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A leaky garbage disposal can quickly turn a household convenience into a worsening problem. It's not necessarily difficult to troubleshoot and repair a leak if you know where to check and how to stop the leak, while observing safety measures. Leaks typically occur at connection points, rather than from unit design flaws. These can include mountings at the sink flange, the unit's dishwasher connecting hose, or at the discharge drainpipe. Checking for leaks involves inspection of fasteners and bolts, hose materials, and sometimes use of plumber's putty.
When working on an appliance or doing home repairs in general, it's always a good idea to inform anyone else in the area what you are doing. This will minimize any unforeseen accidents, such as unintentional power activations, damage to equipment, or falls. After deciding to work on the leaky garbage disposal yourself, the first step is to cut off power not only at the switch, but also at the circuit panel. Never attempt to repair a garbage disposal while it's connected to a power source. Its interior contains dangerous spinning parts whose function is primarily to disintegrate matter by high-speed grinding.
The first troubleshooting tip for evaluating a leaky garbage disposal is to check the quality of the leaked water. Discolored water comes from a dishwasher drain tube carrying food particles. It may also be warm. Clear water indicates a leak that is occurring before the water can enter the disposal. It is important to catch these leaks early, in order to minimize any damage to cabinetry and also to the mechanism of the disposal itself.
In case water drips from the disposal itself, the unit will probably have to be removed, disassembled, or possibly serviced. If you're not certain where the water is coming from, once the unit has been disconnected from power, try running your hand along its surface to feel for the leak area. You might also try running your hand along the dishwasher drainage hose, checking that its clamps are set tight, and that it is properly connected from the dishwasher inlet.
Check the mounting bolts of the leaky garbage disposal to make sure they are properly aligned and tightened. If the leak is present at the sink flange, turn the disposal counterclockwise to remove the unit, loosen the bolts, and run plumber's putty around the flange; this is the piece that most resembles the main funnel. Reattach the bolts and wipe away the excess putty. Once the unit has been replaced, restore power and check its operation to see if the leak has been repaired.
If the leak persists and you can't find the source, you can either call a professional plumber for advice or remove the unit and take it in for servicing. If you're not confident dealing with this equipment, it is better to rely upon an experienced service technician. With a little repair and maintenance, a leaky garbage disposal presents little challenge for a safety-aware and informed do-it-yourselfer.
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