disposal.

The disposal was installed by myself 2 years ago, so I would hope it hasn't worn out yet...

Further troubleshooting this has led me to the following resolution:
The garbage disposal is working, however that particular outlet is malfunctioning. I didn't think that could be the case, I thought if an outlet went bad, both outlets in that box would go bad. I guess this is not the case.
  • Do you hear the disposal come on at all, when you flip the switch, or does the breaker just trip immediately? If the disposal is jammed with something, I would expect that you would hear it come on, even if very briefly, then flip the breaker. Otherwise, I would say there must be an electrical short somewhere. Let us know.
    – AWMoore
    Mar 7, 2011 at 2:18
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    Disconnect the hot side wire from the disposal in a safe manor, then turn on the switch. If the breaker still trips, then you have a short in the wiring somewhere. If it doesn't trip, then the short is in the disposer. Mar 7, 2011 at 7:14
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    BTW, strictly against Code to plug a disposer into a convenience outlet. It should be hard wired to a switch. Now you know why. Mar 7, 2011 at 20:29
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    The fact that the outlet itself seems to be the cause indicates the wiring is defective, or the outlet itself is defective. Either way, it should be fixed as it's a potential fire hazard. When you do that, as shirlock says, you should hardwire it. Cut the plug off the wire, hardwire it in the junction box, and put a blank faceplate on it.
    – gregmac
    Mar 7, 2011 at 21:01
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    I will bet dimes to donuts that the blade contacts in the outlet are burned. Disposers pull a lot of current on start up and a spec grade receptacle simply can't handle the load repeatedly and will fail. I also bet the receptacle you are using is not a GFIC as required by code in a kitchen, which would be ultra sensitive to a motor load and would fail quickly and often. Please do rewire it properly as Greg described. Mar 8, 2011 at 8:35

3 Answers 3


You probably have one of two possible problems.

1) The disposer may be jammed. Check this by making sure the switch is OFF and the breaker is OFF. Insert the proper hex wrench into the bottom hex socket (center bottom of unit) and rotate it left and right to be sure it turns free and easy. If jammed, it may take a bit of forceful back and forth action to clear the jam. Look down inside the disposer with a flashlight to assure there is no obstructions. If all is clear, turn the breaker back on and try the unit.

2) If after doing step one and all is clear but unit still kicks the breaker, the disposer is probably faulty and may need to be replaced.

  • I did notice the drain was clogged when I first encountered the issue. I will try this out. Thank you! Mar 7, 2011 at 2:40
  • I had a bone stuck in one that did this one time. Mar 7, 2011 at 19:40

You can also plug the disposal into an extension cord to check it on a different outlet, if it works it is in the primary circuit so check the switch and plug under the sink one of the is likely the culprit is every thing else is working when the disposal is turned off.

  • Based on the OPs edit, this is actually the answer to this particular problem. The accepted answer has good, general trouble shooting suggestions.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 4 at 11:43

Those are all good steps, but it is also possible that the breaker itself is weak. My disposal is just a couple of years old, so my first choice will be to upgrade the socket to current (no pun intended, well maybe) standards.

  • How can a breaker be "weak"? Why do you start with that, then move on to suggest replacing the receptacle? While it appears (based on the OPs edit of an answer into the question) that this was the case, it just doesn't logically follow based on what you've written.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 4 at 11:41

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