Fixing Your Toaster
have an old Radiant Control Sunbeam that belonged to my parents.
I used it for a while, but it quit on me, and because I couldn't
bear to get rid of it, I put it in the garage. I was looking
online for information on how to buy another one, and found your
site with instructions on adjusting the screw on the bottom. A
quarter turn was all it took!
I can't tell you how happy I am. I'm 84 now, and I remember the
toaster from years ago. I've tried modern toasters and none of
them even come close to being as good.
Sunbeam Radiant Control toasters were made to last a
lifetime. It's not unusual at all to find one that has been in daily
service for 50 years and is still going strong. Try that with one of
those plastic WalMart toasters!
There are two common problems that can happen with these
toasters, and they're related. First is a failure of the toast rack to
rise all the way up when you remove the toast, with the result that the
trigger that lowers the toast is never reset. In essence, the toaster
believes it still has bread in the slots. When you put a piece of bread
in, it doesn't go down because the toaster thinks it's the same bread
that was in there the day before.
You can confirm this is what's happening by using a wooden spoon
handle to lift the toast rack all the way up on the "one
slice" side. Do that, then put in your bread. If it goes down like
normal then that's your problem.
A similar problem is the rack coming all the way up, but
with so much tension that putting bread in the slot doesn't trip the
lowering mechanism. In this case the toaster thinks there's no bread in
the slot even when there is.
At this point, with either problem, most people resort
to slamming their bread in as hard as they can. This can fix either
problem, as sometimes the bread bounces up and resets the trigger
(fixing the first problem) and sometimes you put it in with enough force
that it activates the lowering mechanism (fixing the second problem).
Fortunately, there's a simpler solution to both of these
There's an adjustment you can make yourself will usually fix these
problems. If you turn the toaster over and open the crumb tray on the
bottom there's an adjustment screw right in the middle of the opening,
on a piece of metal that goes between the two bread slots. Turning that
screw one way tightens the mechanism inside, and turning it the other
way loosens it up. Depending on what is causing your problem, you might
need to be either tighter or looser. The problem is knowing which way to
What I recommend to people is that they turn that screw clockwise 1/4
turn, then try the toaster. If it still doesn't work, turn the screw
another 1/4 turn and try again. Keep doing that until you've turned the
screw two or three full times.
If it isn't working better, turn the screw counterclockwise back to
its original position, then start going 1/4 turn counterclockwise and
trying the toaster. Keep doing that until you've gone a couple turns
Usually in the process of doing this you'll discover the toaster is
starting to work better (or worse). That confirms you're going in the
right (or wrong) direction. Then it's just a matter of making the
adjustment until it's just right.
It's also possible for crumbs to clog up the works. Emptying the
crumb tray and shaking the toaster (over the sink or the wastebasket!)
will get the loose crumbs out. Of course you don't want to flush it out
with water or anything like that. Just shake it a bit.
Believe it or not, this simple screw, hidden for 50 years under the
crumb tray door, fixes 95% of the problems people have with these
toasters. Unfortunately it's not labeled on the older units and many
have wound up in the trash that could probably be easily fixed.
(We've heard that this adjustment screw may be located under the
handle that is opposite the power cord on some models. Again, very small
changes are all that is needed.)
If this doesn't fix your problem, sometimes a good cleaning will
help. You can remove the screws on the bottom of the toaster to remove
the bakelite base, then remove the screws in the tabs along the bottom
of the sides to remove the single chrome piece that forms the front,
back, and top of the toaster. This will give you access to most of the
Make sure you make a note of which slot is the "one slice"
slot so you can reorient the chrome case correctly when you put it back
on. I've "fixed" a few of these toasters by simply rotating
the case to put the "one slice" label over the correct slot.
You should be able to brush or scrape any accumulated debris off the
moving parts and operate the mechanism manually to detect any places
where it's hanging up. Use water and solvents with care; you definitely
don't want to immerse the whole thing in water. Use pressurized air with
care, as you could blow small parts right off the toaster.
When replacing the chrome case make sure you orient the "one
slice" slot over the correct side.
If you can't get yours to work there are a couple places to try:
Dave's Repair (www.davesrepair.com)
does vintage appliance repair and might be able to help you. You might
also check Toaster Central (www.toastercentral.com)
though he does mostly sales of refurbished units not repairs. In the end
you might be better off to just purchase a new one on eBay.