A toaster is an incredibly useful device. But it’s also notorious for breaking down after a few years. If you find that your toaster has stopped working, you might be tempted to simply throw it away and get a new one. But this isn’t a particularly green course of action. It might be that you can get the toaster fixed, instead.
In most cases, it’s the heating element that’s to blame. Let’s take a look at this component, and how you might fix it.
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How does a Heating Element Work?
A heating element is basically a long stretch of wire, through which an electric current is passed. The stronger the current, the more heat is given off by the wire. You’ll find heating elements in everything from kettles to irons to hair-dryers – but it’s in toasters that they’re most likely to fail.
Before you go ahead and rip open the toaster, it might be worth taking a few small checks. First, it’s worth giving the toaster a thorough clean. It might be that there are crumbs collected around the element, which might prevent heat from being effectively transferred to your toast.
Most toasters come with a removable tray designed to collect the crumbs. Failing that, you can simply upend the device and give it a few smacks on the underside.
There’s also the lever to think about. If the lever won’t fully depress, then you’ll be unable to toast your bread. If the lever isn’t working, then there’s no point in replacing the element. Most levers of this kind are operated by an electromagnet, which might need to be replaced.
Tools and how to repair
To fix a toaster, you’ll need a screwdriver and a multi-meter. Use the former to open the toaster and retrieve the element, and use the latter to check that you have continuity from one end of the element to the other. If you don’t then it’ll be unable to transmit electricity, and unable to toast any bread. Use the resistance setting to test the element. You should get a high resistance (since a heating element is effectively a very long resistor). If you get infinite resistance, it means it’s broken.
Make sure that you’ve unplugged the toaster before you try to repair it. If the element is broken, then you’ll need a replacement of the same shape and rating. Make sure that you exercise caution when you’re disassembling the toaster, as the heating element can be thin and fragile.
Naturally, you’ll want as close a match as possible when you replace the element. If the resistance is mismatched, then you might end up with a supercharged toaster that fails more quickly.