Toasters are often relatively easy to fix. This Fix-It Guide on toaster repair tells how a toaster works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a toaster problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to service a toaster latch assembly, how to service a toaster solenoid, and how to recalibrate a toaster thermostat. This Fix-It Guide also refers to electrical receptacle repair, electrical cord repair, heating element repair, and switch repair for more information on how to fix a toaster.
How Does a Toaster Work?
A toaster is an electric heating appliance with a timer, carriage, and latch. Most pop-up toasters work in the same manner. A slice of bread or other appropriate food item is placed through a slot in the top of the toaster and into the carriage. A lever lowers the carriage to the bottom of the chassis where it latches in position, an internal switch turns on the heating elements, and a timer starts. Once the timer finishes its cycle, it turns off the elements and a solenoid releases the spring-loaded carriage that pops up the toast. A toaster oven works differently to do the same thing on a wider variety of foods.
What Can Go Wrong with a Toaster?
Toasters malfunction frequently for two major reasons. First, most toasters are built to be throwaway appliances. Second, malfunctions are frequently caused by particles of food that interfere with the operation of the toaster. Other problems with toasters include cords that malfunction, latch assemblies that are damaged or obstructed, or faulty elements and thermostats. Modern toasters use circuit boards within the controls that, if damaged, should be taken to an appliance repair center or tossed.
Bread drops particles as it toasts, collecting on the bottom of the toaster appliance. Depending on how often you use your toaster, it’s a good idea to clean out the crumb tray at least once a week. Some units slide out from the front while others require that you unlatch a cover underneath the unit–preferably over the trash can. Also take a moment to look inside for loose food trapped behind element wires where it can short out an element.
How Can I Identify a Toaster Problem?
- If the toaster doesn’t work at all, make sure power is on at the electrical receptacle and test the electrical cord.
- If the carriage lowers but doesn’t latch or latches stiffly, look inside for food debris that may be blocking the carriage. If the latch is damaged or obstructed, service the assembly (see below).
- If the bread toasts only on one side, check the heating element(s) for damage and replace as needed; or replace the toaster.
- If the carriage doesn’t pop up and the toast burns, check the thermostat calibration and correct any inaccurate calibration (see below).
- If the thermostat is faulty, replace the thermostat or the toaster. Check the solenoid switch and solenoid; if faulty, service (see below) or replace.
- If the toast is too light or too dark, check thermostat calibration and correct if necessary (see below).
Always unplug your toaster before cleaning or repairing it.
What Do I Need for Toaster Repair?
- Canned air
- Appliance lubricant
- Continuity tester or multimeter
What Are the Steps to Toaster Repair?
Service a toaster latch assembly:
- Unplug the toaster from the electrical receptacle.
- Remove or open the crumb tray and empty it. Turn the toaster over above a trash container and carefully empty out any crumbs before continuing.
- Remove the toaster cover by removing levers, knobs, and fasteners (typically on the underside or underneath labels).
- Inspect the latch assembly for obvious damage or crumbs. Use canned air to clear debris from the latch assembly.
- Move the carriage lever up and down to check for smooth operation. If the carriage moves stiffly, sparingly apply an appliance lubricant on the latch rod.
- Verify operation of the latch to ensure that it works smoothly. If necessary, carefully bend the latch to make sure it catches properly.
- You also can inspect and test the heating element(s) while you have the toaster open.
Service a toaster solenoid:
- Remove the crumb tray cover to access the solenoid switch, typically located near the thermostat on the controller side of the toaster.
- Use a continuity tester or multimeter to test the solenoid switch. If faulty, remove and replace it.
- To replace the solenoid you may need to disassemble the toaster, as above. If the solenoid is installed with rivets, replace the chassis as a unit or the entire toaster.
Recalibrate a toaster thermostat:
- Disassemble the toaster, as above, to access the controls including the thermostat.
- Identify the calibration knob, screw, or nut. It may be obvious because it is an adjustment on the controller, or you may need to refer to the toaster’s owner’s manual. Typically, moving the knob toward the solenoid switch shortens the toasting cycle (if toast is too dark) and moving it away lengthens the cycle (if toast is too light).
- Reassemble the toaster, plug it in, and use a piece of bread to test the adjustment. If adjusting the thermostat doesn’t solve the problem, replace the thermostat or the toaster.
Need to replace your toaster? Consider spending a little more and keeping it longer. Higher-quality toasters often include a better chassis and parts that require fewer repairs. A quality toaster that is regularly maintained can last 10 or more years. A cheap unit may last only two or three years.