Trash Compactor: Won't start

Lack of power, a failed drawer safety switch, bad power switch, faulty momentary start switch, failed top limit and directional switch, bad motor centrifugal switch, failed drive motor or a wiring failure will prevent the trash compactor from starting.

Check the electrical power supply for the compactor first. Check the house circuit breaker for the trash compactor's outlet and reset the circuit breaker if it's tripped.

If the breaker isn't tripped, pull the trash compactor out of the cabinet and plug a small lamp or appliance into the trash compactor's electrical outlet to check for power. If the electrical outlet is dead, have an electrician repair the outlet.

If the outlet has power, check the condition of the power cord and replace it if it's damaged.

If the power cord is okay, use a multimeter to check for continuity through the power switch with the power switch turned on. Replace the power switch if the meter measures infinite resistance through the power switch with the switch turned on.

If the power switch is okay, check for continuity through the momentary start switch with the switch plunger extended outward. The momentary start switch sends current to the motor when you close the drawer and the foot pedal assembly releases the lever that holds the plunger. Replace the momentary start switch if the switch measures infinite resistance.

Next, check the drawer safety switch for continuity with the drawer safety switch plunger pushed in. Replace the drawer safety switch if the meter measures infinite resistance.

If the drawer safety switch is okay, check for continuity through the top limit and directional switch. The internal switch contact should allow current to flow from the yellow wire to the red wire when the ram is fully raised. Check for continuity from the spade for the yellow wire to the spade for the red wires. Replace the top limit and directional switch if the meter measures infinite resistance. If the top limit and directional switch in your trash compactor differs from the one described here, refer to the tech sheet for your compactor to determine how to check the switch. You can typically find the tech sheet taped to the inside of the front panel or taped to the back panel of the trash compactor.

If the top limit and directional switch is okay, check for continuity through the motor centrifugal switch. The motor centrifugal switch closes its internal contact to allow current flow between the blue and brown wires when the motor isn't running. This contact sends current to the motor start windings. If that contact is broken, the motor won't start. Check for continuity between the spade for the blue wire and the spade for the brown wires. Replace the motor centrifugal switch if the meter measures infinite resistance through that contact. If the motor centrifugal switch in your trash compactor differs than the one described here, refer to the tech sheet for your compactor to determine how to check the motor centrifugal switch.

If all of the switches in the motor circuit are okay, then a bad motor or a wiring failure could be preventing the trash compactor from starting.

Check the wiring connections on the drive motor. Reconnect any loose wires. Using the wiring diagram in the tech sheet as a guide, check the motor circuit wiring for continuity. If the meter measures infinite resistance through a wire or section of wiring, find and repair the wiring break.

If the motor won't run when activated, replace the drive motor.

trash compactor

These repairs may help solve your trash compactor problem

Replace the trash compactor power switch

Replace the trash compactor power switch

The power switch turns on the power to the trash compactor. Some models combine the power switch and momentary start switch. Replace the power switch if the compactor won't start or the power switch is damaged.

June 1, 2013
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a trash compactor power switch

If your trash compactor won't start at all, the power switch might be the problem. This step-by-step repair guide shows how to replace a trash compactor power switch in 30 minutes or less.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
Read more
Replace the trash compactor momentary start switch

Replace the trash compactor momentary start switch

The momentary start switch starts the trash compactor. Replace the start switch if the trash compactor won't start when the momentary start switch is activated. Replace the momentary start switch if the motor doesn't stop running when the ram is in its highest position.

How to replace a trash compactor momentary start switch

If your trash compactor's motor won't start when you lift the foot pedal, the momentary start switch could be broken. The repair guide shows how to replace a trash compactor momentary start switch.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
Read more
Replace the trash compactor drawer safety switch

Replace the trash compactor drawer safety switch

The drawer safety switch prevents the compactor from operating if the drawer is open. Replace the drawer safety switch if the compactor runs with the drawer open.

Replace the trash compactor top limit and directional switch

Replace the trash compactor top limit and directional switch

The top limit and directional switch stops the drive motor when the ram reaches its top travel limit. This switch also controls supply current going to the motor start windings to turn the motor clockwise to lower the ram and counter clockwise to lift the ram. Replace the top limit and directional switch if you hear rapid tamping when the ram returns to the top and the motor continues to run. You may also need to replace the top limit and directional switch if the motor won't start or the motor won't reverse directions when the reaches its bottom travel limit.

Replace the trash compactor motor centrifugal switch

Replace the trash compactor motor centrifugal switch

The motor centrifugal switch determines the direction of the motor, which controls the direction of the trash compactor's ram. When the ram reaches its lowest position, the motor pauses, the motor centrifugal switch changes position, the motor reverses, and the ram moves upward. Replace the centrifugal switch if the motor stops running when the ram reaches its lowest position. If your compactor has an extra pack/solid pack switch, the ram stays down until you start the compactor or turn off the extra pack. Turn off the extra pack switch and start the trash compactor. If the motor won't run, replace the motor centrifugal switch.

How to replace a trash compactor motor centrifugal switch

If your trash compactor's ram moves down but won't go back up, the motor centrifugal switch could be the problem. This easy-to-follow repair guide shows how to replace a trash compactor motor centrifugal switch.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 45 minutes or less
Read more

Symptoms common to all trash compactors

Choose a symptom to see related trash compactor repairs.

Main causes: lack of power, faulty drawer safety switch, bad power switch, momentary start switch failure, bad drive motor, wiring failure
Main causes: stuck foot pedal, bad momentary start switch, power switch failure
Main causes: broken drive gear and sprocket chain, stripped power nuts, faulty top limit and directional switch
Main causes: stripped or broken power nuts, broken or disconnected drive gear and sprocket chain, damaged drive parts
Main causes: bent drawer support rollers, damaged trash container
Main cause: broken top limit and directional switch
Main cause: faulty drawer tilt switch

Repair guides common to all trash compactors

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your trash compactor.

June 1, 2013
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a trash compactor power switch

If the trash compactor won’t power up, use the steps in this repair guide to replace the power switch.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
How to replace a trash compactor momentary start switch

The momentary start switch starts the motor when you lift the foot pedal. This repair guide shows how to replace the switch if it stops working

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
How to replace a trash compactor motor centrifugal switch

If the trash compactor ram won’t return to the top position, replace the motor centrifugal switch by following the instructions in this repair guide.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 45 minutes or less

Articles and videos common to all trash compactors

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your trash compactor.

December 16, 2015

Using a wiring schematic to trace a current video

By Sears PartsDirect staff

Find out what’s wrong with your appliance by following a circuit.

December 9, 2015

How to read a wiring schematic video

By Sears PartsDirect staff

Learn how to decipher symbols so you can buy the right part for your problem.

November 1, 2015

7 uncommon tips for kitchen cleaning

By Sears PartsDirect staff

These 7 kitchen-cleaning tips are out of the ordinary and super helpful.