DIY Appliance Repair: Testing Conventional Cooking, Baking, and Broiling Elements
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DIY Appliance Repair: Testing Conventional Cooking, Baking, and Broiling Elements

Conventional cook-top, oven, and broiler elements are really simple devices with no moving parts. The active element is a coil of Nichrome element wire embedded in an insulating, ceramic filler material. The ceramic filler material serves two purposes; it keeps the wire from expanding and contracting excessively as it heats up and cools down, and it insulates the bare wire from the steel alloy sheath that encloses it. These elements fail for many different reasons. The ceramic insulation can deteriorate over time allowing the element wire to burn open or short out against the steel sheath. They can also be damaged if struck by a heavy object like a cast iron pot or any pot full of water. Fortunately they are easy to test, easy to replace, and relatively inexpensive.

Many people hesitate to tackle any DIY project that involves electricity because they are afraid of getting shocked. A little bit of fear is a good thing when dealing with electricity because electricity can kill you on the other hand, if you are one of those DIY types, this project is a good confidence builder. This project is completely safe.

Removing and testing stove top elements, oven roast elements, and broiler elements is totally safe because the first thing you are going to do is unplug a free-standing stove or turn off the branch circuit breaker for one that is hard-wired in. All the tests that I am going to describe in this article are performed with the power disconnected.

What you will need for this project.

  • Digital Multimeter (DMM)

  • Screwdrivers

  • Nut-drivers

  • Long-nose Pliers

  • Clothespins

Testing the Cook-Top Elements.

Check the working elements for “Hot Spots”.

Before unplugging the stove or turning off the circuit breaker, turn all the elements on and check for hot spots. This test will also show you which elements are not working at all.

A “hot Spot” is a section of the steel sheath that glows brighter than the rest of the elements sheath. “Hot Spots” are a good indication that an element is about to fail because the ceramic insulation has failed in that location inside the sheath exposing the bare Nichrome wire. Beside an impending element failure, a “Hot Spot” is also indicative of a potential shock hazard if the element wire comes into direct contact with the steel sheath. You will want to replace these elements right away.

Remove all the elements from the stove.

UNPLUG THE STOVE OR TURN OFF THE CIRCUIT BREAKER NOW!!!

The first thing that you want to do is remove the element, isolating it from the stoves internal circuitry. Some stove top elements are plug-in elements, in which case you simply unplug them. Other stove top elements are connected by screw terminals or push on connectors. In the latter case all you have to do is disconnect the wire from one of the two terminals to completely isolate the element from the stoves internal circuitry.

Checking the elements for continuity.

  • Set the function switch on DMM to Ohms if it is an auto-ranging meter, or to the R X 10 range if it is a manually ranging meter. The actual resistance reading does not matter because the resistance of Nichrome wire changes little over its useful life. An element will either be good (Has Continuity) or bad (Open Circuit) with no gray areas in between.

  • If you have an inquiring mind that needs to know, here are the typical resistances of good elements. Large and small stove top elements have a resistance of 27 and 45 Ohms. Depending on their wattage rating, an oven and broiler element will have a resistance somewhere between 20 and 40 Ohms.

  • Take a reading between the two terminals. A loss of continuity, an open element, will be indicated by an “O.L” on your DMMs LCD. Replace that element with an exact replacement.

Check the element for shorts to the steel sheath.

  • Set your DMM to its R X 10,000 or R X 10K range or higher.

  • Take a reading between each of the terminal and the steel sheath. Any reading other than a “O.L.” on the DMMs LCD indicates a shorted element and you need to replace it immediately.

  • When making this test, do not touch the metal test probe tips with your fingers. Touching them will cause a false reading because the meter will read your body's resistance and you will be replacing a perfectly good element, thinking wrongly that it is shorted.

Good elements but it only gets warm even on the highest setting.

Elements are either good or bad, with, as I said earlier, with no gray areas in between. If an element only gets warm even when set to it highest setting, you need to check its associated Infinite Switch. The same can be said about bake and broil elements, if they only get warm, you need to replace their thermostatic switch.

 

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Comments (3)

this was so good thanks Jerry

Wow! You should write text books Jerry. You are so talented at teaching.

I agree with Charlene - you should write books on this subject! I'm learning quite a bit from your articles and you have it laid out so it is easy to understand.

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