How does my toaster work?

TL;DR summary: I fixed a busted toaster in 16 minutes without burning or electrocuting myself. HUGE WIN. Also: toasters are more complicated than you’d think.

WARNING: Grody photo of a crumb-crusted toaster follows.

Our toaster stopped working a week ago, sending ripples of calamity through our breakfast routine. Then the family went away for Thanksgiving and upon our return I noticed that the toaster had failed to heal itself in our absence.

The toast wouldn’t stay down. Push the plunger, the bread pops right back up. I supposed maybe a spring had come loose, so I popped the cover off and took a look at the mechanism.

As I worked I was half-hoping that I’d screw it up badly enough that I’d need to buy a new toaster and use this one as the body for a toasterbot or something.

No springs seem to be out of place, and nothing looks bent, broken, or obviously amiss. No butter or fried mice gumming up the works, although there’s about half a pound of toast particles rattling around in there.

Ho ho, what’s this? This seems like an awful lot of electronics for something as simple as a toaster. Bears further investigation, obviously.

When the plunger’s down, the little plastic lever to the right drops a metal strip across the two contacts, completing a circuit.

And what’s up with that coil? Electricity flowing through that coil creates a magnetic field, which will keep the metal strip and in turn, the plunger, stuck in the down position.

A timer elsewhere in the unit must turn off the electromagnet when the toaster thinks the toast is ready, releasing the spring-loaded lever.

So. If the circuit were to fail, the electromagnet wouldn’t keep the plunger in the down position.

Sure enough, there was a crumb shorting out the electromagnet. A quick puff of air and she’s working again.

Twenty bucks saved.

What do you think?