You Can Trouble-Shoot Waffle Irons--Carefully


Sandwich makers and waffle irons have two cooking surfaces, each with a heating element. The temperatures are regulated by a built-in thermostat, often knob-controlled.

The heating element used in most waffle irons and some sandwich makers is an exposed spring-like wire coil made from an alloy able to withstand high temperatures. This replaceable coil, called an open element, is suspended between ceramic insulating supports.

In contrast, most sandwich makers and some waffle irons have a sheathed heating element--a coil wrapped in an insulating material and an outer jacket of steel. Depending on the appliance type and model, sheathed elements may or may not be replaceable.

Before trying any repairs, always unplug the appliance. If the appliance shocks you, unplug it immediately. Don’t use the appliance again until the problem has been corrected. Use identical replacement materials when making repairs; substitutes can create shock or fire hazards.

If either type of appliance doesn’t heat properly, check the simple things first:


* Test for power at the outlet by plugging in a lamp you know works. If the lamp doesn’t light, the outlet may be faulty. More likely, however, is that the appliance has tripped a circuit breaker or blown a fuse in the house’s main supply panel.

* With the unit unplugged, examine the power cord and plug. A defective cord or plug--often the result of pulling on the cord rather than on the plug--can cause an appliance to fail and create a shock hazard.

* If the appliance has a removable cord, check the terminal pins on the unit. If the pins are pitted, clean them with sandpaper or an automotive-point file. If they are corroded, clean them with a brass brush, then spray them with an electrical contact cleaner. Replacements for removable cords often can be found at a hardware store. Make sure the new cord has a capacity equal to the old one.

Further tests will require disassembly of the appliance. You often can find the screws by looking on the underside of the unit and by prying off the metal label on the top. Once you open the unit, beware of sharp edges inside.

Check each heating element for a break in the wire. A heating element is usually replaceable unless it forms part of the plate.

Look for broken wiring and loose connections. In particular, check any wiring near the hinge between upper and lower sections of the appliance. Frequent flexing of the wire passing through this area often leads to broken conductors. Replace the appliance if it cannot be repaired.

If you have a problem with a unit not heating correctly, check the thermostat, usually located just behind the knob that controls the heating level. If the unit overheats or doesn’t heat at all, the thermostat contacts may be stuck in a fully closed or fully open position. If the unit doesn’t heat enough, check for burned contacts making intermittent connection. If the thermostat can’t be cleaned with a contact cleaner or an automotive-point file, replace it.

The temperature of some waffle irons can be adjusted by moving a front-mounted sliding control called a linkage. Check the linkage for loose or bent parts. Repair the linkage if possible; otherwise replace it with an exact duplicate from an appliance repair shop.