Troubleshooting a Trash Compactor

Trash in containers.

Your garbage or trash compactor can be a blessing when it comes to reducing the bulk of your rubbish. However, if something goes wrong, it can cost you a great deal in repair fees. Knowing how to troubleshoot a trash compactor yourself can help save you money and a lot of inconvenience. Always check to see if it's a simple problem before condemning the machine to the scrapyard or calling out a repairman.

Failing to Start

If the compactor won’t run, check to see if the door is properly closed. The door needs to be completely shut for the motor to engage. Sometimes, failure to start is caused by a loose connection so make sure the plug is securely in the socket and check that the fuse hasn’t blown. Try a fuse which you know is in good working order to see if this solves the problem.

Electric Power Supply

Before jumping to conclusions and assuming that the problem lies with the trash compactor itself, make sure that the power supply is on and working. Check any circuit breakers to ensure your machine is actually receiving power. Outlets should also be checked. You can do this by plugging in another appliance to see if there is current present.

Examine the electrical cord; if there is any damage, twisting, or breaks to the cord, this may affect the supply. If you are using an extension lead, you might want to check that it’s working properly and that the fuse doesn’t need changing.


Test the trash compactor’s switches. Sometimes these can get worn, stuck, or fail to stay in position. Check the on and off switch, the tilt switch, and the safety switch. If these seem to be working properly then check the motor’s centrifugal switch.

Load Size

If the compactor is overloaded, it might not work effectively. As a rule, the draw needs to be a minimum of 1/3 full with trash, but no more than 2/3 full. Too little trash and compacting might not occur. Likewise, if the drawer is overloaded, the compactor might struggle to do its work.

Motor Runs, but Trash Is Not Compacted

There a number of simple checks you can do if you have this problem. Because trash compactors do a heavy-duty job, there is a risk that repeated vibration from the motor can work small parts loose. Examine any screws or nuts and bolts for wear and tear.

Make sure that power screws are lubricated with penetrating oil. Whilst you have the lubricant to hand, make sure the chain, gears and drive belt all run smoothly. If the compactor still runs but does not crush the garbage, check the hydraulic ram; it may well be stuck in position.

Ongoing Maintenance

Clean the compactor drawer runners and make sure they are free from obstruction at all times. Inspect the drawer rollers as well because if any wheels are broken, the drawers may not engage correctly in the compactor and this can affect functionality