Fixing Small Appliances: A Guide

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Fixing an Electric Can Opener

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. The cross section of a can opener.

Electric can openers are a convenient tool for opening canned foods quickly and easily. However, a defective can opener can ruin your meal-prep plans. Fortunately, most issues with electric can openers can be resolved with simple maintenance and repairs.

How Electric Can Openers Work

An electric can opener uses an operating lever to activate the appliance. The can is placed between the feed gear and cutter, and a magnet grips the top of the can. When the lever is pressed down, it activates a switch that turns on the motor. The motor powers the gears, which rotate the can and the cutter cuts through the lid. The lid stays attached to the magnet.

Many issues with electric can openers can be prevented by regularly cleaning and lubricating the drive wheel and cutter. Clean the parts with a toothbrush and mild detergent, lubricate with a light oil or white lubricant, and wipe away excess to prevent transfer to food or other components.

How to Repair a Can Opener

Most common repairs for electric can openers involve servicing the switch, gears, grindstone, or motor.

Servicing the Switch: The switch of an electric can opener is activated by the operating lever. A faulty switch may prevent the appliance from working at all. Here’s how to service the switch:

Step 1: Remove the cover to observe how the switch activates.

Step 2: Press the lever down to ensure it makes contact with the switch. If not, check for obstructions or realign the lever.

Step 3: Test the switch with a continuity tester or multitester.

Step 4: Clean corroded contacts with emery paper or replace the switch if broken.

Step 5: Replace with a switch identified as a replacement part for your appliance.

Servicing the Gears: The gears translate the motor’s power into torque that turns the can. Check and replace gears as follows:

Step 1: Inspect the feed gear and replace if worn or broken.

Step 2: Open the appliance case and inspect internal gears. Lubricate or replace as necessary. Make sure replacement gears match exactly in every measure.

Step 3: If you cannot find a replacement for a broken gear, try using plastic or metal glue to repair it. Once done, carefully reassemble the gears and case, and then test the appliance.

Servicing the Grindstone: Some electric can openers come with a built-in grindstone that sharpens the blade as it is being used. Others also function as knife sharpeners, using their motors to power one or more small grindstones.

The most common issue with these grindstones is that stone shavings and debris can obstruct their operation, causing the motor to burn out or the fuse to blow. To prevent this, it is best to clean the grindstone and the area around it periodically.

If the grindstone is worn or damaged, it must be replaced with one of the same size. Some models require a screw or clip to retain the stone on the shaft, while others need both the stone and shaft to be replaced together. Depending on the grindstone’s function, you may choose to disconnect or not use it.

Servicing the Motor: Electric can openers and other small appliances that do not require extensive power use a shaded pole motor. To test and replace an electric can opener’s motor:

Step 1: Unplug the appliance, open it up, and locate the fuse on the motor.

Step 2: Place one continuity tester probe on one side of the fuse and the other probe on the other side. If the continuity light does not illuminate, replace the blown fuse.

Step 3: Attach a continuity tester or multitester across the two wires on the field coil winding. If the circuit is open, replace the motor as a unit. You can find a motor of the exact size and rating at an appliance-parts store.

Step 4: Always check the bearings for wear that can cause the shaft to wobble. Remove the rotor to check for damage or excessive wear.

Do you have a garbage disposal that you want to get rid of? Don’t throw it away just yet. Check out our repair tips on the next page.

Troubleshooting Electric Can Openers: Electric can openers can stop working for various reasons, such as a faulty motor or a dull blade. Refer to our troubleshooting chart for help in identifying and fixing the problem.


1. What are small appliances?

Small appliances are household devices that are designed to perform specific tasks. They are usually portable and can be easily moved around the house. Examples of small appliances include toasters, blenders, coffee makers, and microwaves.

2. What are the common problems with small appliances?

Common problems with small appliances include faulty switches, broken cords, burnt-out motors, and clogged filters. These problems can cause the appliance to stop working or not work as efficiently as it should.

3. Can I repair my small appliances myself?

Yes, you can repair your small appliances yourself if you have the necessary tools and knowledge. However, some repairs may require the services of a professional technician.

4. What tools do I need to repair small appliances?

You will need basic tools such as screwdrivers, pliers, and wire cutters to repair small appliances. You may also need specialized tools such as a multimeter to test electrical circuits.

5. How do I troubleshoot small appliances?

To troubleshoot small appliances, you should first identify the problem. Then, you should check the appliance’s manual to see if there are any troubleshooting tips. If the manual does not provide any solutions, you can search online for solutions or contact the manufacturer for assistance.

6. Can I replace parts in my small appliances?

Yes, you can replace parts in your small appliances. However, you should make sure that you use the correct replacement parts and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

7. Is it safe to repair small appliances?

Repairing small appliances can be safe if you take the necessary precautions. You should always unplug the appliance before working on it and avoid touching any electrical components.

8. How much does it cost to repair small appliances?

The cost of repairing small appliances varies depending on the type of appliance and the extent of the damage. Some repairs may be simple and inexpensive, while others may be more complex and costly.

9. How often should I maintain my small appliances?

You should maintain your small appliances regularly to ensure that they work efficiently and last longer. The frequency of maintenance will depend on the type of appliance and how often you use it.

10. Should I repair or replace my small appliances?

Whether you should repair or replace your small appliances will depend on the extent of the damage and the cost of repairs. If the cost of repairs is too high or the appliance is outdated, it may be more cost-effective to replace it.

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