Toaster Not Working? (try doing this)

In a recent consumer survey, the toaster was voted as the second most used small kitchen appliance only beaten by the electric kettle. From that we can surmise that most families regularly use their toaster. It can be a real nuisance if the toaster stops working, especially at breakfast time.

In this article we’ll be looking at the possible reasons your toaster has stopped working and possible fixes too. Whenever you’re going to dismantle electrical equipment be sure to remove the plug from the mains supply before you start unless you want a trip to the hospital (or worse).

Best Selling Toasters

Please note: if after reading this article you’re still having issues with your toaster, it may be worth investing in a new one. Here are the toasters that are currently very popular in the UK:

SaleBestseller No. 1
Russell Hobbs Textures 2 Slice Toaster (Extra Wide Slots, 6 Browning levels, Frozen, cancel & reheat function with indicator lights, Removable crumb tray, 850W, Black matt & high gloss finish) 21641
  • Wide slots - ideal for toasting thicker items such as crumpets, tea cakes and thick slices of bread
  • Frozen, cancel and reheat functions
SaleBestseller No. 2
Breville Bold Black 2-Slice Toaster with High-Lift and Wide Slots | Black and Silver Chrome [VTR001]
  • Glossy, ridged textured finish with high shine chrome accents and illuminated controls for ease of use
  • Variable width bread slots allow for both thick and thin slices
SaleBestseller No. 3
Philips Toaster - 2 Slots, 8 Settings, Bun Rack, Defrost, High Lift, Auto Shut-off, Black (HD2581/91)
  • Crispy golden brown toast: Philips Daily Collection Toaster for perfectly toasted bread every day - 2 slots for every size, for perfect results at every size and shape of bread
  • Settings for every taste: 8 browning settings suit any preference

Why Do Toasters Stop Working So Often?

Look through any online store’s list of toasters and you’ll notice that many are under £20.00, to make them so cheaply, manufacturers use cheaply made components. These components aren’t unsafe, (they all have to meet safety regulation standards) just cheap. This means they’re more prone to breaking down, plus, many toaster parts are delicate (more on this later) which also makes them prone to breaking.

With delicate, cheaply made components and mishandling by us, toasters don’t really stand much of a chance. How often do you find yourself forcing the lever down more harshly than is absolutely necessary? And How often do you clear all of the breadcrumbs from your toaster? Believe it or not, breadcrumbs are one of the main causes of toasters packing up.

What Problems Can Breadcrumbs Cause In The Toaster?

Breadcrumbs and bigger pieces of bread (often the corners of the slice) fall inside the toaster and can create all kinds of problems. Including;

  • Creating a short in the heating element
  • Obstructing the carriage movement
  • Blocking the catch release
  • Acting as a power breaker (solenoid)

This is why most toasters have a removable crumb tray at the bottom, because the manufacturers are aware of the problems breadcrumbs can cause, and give us an easy way to remove them.

bread for toasting

Faulty Power Cable

This is the most obvious cause of the toaster to not work. Inspect the power cable and look for any damaged or frayed wires especially around the plug and the area where the cable enters the toaster. If it is the cable, you’ll probably be wise to replace the toaster.

Blown Fuse

If the toaster isn’t working at all and you’ve checked the power cable and power supply. It could be the fuse has blown in the plug. If this is the case, tread carefully as fuses don’t usually blow for no reason.

Either get an expert to check it over or just replace the toaster.

The Way Of The Toaster (or how the toaster works)

Most standard pop-up toasters work using the same design and methods. The bread is placed in the carriage, the level of cooking (browning) is selected and the lever is pushed down. Connected to the lever on either side at the bottom, are a metal plate, and a block. The block slides between two electrical contacts, pushing them together and creating a circuit which allows power to flow through the toaster and into the heating elements which cook the toast. The metal plate connects to the electromagnet which keeps the carriage down until the timer or browning switch shuts off. Releasing the metal plate from the electromagnet, throwing the contacts and removing the power.

As the electromagnet releases the carriage, a spring that was compressed when the lever was pushed down, lets go of its force, projecting the carriage upwards allowing easy access of the toast. That in a simplified way, is how the toaster works.

What To Do If The Toaster Isn’t Working 

Now we have an understanding of the basic functions of the toaster, we can try to fix things if they stop working for any reason. Below are a few simple quick fixes for various toaster problems. Check to see if your toaster is still under warranty because if you start tampering inside the toaster you could invalidate any warranty. 

Never attempt any electrical repair etc unless you are confident in your abilities and be sure to remove the plug from the socket before you start.

Toaster Packed Up Immediately After Being Used

If you have just used your toaster, and tried to reuse it and it won’t work, it could be that it needs time to cool down before it will start again. Wait 5 minutes and try again, if it still doesn’t work, try the following…

Lever Won’t Stay Down


If the lever won’t stay down when you press it, the most common fault is breadcrumbs blocking the electromagnet. Or breadcrumbs preventing the carriage to go fully down far enough for the electromagnet to catch the metal plate. Either way, remove the outer casing carefully, and using a soft brush and/or a can of compressed air, remove all visible breadcrumbs.

If it isn’t breadcrumbs causing the electromagnet to fail, the electromagnet could need replacing, this should really only be tackled if you are confident in your abilities and if you can find the exact electromagnet as is already in your toaster. If not, it might be time to buy a new toaster.

While you’re in there it’s worth applying some lubricant to the carriage and latch assembly, be careful to not get any lubricant onto any electrical parts. Another reason the lever won’t stay down could be because the contacts are dirty. This happens over time and is easy to fix, just clean both sides of the contact using an emery board. Gently rub the emery board over each contact until you can see metal again.

Other causes can be the slide control is set too low preventing the toaster from turning on. If this is the problem, adjust the slide control accordingly. Possibly you could have forgotten to have plugged the toaster in and not switched the socket on…

Reassemble the toaster and with luck and a fair wind, your toaster should be working properly again.

Heating Element Shorted Out

If a breadcrumb has burnt onto the heating element and caused it to short out, it will have caused the nichrome wire to have broken. If you can find some nichrome wire of exactly the same size it can be replaced but this is a tricky task and one best performed by a qualified electrician. It might prove cheaper to replace the toaster.

Toaster Burns Toast

If the toaster is working but it constantly burns the toast, there are a few things that could cause this. It could be the slide control or browning control is set too high, to remedy this just lower the setting. Or it could be the problem is due to the thermostat/ heat switch, this is really a job for an expert.

Faulty Control Board

The control or circuit board is responsible for controlling every function in the toaster. If it develops a fault, the toaster will not work or will not operate correctly. If you suspect this to be the issue, it’s time to call an expert or simply replace the toaster.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did my toaster stop working?

The most common reason the toaster stops working is because it needs to cool down. If this is the case, wait 5 minutes and try again. If it’s not this, it could be a build-up of breadcrumbs affecting one or more working parts. Turn the toaster upside down over the bin and gently tap the bottom to remove breadcrumbs.

How long should a toaster last?

Most toasters have an average life expectancy of 6 to 8 years which can be extended if you maintain them regularly by removing breadcrumbs and treating it kindly (don’t force the lever down too hard).

What do you do with a broken toaster?

The best thing to do with a broken toaster is to take it to a recycle centre where it’s parts and components can be reused.

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