Thursday, February 28, 2013

Oven/Range Repair

My wife and I had a pretty rough weekend when our little one was ill.  After getting home from the doctors, having not eaten much since dinner the previous night, we were scrounging around our empty refrigerator for lunch.  We found a box of "Frozen Fish Sticks" in the freezer and salivated due to our hunger.

While my better half was taking care of our little one, I went to the kitchen, preheated the oven, got the rack out and loaded the frozen "mystery meat" and french fries (everything tastes better with french fries) onto the pan and into the oven.  Within 20 minutes, the oven was smoking.  I thought perhaps a fry had fallen and burned, nothing more.  We ate our food and that was that.

Dinner time came and my wife wanted to make turkey and stuffing... love it.  I'm working on our computer in the neighboring room while my wife slaves over the stove.  She has the oven pre-heating while preparing the raw turkey.  That's when I hear, "STEVE! THE OVEN IS ON FIRE!"

"Holy S&#T!"  I ran into the kitchen to see an orange glow turning bright white emanating from our oven.  Sparks were flying about.  I turned off the oven and the glow subsided for a few seconds but continued to spark.  I stupidly thought, "Gee, that would make a cool picture...", not really thinking of an electrical fire being serious.
Baking element sparking, notice the upside-down metal measuring cup used as a support, courtesy of the previous owner.

Once my momentary stupidity gave way to reason, I ran into the cellar and hit the breaker for the oven.  The glow went away and the sparks ceased.
Side note:  The reason for the sparking continuing after I turned off the oven was because the electrical heating element is powered by two wires.  Each wire provides 120 volts to the baking element.  When the oven is turned on, the element receives power from both wires, equating to 240 volts.  When it is off, the element still receives power but from only one wire, being 120 volts.  Hence, why it was necessary to shut off the power at the electrical panel.
Back when we had our closing on our home, the owner at that time gave us a letter where she wrote us, among other things, that one of the stove's burners no longer work.  Being a glass top cooking surface, she was told that she'll have to replace the entire stove/range unit.  We were initially annoyed by this but have been living with it since our move in.  After all, three out of four isn't so bad.  Now with the baking element ruined, and we haven't the funds to spend on a new stove, I began looking into fixing the 15 year old appliance.  

I went to my local "big box" store looking to find advice and parts but I was told that it is IMPOSSIBLE to replace an element on a glass top stove; that we would have to replace the entire glass top and it's extraordinarily expensive.  The reason being that, according to the sales associate, it's a "sealed unit".

LIES!  Yes, the glass top by itself is expensive, but the burner elements are far more affordable in comparison.  My stove is a late 1990's Maytag Magic Chef model 5889VV, a smooth glass top electric stove.  The following is how I managed to avoid buying a brand new stove and make cost effective repairs instead.

I take responsibility for my own actions, not yours.  Electricity is nothing to play around with.  It should be respected as should your wallet.  If you do not feel comfortable with electrical repairs, please hire a professional.  Always make sure the appliance is unplugged or the breaker is OFF when working on any electrical component.

I did some digging online.  I found a few videos and a couple of write ups, nothing that matched my exact style of oven/range but they did give me some insight to the procedure.  Most of the videos stated that there are two screws securing the top frame holding the glass surface to the main body.  These two screws are located under the front lip accessed by opening the oven door and looking beneath the controls.  Once removed,  the top frame can be opened like a car's hood.

My stove had two screws just as the generic video described.  Unfortunately for me, these two screws did nothing to allow the top to come off.  So I did what any frustrated manic "handy man" does.  I took a pry bar and pried the cover off.  I was gentle, I promise.

The top was re-movable if pried; I was cautious as it is glass.  I used a lever braced along the front edge of my counter and gently pulled the top towards the front.  I tried this on both sides.  Eventually, the top was now about a half inch from it's starting position.  I took a flashlight and peered in the gap between the top and the body.  There were two metal clips holding the top down.  I gently pried again on one side, loosening the clip on that side, then again on the opposite.  The top was now free to open.

It wasn't until after I had opened the glass top that I realized how it was installed.  For a technician to remove the top, he/she would've had to pull the entire stove forward away from the wall, accessing the rear panel.  On the top of the rear, at each corner were two recessed screws that secured the top in place (THAT'S where they are!).  I also noticed that my particular stove was built into the cabinets, taking it out would've been impossible without destroying what the previous owner claimed were "custom cabinets".  Luckily, I did not damage the stove or the particle board "custom" counter top in my macho move to open it up.

After detaching the power feed and ground, the cover is off, on the floor upside-down.  Each element casing is exposed with all applicable wiring view-able   

I unscrewed the two screws securing the known faulty element, turned it over and discovered why it wasn't working.  Seems that the coil had broken as the dark burnt spot testifies.

Now, if I can get this far, with the detached element in my hands, why can I not simply buy a replacement?  So I did.  I searched for a few hours to find the most affordable price.  One vendor had a steal of an asking price, but asked for my first born in shipping.  Continuing my search, I eventually came to  Their pricing was the most cost effective for us (taking into account their shipping of course).  And as usual, no, I have not received any monetary discount for having their company on my blog.

We needed two parts:  The Bake Element and the 6 inch Surface Burner Element for our Magic Chef.

The parts cost us:
Bake Element                  $16.99
6 inch Surface Burner Element $44.99
                   Subtotal:  $61.99
                   Shipping:   $6.99
                   Total:     $68.97

Delivery was rather quick as well as I received both components three days after ordering.  Once in hand, both parts are a simple plug 'n play installation.

The element has a series of wires connected to a ceramic module extending from the side.  Each wire's terminal is labeled a specific number.  I unplugged one wire at a time, to ensure I was connecting it to the correct terminal on the new element.  Though both elements looked exactly the same, they were not.  The numbers on the module were in a different location on the replacement element.  Matching 1a to 1a, 2a to 2a... etc. was critical.

Once all the wires are connected to the new surface burning element, I cleaned up the area with a vacuum, secured the element onto the top frame and reassembled the top onto the stove.  Next, the oven's baking element.

This one was much simpler to install.  Ensure the power is off, open the oven and remove the wire shelves.  There are two screws securing the baking element to the rear of the oven.  Unscrew them and gently pull the element towards the front of the oven.  As you pull, the connected wire will become visible.  Use a pair of needle nose pliers to gently rock the wires off the element.

Here are the two baking elements side by side.  The new one is on the left (notice the standard supports for the element on the left compared to the recycled metal bowl on the right):

Installation is reverse of the removal.  Ensure both wires are firmly connected to the baking element and screw in the two screws to the rear of the oven.  Head to the breaker box and switch the oven on and test.


Side note:  Do not assume that fixing the oven (like new) on your wife's birthday as a birthday gift will make her happy.  Appliances and wives' birthdays do not mix.