Toaster Elements Not Working? (try this)

One of the most popular and well used small kitchen appliances is the toaster. It gets a lot of work, at least every morning but often at night too. So is it any wonder that the toaster develops problems?

Actually there are two main reasons a toaster gets problems, firstly, as they’re so cheap to buy, they’re made using cheap components. And secondly, the internal components are relatively delicate and yet get treated as if they’re unbreakable. The design of the pop-up toaster hasn’t really altered since it was first patented in the 1920s.

How Does A Toaster Work?

The way a pop-up toaster works is generally the same no matter which brand you own. The toaster is plugged in, a slice of bread is placed between the bread carriage, the lever is pushed down which simultaneously activates the heating elements to cook the bread and the electromagnet which holds the carriage down until the bread is toast. 

Once the timer or thermostat (depending on the model) has reached the setting that was selected via the slide or browning control knob, the power shuts off internally. This in turn, shuts the heating elements power off and the electromagnet releases the carriage and the toast pops up.

If you look inside the toaster when it’s being used, you should see a red glowing element on either side of each slice of bread which allows the bread to get cooked on both sides at once. If only one of these elements is glowing red, your toast will be raw (or just bread) on the side with no glow.

What Are The Toaster’s Heating Elements Made From?

The heating element is an important part of the toaster, as the name suggests it’s where the heat is produced that cooks the bread and magically takes raw bread and transforms it into toast. It is made from nichrome wire connected to an electric terminal, wrapped around a mica block. Nichrome is an alloy of nickel and chromium and the nichrome wire is quite delicate and easily damaged.

bread for toasting

Why Do Elements Stop Working?

As we just said, nichrome wire is easily damaged and once it gets too badly damaged, it will break which causes a break in the electrical circuit which cuts power to that element. No power means no heat and bread not toast (at least on the side the element is damaged on). It is incredibly easy to damage nichrome wire, all it takes is a breadcrumb stuck against the wire as it heats up. The breadcrumb will begin to burn, which will cause the wire to overheat, start to burn itself and eventually melt. Which then creates a break in the circuit.

Can The Nichrome Wire Be Repaired Or Replaced?

If you can find nichrome wire of exactly the same size as was used to make the element, it is possible to make a repair or replace the wire. The nichrome wire is not expensive to buy, but it is quite a difficult material to work with as it’s easily damaged. Also, the mica plate the wire is wrapped around is extremely brittle too, making it difficult to replace the wire without damaging the mica plate.

In some cases, it’s possible to just twist a new piece of nichrome wire to the existing wire and connect both sides and thus completing the circuit. If this is possible your toaster should be working correctly again. In all honesty though, as toasters are so inexpensive to purchase in the first place, it’s easier and often safer to replace the toaster.

What Else Can Cause The Toaster’s Element To Stop Working?

Toaster with Bread

As with any electrical appliance, toasters are made from various components all of which can and do stop working due to old age and/or wear. It could be the element is the symptom but something else is the cause. Let’s look at what else could cause the element to stop working.

Blown Fuse

A fuse is a safety cut out for your toaster to prevent fires or serious damage. Fuses don’t blow for no reason, so if the fuse in your toaster is the reason for the element to not work, don’t just replace the fuse. Because it will either blow again or, something more serious could happen like the toaster catching fire etc.

If the fuse has blown your best course of action is to either take the toaster to a qualified electrician who specialises in small appliances or recycle the toaster and replace it with a new one.

Control Board Fault

The control board or circuit board controls every aspect of the toasting process. If it develops a fault, it can be replaced, but it’s probably time for a new toaster. The money you’d need to spend replacing the circuit board could be used to buy a new, upgraded toaster.

Thermostat Malfunction

If your toast isn’t cooking in your toaster, it could be the thermostat or heat sensor has developed a fault. These can be replaced, but as toasters are such a low price, we feel it’s safer to replace them than to start dabbling with electrical components unless you are a qualified electrical engineer. If you take your toaster to a repair centre, they will often give you the same advice. Some things just aren’t worth saving, and as all the parts can be recycled it’s not a total waste.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can toaster elements be repaired?

Toaster elements can be repaired in some cases or replaced, but unless you are a competent electrician, we wouldn’t advise you to start pulling your toaster apart to repair or replace anything.

Why is my toaster not toasting?

If your toaster isn’t toasting it could be a number of things, the element is damaged, the control board has developed a fault, there is a fault with the thermostat or the fuse has blown.

Why do toasters seem to break down so often?

There are two main reasons toasters break down, misuse, and cheap components. Most toasters are made using cheap components, many of which are delicate and brittle. Coupled with rough usage and neglected crumb clearing can result in your toaster packing up just as soon as the warranty runs out.

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