Garbage disposals in kitchen sinks are a modern convenience that many of us take for granted. Until they stop working, that is. If your disposal isn’t working right and you’ve already manually cleared it and tried pushing the reset button, it might be “a goner.”

You know it’s time to replace your garbage disposal when: a) you flip the switch and instead of the familiar grinding sound, you hear a buzzing vibration sound; b) you flip the switch and hear nothing; c) you flip the switch and smoke starts coming out from underneath your cabinet (yes, this can happen).

It could also be cost-effective to replace your garbage disposal when you put in a new kitchen sink or replace your dishwasher (as the dishwasher water passes through the disposal on its way out). If the unit is older and you will already have a plumber or handyman on-site, it might be a good idea.

Disposals come in a few varieties, mostly dealing with the horsepower of the motor. If you don’t use it very often, a one-third horsepower or one-half horsepower motor should suffice. If you use it more than once a day, then getting an upgraded three-quarter or even a one horsepower motor might extend the life of your disposal. In general, the expectation is for a disposal to last about eight to twelve years with normal use. So, don’t put grease or fat down the drain, avoid putting celery and eggshells in it, and clean it out by giving it a thorough rinsing after it is done grinding the large food particles.

This is a relatively easy replacement job if you’d prefer to DIY instead of calling a plumber. You’ll need a new disposal unit, a screwdriver and pliers. Keep a towel nearby to catch any drips and clean up spills. Having plumber’s putty on hand is smart in case there are any tiny gaps that need to be filled. Install the new unit according to the package directions. Make sure you turn off the circuit breaker before installation, just in case.

Care for your new disposal unit by following the guidelines about types of foods to avoid putting down the drain and keeping it clean and clear.