Brave Little Toaster

I know people are going to give me a hard time about this, but I fixed our toaster today. It was working fine, except for the latching mechanism. The short term fix was resting a Costco sized bottle of dishwasher detergent on the handle to hold it down, but that wasn’t going to keep working unless we stopped washing dishes.

With the latch held down, the toaster stopped toasting when it was supposed to, so the timer worked. The only thing separating me from a kludge-free piece of toast appeared to be a bad latch. I thought it would probably end up being just a bit of crumb in the wrong place. 6 screws attached the cover (none of the dreaded sonic welds!), so it was easy to remove the cover and expose the toasting mechanism. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but there are a lot of electronics inside. OK, not a lot, but more than seemed necessary to make toast. Although it would need a microprocessor to handle input from the controls, light the LEDs under the controls, control the relays for the magnet and the heating elements, an AC to DC converter and step down transformer for the microcontroller…

The latch isn’t the mechanical type found in the last toaster I opened up (probably in the late 1960s or early 1970s, so even toasting technology advances). It’s an electromagnet fixed to the frame and a metal plate on the handle. Push the handle down, the pop-up spring compresses. At the bottom of travel, a switch closes to energize the magnet, start the timer and turn on the heat. When the timer triggers, the heating elements are turned off, the magnet is de-energized, and the spring decompresses to pop up the toast. The plate and the magnet both had some crumbs stuck to them, so I used a can of compressed air and cleaned them up.

electromagnet, pop-up spring to left


metal plate on handle

I think the real problem was the switch. It’s kind of hard to see in the picture below, but that was the best angle I could get. The wires above the switch connect to the control buttons on the body of the toaster that select the type of bread, cancel the toasting operation, and the dial to control the degree of toasty-ness of the final product.


I think after years of making toast the arm of the switch had bent out a bit and wasn’t making contact until the very end of the downward travel of the handle. At this point, the pop up spring was compressed so far that the electromagnet couldn’t hold the handle down without the help of the dishwasher detergent bottle. All it took was a little bend with some needle nose pliers to make the switch close a litter earlier, and….

Kludge free toast!!

All in all, about 10 minutes to disassemble, diagnose, repair, and re-assemble. And one less toaster in the landfill, at least for a few more years.

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