Is Your Toaster Toasted?

Here’s How to Fix It


– December 25, 2008

If you haven’t read our article on


you might want to do that before you start any repairs. If you feel ready to tackle a smallish job like this, then read on…

How to Repair a Toaster

In many homes, toasters malfunction more than any other small appliance. There are two reasons for this. First, toasters are typically built economically to be a throw-away appliance. Replacement models start at $10.

Second, malfunctions are frequently not the fault of the toaster itself but of food particles that interfere with its operation. Excess pieces of bread broken off by carriage movement fall into the base of the toaster and accumulate, obstructing carriage movement, shorting out heating elements, plugging the latch release, and interfering with solenoid operation.

That’s why most pop-up toasters have a large crumb tray and door at the bottom of the toaster. By sliding or unlatching this crumb door you can release food particles trapped in the bottom of the toaster.

For a toaster that is used daily, this should be done once a week. Simply unplug the toaster, hold it over a trash container, and unlatch the door. Once the primary food particles have fallen out, move the toaster around to release other particles that may be trapped at the edges. Periodically clean out the toaster using a can of compressed air, making sure you don’t damage sensitive heating elements or switches.

How to Repair a Toaster Oven

Toaster ovens operate much like toasters. However, a toaster oven is more complex and is typically more expensive to purchase. The higher cost means that repairs are easier to justify. You will probably think twice before tossing a $75 toaster oven into the recycle bin. And because toaster ovens are less compact, they are often easier to work on than pop-up toasters.

Some toaster ovens simply toast bread and related food products horizontally rather than vertically as with pop-up toasters. Other toaster ovens are actually miniature ovens. The differences are identified by the wattage used — broilers require more watts of electrical power to operate — and by the controls. Some toaster ovens allow you to bake and broil foods, offering precise temperature and function control.

Typical toaster oven repairs include servicing the main switch, the thermal fuse, the heating element, and the solenoid.Servicing the Main Switch: The toaster oven’s main switch is an important operating part, one that gets extensive use and is a frequent culprit when things go wrong. In many cases, all that’s required is cleaning the switch. In others, the switch must be replaced. To access and replace the main switch:

Step 1: Remove the side panel and, if necessary, the power cord.

Step 2: Check the contact points for pitting or discoloration. If they are not making good contact, carefully rub them with very fine sandpaper, then clean them with an electrical contact cleaner spray or isopropyl alcohol on the end of a cotton swab. Be careful not to bend the contact leaves out of alignment.

Step 3: If the contacts are fused or the leaves broken, remove and replace the main switch. Main switches are fastened to the chassis with clips, screws, or rivets.Servicing the Thermal Fuse: A thermal fuse protects the toaster oven’s main switch from damage caused by an electrical overload. If the main switch doesn’t work, check the thermal fuse using a continuity tester or multitester. The thermal fuse should show continuity rather than an open circuit. If defective, remove and replace the thermal fuse with one of identical rating. In most models, this means cutting the fuse leads or wires and replacing the fuse unit.Some toaster ovens use a bimetallic thermostat or thermal cutout to protect the adjacent main switch from damage. Inspect the thermal cutout for debris, distortion, or discoloration. Clean debris away with a can of compressed air. As needed, clean the contact points with emery paper.  Servicing Heating Elements: A heating element is vital to your toaster oven. It may only be on for a few minutes to toast bread, or, in the case of a baking/broiling unit, it may be on for an hour or more at a time. A heating element is simply a high resistance wire that glows as electricity flows through it. Heating elements, then, are easy to test.

Here’s how:

Determine whether or not there is a clear path for electric current by touching a continuity tester or multitester probe to each end of the element.

If there is no clear path, remove the heating element. Removing an element may be as easy as unscrewing both ends and any support brackets; however, it may also require that rivets be removed and replaced. Your decision to replace a defective element will then depend on how easy it is to remove as well as the value of the toaster oven.

Step 3: Once the heating element has been removed, replace it with one of identical rating and structure. Be very careful not to distort the shape of the new element as it is installed. Element wires are fragile and can be damaged easily. Higher-wattage elements are of thicker wire, much like the element in your conventional oven.

Servicing a Solenoid: The solenoid turns the electric current to the heating elements on and off. If the heating elements stay on longer than they should and burn your food, or if opening the appliance door turns them off, the solenoid may be defective.

To test and replace a solenoid:

Look at the unit for visible damage and smell the area around the solenoid for obvious damage to components.

Use a continuity tester or multitester to verify your findings

Replace the solenoid. In some units, this is easy. Simply unscrew the brackets and remove the unit. If replacing the unit requires cutting or desoldering, take the unit to an appliance-repair shop for service.So, now you are prepared next time your toaster goes on the fritz and you want to impress your schoolager with your knowledge of small appliances.

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1 Comment

Thomas Cunningham

Posted May 3, 2009 at 5:47 PM

Where can you buy parts such as a heating element or a solenoid.

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