Toaster sliders frequently encounter issues where the lever fails to stay down. This happens even though the heating elements get hot!
Many toasters have an electrically powered magnet at the bottom of the toaster that holds the slider down. The malfunction typically stems from either something like crumbs blocking the magnet or a defective coil within the electromagnet.
Your toaster may have a spring-powered latch instead of an electromagnetic coil. The spring can get disconnected or break. This page will assist in troubleshooting both types.
- Is it plugged in? If the toaster is unplugged or switched off it won’t stay down. This is built into the design so the toaster won’t engage unless it’s on.
- If there is debris/crumbs in the bottom of the toaster, it may not stay down. The solution is to turn off the toaster and remove the debris. If it's hot, let it cool off first.
Crumbs and Food Debris Sticking Things Up
Turn the toaster upside down, and shake the crumbs out. Try opening up the bottom panel by pulling on the metal tab to release the plate (and crumbs!) over a trash can.
Compressed air, wooden skewers, and slightly damp, lint free cloths are helpful.
Some toasters are easier to clean than others. You'll be able to do a much more thorough job if you disassemble the toaster and clean the internals completely. This will also give you a view of the latch mechanism.
Crumbs Blocking Magnet
The toaster mechanism stays down when the level triggers electric flow and enables a magnet at the bottom of the toaster, just below the down level. The magnet holds down a metal tab, located at the bottom of the level mechanism until the selected temperature is reached and electricity ceases. When the electric flow is disrupted the magnet is de-magnitized and the toast comes up.
Sometimes a crumb can be stuck between the magnet and the bottom of the level where the tab is located. It is not difficult to take apart and examine the mechanism.
Once you have access to the magnet, thoroughly clean the space between the magnet and the slider. Compressed air works well for this. Use a cotton swab with alcohol. If you use water to clean the toaster, wait for it to completely dry before you power it back on.
Once your toaster is fixed, you can make your bread toasty.
Spring Mechanism is Disconnected or Broken
The mechanical components that latch the lever in place can become disconnected, wear out or break. This is usually the springs, but could include a clip or other small parts in the latch mechanism.
Start by disassemblying and inspecting the spring attached to the lever. Remove debris that is potentially blocking the lever from connecting to spring.
Poor Contact Connection
There's an electrical contact near the toasting lever that is now carbonized due to too much electrical arcing and it's not letting any (or enough) electricity flow through. The contacts will look black or dull on the inside.
To Fix: Clean off the carbon from the contacts and the toaster will work again. We use an emery board and file between the contacts until they're clean again and can conduct electricity.
Background Information: The arcing is due to slightly misaligned contacts that made it through a poor quality control check. The toaster works initially but over time electrical sparking between the contacts creates carbon build up causing electrical insulation.
There's a lot of current going through that contact because of the way a pop-up toaster works. When you push the toasting lever down it also makes contact with a solenoid (an electromagnet) that holds the lever down. The current for that electromagnet flows through the carbonized contact along with all the electricity to run the nichrome wire heating elements. If there is not enough current and the electromagnet doesn't energize then the lever won't stay down.
This problem is also common with electric hot water kettles where the button or lever or switch won't stay down.
Plug Wire is Frayed or Damaged
If the toaster does not heat up, then you could have a bad power wire. Wiggle the plug wire near the plug to see if that makes a noticeable difference. If you can make any lights or display on the toaster flicker by wiggling the wire, that's a clear sign there's an intermittent problem in the wire. Replace the plug or wire.
To Fix: Replace the entire plug wire or just the plug.
Background: we've seen this a couple of times: people yank the plug wire out of the wall socket by yanking on the cord, causing the stranded wires in the cord to break over time. It usually gets weak right near the base of the molded plug. If the toaster has lights or an LED display they may still light up and make the toaster look like it's getting electricity: it's just not getting enough electricity to run the toaster.
Check the plug wire first before going to the effort of opening the toaster to clean the contacts. While this is a less common failure mode it's easier to check and will save you a lot of troubleshooting time.
Your brave little toaster can live for many more years of life once you repair this small problem. Put in a bit of elbow grease and your toaster will be popping up in no time!