There’s nothing more annoying than an appliance failing to do its bit while you work hard to prepare a delicious meal!
I commonly use my microwave to take care of smaller tasks while I focus on the bigger picture, but what do you do if your microwave shuts off while cooking?
In this article, I’m going to run through the most important checks you can make to – hopefully – get your microwave back in the game without too much fuss.
#1 Disconnect The Appliance
If your microwave shuts off while cooking, the very first thing you should do is switch it off and unplug it from the power supply. Wait a few moments before reconnecting it.
It is definitely possible for a microwave to overheat (particularly with intensive use), and this gives everything a chance to cool down.
This alone may fix the problem, and if you know you’ve been working the microwave hard then it’s likely a temporary problem.
Keep an eye on how it behaves in the future though. If it frequently shuts off, it’s either due a repair, or a complete upgrade if you’re pushing it beyond its intended use.
Very often though, a good cooling off will fix the problem. Read on if you’re still having problems!
#2 Check The Door
If the microwave is powering on but not heating, the next likely culprit is the door. Check that it closely fully, and the latch – if present – clearly clicks into place.
If the door isn’t secured properly, there’s a very good chance your microwave is designed to shut off, simply as a safety precaution.
#3 How’s The Power Cord?
This advice applies to every appliance in your kitchen, but keep a close eye on the integrity of your power cord – most people never check these things!
Look over the entire length of the cord and see if there’s evidence of any damage or fraying.
If the cord’s in bad condition, you should stop using the appliance until you’ve sourced a suitable replacement.
#4 Power Up?
Check the other appliances in your kitchen, even if they’re not in active use.
If they’re not getting any power either, there’s a good chance there’s a problem with the power supply in your kitchen.
Check the fuse box in your home to see if your kitchen circuit has tripped. If so, you can either reset it or arrange a replacement if the fuse has gone.
Anything beyond normal use / resetting of your fuse board is a job for a professional though.
Please don’t attempt anything you’re not qualified to do yourself – there’s always takeout in an emergency!
#5 Check Out The Controls
If the lights are on but the touchpad / control panel are unresponsive, they probably need to be replaced.
That’s not something you’re likely to be able to do on your own, unless you just happen to be a microwave technician in your day job!
If the microwave is still in warranty, contact the manufacturer and organize a replacement. If that’s not possible, you may find it more cost-effective to buy a replacement, rather than organizing a third-party repair.
If you do need a quick recommendation, the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS is commonly cited as the best option for a typical family-of-four kitchen.
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It’s all well and good organizing a replacement, but what are your options when it comes to finishing the meal in front of you right now:
- If you’re reheating food, would it be suitable for the stove top? The more liquid content you have in your meal, the easier it will be to transfer the job to a pot on your stove.
- Can you get your oven up to cooking temperature quickly? If it heats up fast, you may be able to switch over without impacting the quality of the meal. It might take longer to serve up, but it’s better than nothing – just make sure everything’s cooked through properly.
Your next job is to research whether the microwave can be repaired (by a qualified professional), or if it’s time for a replacement.
If you need to shop around for a replacement, just make sure you buy one that has the right features – and capacity – for what you need.
There’s no point investing in a replacement, only to run into the same problems all over again!
Frequently Asked Questions
Just to wrap things up, here are some answers I’ve collected for some of the most common questions I see asked around this subject.
How do you fix a microwave that keeps shutting off?
Most of these causes are covered in this article, but a common cause for this is a broken door latch. On cheaper microwaves in particular these can break quite easily. If the door won’t latch shut properly, most microwaves will fail to operate as a safety precaution.
Modern microwaves will shut off if they overheat too. If this is happening a lot, your microwave is due either a repair or replacement . You may simply be trying to do too much with the appliance you’ve chosen for your own circumstances.
What is the most common cause of microwave failure?
Given that most of us can’t afford to spend a fortune on professional-grade kitchen equipment, the most likely cause of microwave failure is that door switch / latch. These aren’t always made of the toughest stuff, and if this doesn’t engage properly then the microwave will not run.
You might also find problems with the magnetron in your microwave, which produces all that energy. These will only give out so much juice before they expire, although if you’re using the microwave as the manufacturer intended it should last as long as any other component!
Do microwaves turn off when they overheat?
Yes, the majority of modern microwaves – even budget appliances – are designed to switch off on overheating, simply as a safety precaution. It also preserves the longevity of the microwave.
How long can you run a microwave continuously for?
This is very hard to give a simple answer to. The length of time you can run your microwave for continuously will depend entirely on the exact make and model of your appliance.
That said, most home microwaves are only designed to run for short periods of time. Check the owner’s manual for proper guidance, and when you’re shopping around for a new microwave make sure you buy one that can keep up with your demands!
Over-running a microwave will at best reduce it’s lifespan, so beware of false economies here.
What are the signs that a microwave is going bad?
This is quite a big topic for this section, so I’ll refer you to Viva Flavor’s article on this very subject! You’ll find all the answers in there, and in much more detail than I can do justice to here.
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more