How To Fix A Toaster That Won’t Pop Up

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When it comes to broken toasters, it costs as much to have someone fix one as buying a new one.  But it seems like a shame to throw something away when you can repair it. Is it true of a toaster, though? For example, if a toaster won’t pop up, how do you fix it?

Here’s how you can fix a toaster that won’t pop up:

  1. Clean out the inside of the toaster.
  2. Set or re-calibrate the toaster’s thermostat.
  3. Check the toaster’s electromagnet and replace if necessary.

Although additional features have been added to toasters, the insides haven’t changed much.  This makes identifying problems and repairing straightforward. This article will take you through the steps so you can decide whether you should fix it or buy a new one.    

Getting a Toaster Unstuck

The workings of the inside of a toaster are simple. Besides the heating elements, slots for the bread, and a lever to push it down, there are a few electronic components.

One of the most important is the circuit board, which controls the interactions between the thermometer, lever, heating elements, and an electromagnet.  

But probably the most crucial part of a toaster is the lever, which functions as the bread lowering and lifting mechanism, power button, and latch that keeps the bread down and held in place.

The lever is also the circuit breaker—if your toaster isn’t plugged in, the latch won’t even stay down. Therefore, if your toaster is plugged in and you cannot get it to stay down, you likely have tripped an outlet relay, and you need to find the junction box.

Luckily, you shouldn’t have to worry about replacing the circuit board because it’s rarely the cause of toaster problems, such as a toaster not staying down or refusing to pop up. Since circuit boards control the electronic parts, signs that it’s failing include heating elements not working or the toaster not turning on.

When you push the lever down, it slides between a set of contacts and closes the circuit. The closed circuit then powers up the circuit board, which activates the switch that starts the heating process.

The thermostat setting determines how long to power the toaster. Once the thermostat cuts off, the electromagnet shuts off the current and unlocks the latch holding the carriage down. Then up pops the carriage with your perfectly toasted bread. Or at least that’s what should happen.

If your toaster doesn’t pop up, then your toast burns and will need to be tossed. That’s when you need to start troubleshooting.

1. Clean Out the Inside of the Toaster

In many situations, the problem lies not with the toaster but with the user. For example, crumbs of bread and food particles can jam the handle, get into the release switch, interfere with the spring-loaded tray, or affect the thermometer. Even worse, it could short out the heating element or damage the electromagnet.

So step one is to clean out the inside of the toaster. Most toasters have some type of pull-out tray or doors on the bottom.  

Unplug the toaster, and then proceed with these steps:

  1. Take off the lever used to push down the toast and unscrew the housing.  
  2. Check the latch assembly for any dirt.  
  3. Make sure there is no dirt on the contacts that get pushed to the side when the latch is pushed down.
  4. If the latch assembly is clean but sticks, lubricate with a petroleum lubricant, being careful to keep it from getting on the electrical parts.

No two toaster models are alike, and some screws will be visible, some hidden under plastic feet, and some on the side. As with anything that has a ton of small parts, pay attention to what goes where so reassembly is a smooth process.

Warning: Don’t simply pull the toaster housing off after taking out the screws and pulling off the lever. The wiring connecting the circuit boards, thermometer, and electromagnetic doesn’t have a lot of give. 

2. Set or Re-Calibrate the Toaster’s Thermostat

If the mechanical parts of the unit are functioning correctly, then the problem could lie in your toaster’s thermostat. An improperly set thermostat won’t shut off the solenoid on time, and therefore the heating elements won’t shut off.

Here are ways on how you can check your thermostat:

  • To reset the thermostat, you should’ve already completed the first step—cleaning out the inside of the toaster.
  • On most toasters, the thermostat is located under the crumb tray cover. Look for a bracket that connects to the control knob. It should have either a knob, screw, or nut to move the bracket.  
  • Typically, moving the bracket closer to the electromagnet switch decreases the time the heating elements are on, and moving it further away lengthens the time.
  • Again, a toaster might have the thermostat underneath or closer to the darkness knob. 

All toasters have a thermostat; they just don’t have them in the same place.

One last thing–although troubleshooting guides typically call this part of a toaster a thermometer, in inexpensive toasters, the light to dark knob connects to a potentiometer, which is a resistor that controls the timer circuit. Think of it as a timer that tells the electromagnet to turn off.

3. Check the Toaster’s Electromagnet and Replace if Necessary

When the thermostat turns off, the lack of electricity should force the solenoid to release the latch that was holding the tray down.

If you’ve adjusted the thermometer or potentiometer and your toaster is still not popping up, then most likely the problem is with the electromagnet that needs to be replaced.  

Replacing an electromagnet requires multimeters, an understanding of resistance tests, ohms, and how circuit boards work.

Unfortunately, most manufacturers don’t sell the electromagnets directly, so you’d have to locate one that would fit your toaster or take it to a small appliance repair shop and have a professional help you.  

How Can You Get the Toast Out?

If you can’t get the toast out, you shouldn’t use a knife to get it out, especially while the toaster is plugged in, not unless you want to get shocked. Instead, you could use one of these methods:

  • Find some wooden tongs to pull the bread out or any utensil that has insulated handles.
  • Tip the toaster up.
  • Unplug the toaster and press down on the lever and let it up quickly. With any luck, you’ll be able to catch the toast.

Any of those methods will work, but number 3 is the most fun.

Repairing a Toaster Oven

Even though most toaster ovens have more features than toasters, fixing them in many cases is determining the malfunctioning part and replacing it.

For example, a toaster oven that doesn’t work on either toast or oven function needs either its main switch or thermal fuse replaced. If an element isn’t heating, replace it.  

One other thing about fixing a toaster oven—you have more room inside the oven to toast food.

What About Hot Dog Toasters?

Some of you may be familiar with hot dog toasters— an all-in-one appliance that toasts buns and hot dogs at the same time.

Most of them have a retro look to them, as though they were popular with diners in the 1950s— except hot dog toasters weren’t around then.  

This is one of those products that you didn’t know you needed until you saw it. The toasters have holes in the middle for the dogs and slots on the outside for the buns.

A more common concern with these toasters is that even if they work correctly, the buns get stuck or burn.

Nostalgia, the company that makes hot dog toasters, also sells a Grilled Cheese Toaster. The slots are wider to hold two pieces of (thin) bread that stay together in the toasting baskets that you stick into the toaster.

The toasting baskets have handles, so if the toaster malfunctions and doesn’t pop up, you can pull your cheese melts out before you go about fixing it.

For those who want to watch their bread being toasted, Nostalgia also sells an Automatic Window Toaster. This operates like a conventional toaster, except for the glass sides that let you check your bread.

However, the Nostalgia Window toaster gets poor marks, so if you want to look into having a see-in toaster, something like the Cusimax Glass Toaster (available on Amazon.com) receives rave reviews.

Bottom Line

The earliest toasters didn’t have an issue with the toast not popping up because they didn’t have slots on top. Instead, they had a heating element in the center. Users opened the machine from the side to turn the bread so both sides would be toasted. However, the toaster catching on fire was a bigger concern.  

Repairing a toaster that won’t pop up can be easy—clean it out thoroughly—or more complicated—take it apart and check the mechanism, thermometer, and solenoid. If you don’t want to deal with the electronics, get it repaired or buy a new one.