Fix a Craftsman table saw that won’t turn on

My Craftsman table saw broke the third time I used it. That was nice of it. Fortunately there isn’t a lot that goes wrong with these, so they’re easy to fix. Here’s how to fix a Craftsman table saw that won’t turn on.

There are two or three things to try. Unplug the saw, then first, just clean out the sawdust from the underside with your vacuum cleaner. Second, look for a red reset switch on the motor. Press it if yours has one. Third, take off the power switch, check its connections and clean it.

OK, I lied. Check two more things

fix a Craftsman table saw that won't turn on
If your Craftsman table saw won’t turn on, it may just be dirty, or the power switch may be worn out. The switches on these saws isn’t the best quality.

First, make sure the yellow key is in the switch. If that yellow piece is missing, the switch won’t work. Locate the piece, push it into the connector, and then the switch will operate. You can tell it’s working from the click it makes. If the switch has no action at all, it’s because that yellow key is missing. If you can’t locate the key, replacements are available.

Also check to make sure the saw is plugged in, the power cord isn’t damaged, and the outlet’s breaker isn’t tripped. I assume you probably already checked all that, but at the very least, plug a different tool in and verify that works.

Now that you have your saw unplugged, let’s get to fixing it. Do all work with the saw unplugged. I hope I don’t have to say why.

Some good news: It’s probably not the motor

The most expensive part of these saws is the motor. But the motor in these is pretty durable. Typically if the motor fails, it doesn’t fail suddenly. It starts running poorly, giving you notice that something’s going wrong. If it makes a lot of noise, that’s an indication you’re working the motor too hard and you need a new blade, to protect both the motor and you. A sharp blade is much safer than a dull one. If the motor seems to be losing power, that’s an indication it needs new brushes. Your saw’s user manual tells you how to replace those. Brushes aren’t expensive.

If your saw died a sudden death, vacuum out the dust under the saw, and look for a red reset button on the motor. If yours has the button, push the button and see if that brings it back to life.

Fixing the power switch on a Craftsman table saw

The power switches on Craftsman saws, and their cousins sold under the Delta and Ryobi brand names, is a bit sketchy. It’s held on with four screws. Remove those screws, then pull the box behind the switch to get at the wires.

The wires plug right onto terminals on the switch, at least on models made since the mid 1990s. One of mine seemed loose, but my switch was really dirty too. I took the switch out, cleaned the terminals with CRC QD contact cleaner, and sprayed a bit into the switch too and worked the switch back and forth. Let it dry for about 30 minutes before using it.

If you have a multimeter, save yourself some pain by testing the switch before you reassemble. Flip the switch on, then check for continuity or resistance between the terminals. You should get continuity between each pair. I got continuity on one pair but not the other, so I needed a new switch.

To reassemble, push the switch back into the opening, then reconnect the four wires. The white wires go on one side and the black ones go on the other, but you can tell because the wires won’t reach anything other than the terminal where they go. Make sure to plug them in firmly. On mine, one of them had obviously always been loose. Push the box into place, then replace the four screws.

Repairing a saw when half the switch works

I didn’t do this, but if you have continuity on one set of terminals but not both, you can connect the black wires to the working terminals, then connect the white wires together. This will work, but I’d rather cut power to both wires. Since I had a switch in my spare parts that would work, I didn’t opt to do this.

Replacing the switch on a Craftsman table saw

fix a Craftsman table saw that won't turn on
You can fix a Craftsman table saw that won’t turn on by replacing a bad power switch with a cheap generic one like this one. The wires will slide right onto the terminals on a switch like this.

Replacement switches are available. But they can be expensive, or you may not be able to find an exact match for yours. You can replace it with a generic 15a 4-pin on/off switch. Look for one with the same kind of terminals as the one you have. Mine has quick-disconnect spades on it. If yours does too, don’t buy one with screw terminals. A generic switch should run you closer to $5, which is much more reasonable.

The switch you get won’t be the same size as the old one, so if it doesn’t fit in the existing hole, you’ll have to rig something up. Enlarge the hole if yours is too small, or make a plate to hold a smaller switch and screw it on the way the old one did.  The terminals on the switch will be labeled. Mine were labeled 1 and 2. I connected the black wires to #1 and the white wires to #2.

After I triple-checked everything, I plugged the saw in and turned it on. It fired right up.

Fix a Craftsman table saw that won’t turn on: In conclusion

Typically that’s what goes wrong with these saws. This may mean you can buy a broken saw cheaply and fix it yourself. Table saws are fairly expensive, but if you can get a broken one for, say, $50 and replace the switch, it’s very much worth it. If you’re going to buy a used saw of this type, be sure to ask lots of questions about whether it ever fails to turn on. I may have overpaid for mine considering the switch broke the same week I bought it.

But at least that fix doesn’t have to be expensive. So if I helped you out, some good came out of it.

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