One of the more common issues people experience with their microwave ovens is with the control panel buttons- if you’re wondering why your microwave buttons aren’t working, it’s luckily one of the easier things to check for issues like at home, which can’t necessarily be said for issues like faulty microwave diodes.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The most common cause of unresponsive microwave buttons is a failed control panel, which is testable by confirming that either only some or all buttons aren’t working.
  • Very often, a control panel, membrane switch (touchpad), or control board replacement is more costly and more dangerous than simply replacing the entire unit.
  • It’s worth performing a “hard reset” if you’re having button issues before doing any other troubleshooting by unplugging the unit and plugging it back in. This can sometimes fix program issues that could be mistaken for button issues.

While troubleshooting microwave issues is generally best left to professionals for safety reasons, and sometimes even in high-end microwaves, it’s more practical to replace the entire unit, determining why control panel items may be nonfunctional is within the realm of possibility for most people without too much trouble.

Possible Issues

There are a number of common issues that can cause your microwave’s control panel buttons to stop being responsive. Some, however, are harder to get quick answers for, and what your next step should be can vary, with some options being a lot more practical than others.

Insider Tip

The most common cause of button malfunction on microwaves is a faulty control panel, which can usually be tested simply by pressing each button to see if any are responsive. If some are, your control panel is likely the issue.

Defective Control Panel

Most of the time, non-working on unresponsive microwave buttons has to do with control panel issues. This can be from simple wear and tear age, or even electrical issues (while microwave components themselves usually don’t get hot, they can be damaged by electrical overload), but the easiest way to determine if it’s a control panel issue is to press every button on the touchpad.

If some buttons work and others don’t, you’ll probably have to replace the touchpad and the control panel. If none are responsive, you probably have another issue.

Unfortunately, a replacement control panel and/or touchpad could cost you anywhere from $40 to $90, meaning it may sometimes be a better choice to replace the entire microwave model, depending on how much it originally cost you.

Failed Membrane Switch

Another not uncommon cause of issues with microwave buttons is a failed or defective membrane switch. The membrane switch is essentially just the touchpad itself, which has a conductive coating that can stop working with repeat use, or sometimes with water damage.

Checking this for answers is a little more complicated- you’ll have to unplug the appliance, remove the main cabinet, and check the touchpad using a multimeter to check for continuity. A working membrane switch will show at least a few ohms resistance. If you don’t get such a reading, you’re looking at a replacement.

Once again, a touchpad replacement isn’t always going to be worth the cost, and since you’ll not be able to properly test for it without a multimeter, you may have to consider a replacement unit.

Control Board Issues

The control board of a microwave sends a low voltage to the membrane switch, allowing the touchpad to work. If it’s defective or has failed, the touchpad will be unresponsive. The best indication that this is the issue is if the display lights go on when the microwave is plugged in, but the touchpad itself doesn’t work.

Again, this is a situation where replacing the part may be more costly than replacing the whole unit. On top of that, in order to replace the control board, the main power supply must be disconnected and both the cabinet and assembly need to be removed, meaning it’s a potentially dangerous and definitely time-consuming operation.

Warning

Very often, and unlike many kitchen appliances, microwave oven repairs are more costly (and if done by the user) more dangerous than they’re worth doing, and replacing the entire unit is the more practical solution.

F.A.Q.S

Can microwaves be repaired?

Generally speaking, most issues with microwave oven functionality are repairable with replacement parts. The issue is that whether they’re done by the user or by a professional service provider, the cost of the repairs can often be as much or more than the cost of replacing the microwave itself.


How does a microwave touchpad work?

A microwave’s touchpad isn’t touch-sensitive, as is commonly thought. It’s a proprietary membrane switch compromised of two flexible layers, a conductive internal coating, and a bubble in between for each button. When a button is pressed, it makes contact with the conductive coating and sends a signal to the control board.


Does my microwave have a reset button?

The majority of microwave ovens don’t have a reset button to fix possible programming issues with the control panel, however, most allow you to do a “hard reset,” which is as simple as unplugging the unit and plugging it back in.



STAT: Defrost settings on microwaves work by pulsating between 100% power and 0% power. (source)

STAT: The average cost of microwave repair services by a professional is $70 an hour plus parts. (source)

STAT: The average lifespan of a microwave is about seven years. (source)

Jed Smith

I'm a musician and recording engineer and live in Queens. I have a cat. Her name is Elsa. I love to write about consumer tech and musical instruments.

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