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How to Repair a Gas Range or an Electric Range

Solve these common stove problems: the gas burner won't light, the oven won't heat and the electric burner won't heat.

If the burners on your stove don't light or the oven isn't heating, you can usually solve the problem in five minutes--and save the cost of a service call. A quick cleaning usually puts your range back in business. However, we also show you how to trouble-shoot new-style electronic ignition burners and ovens.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Time

Instant!

Complexity

Simple

Cost

$20 – $100

Problem 1: The gas burner on a gas range won’t light

Standard gas range

On a standard range the key parts, the igniters or pilots, are under the top, which lifts up on hinges.

Sealed burner range

The top does not lift on a sealer burner range. It doesn’t have a pilot and you access the igniter from the top.

Repair pros tell us that this is the most common gas range problem. There are two type of gas ranges–the standard gas range and the sealed burner range.

Range Repair Safety

All the repairs and cleaning that we show can be safely done without shutting off the gas to the stove. But don’t leave a burner dial on. It’ll emit gas into the room. If at any time you smell gas, turn off the gas at the shutoff behind the range or at the main supply near the meter and ventilate the room. Then call your local utility or a service professional for assistance. (Look under “Appliances, Service and Repair” in your Yellow Pages.)

Always unplug your range before working on it!

Solution 1: Clean the pilot or igniter

Photo 1: Access the pilot or igniter

LIFT the hinged top. Most stove tops lift up. However, stoves with sealed burners don’t have tops that lift.

Detail of a sealed burner range

If you have a sealed burner, the top won’t lift up.

Photo 2: Clean a standing pilot

Poke a needle into the pilot hole and clean out the soot or other debris. Take care not to ream it wider. Brush the remaining soot and boiled-over food away from the tip with a toothbrush. Hold a lit match to the opening to relight the pilot, lower the lid and turn on your burners to test them

Photo 3: Look for the igniter (spark ignition)

Identify a spark ignition (igniter) range by a little ceramic nub located between two burners. Look for wires running to it. The igniters on sealed burner ranges are alongside the burners.

Photo 4: Clean the igniter

Brush away gunk around and on the igniter with an old toothbrush. It’s common for food that has boiled over to build up here. Clean the metal “ground” above the igniter wire, too. It must be clean to conduct a spark. Close the lid and turn the burner knob to “Light” to test the burner.

A one-minute cleaning will solve 75 percent of burner problems. To get at the ignition system, lift the lid of your stove (Photo 1). Give it a rap with the heel of your hand if it’s stuck. If your stove has sealed burners, identified by the igniter or little nub at the back of each burner, the lid won’t lift.

But you can clean the igniter the same way (Photo 4). If your burner still doesn’t ignite, go to Solution 2. Identify a standing pilot by a small gas tube running to a tip with a hole at the center of two burners (Photo 2). If the pilot (flame) is burning, skip to Solution 2. Identify spark ignition (igniter) by the ceramic nub either under the top (Photo 3) or beside the burner in a sealed burner range. It clicks when it’s working.

Solution 2: Clean the burner assembly

Photo 1: Remove the burner assembly

Lift the burner assembly off the support arm as you slide it away from the burner valve port. It just rests there. Remove the shipping screws if they’re still in place. (You don’t have to reinstall them.) Your burner assembly may look a bit different from ours, but you can clean all the components the same way.

Photo 2: Brush out the tube

Shove the brush into the flash tube to clear gunk and dust. Although some pros use water and degreasers to clean the burner assembly, we don’t recommend them because they could cause rust.

Photo 3: Clean the ports

Clear all the flash ports with a needle, then do the same to the burner ports. Brush away any debris with a toothbrush.

Photo 4: Clean the burner valve

Stick the needle in the burner valve port a few times to clear any debris.

This takes five minutes. Clean the burner assembly the same way for both spark ignition stoves and standing pilots. You’ll need a small diameter brush. We purchased a tube brush from a drugstore.

Appliance parts stores have them too. If you have sealed burners, you’re limited to cleaning only the burner ports (Photo 3). The other parts are sealed so they won’t get clogged.

Set the assembly in place and try your burners. If they still won’t ignite and you own a spark ignition stove, go to Solution 3. If you have a standing pilot, raise or lower the flame height slightly by turning a small setscrew located on the small gas line feeding the pilot. Consult your owner’s manual or call a pro to help find this screw and to tell you the proper setting for your range.

Solution 3: Check the spark ignition system (electronic ignition)

Photo 1: Switch replacement

Pull off the burner dials and remove any screws that secure the front cover. Remove the cover. Slide the wires off the terminals and insert them into the new switch in the same location. Some connections have a pressure clamp to secure the wire (Photo 2).

Photo 2: Remove wires from pressure clamps

Release the wire by shoving a small screwdriver into the slot and prying. Screw in the new switch and reinstall the cover.

Photo 3: Replace a module

Locate the module by tracing the switch wires back to the source. The module is a little box about 2 x 2 x 3 in. The location on the stove will vary. Ours was behind the right side panel. It can be taken off by removing the screws and sliding it forward. If it’s not on the side or behind the stove, check your owner’s manual for help. Slide the wires off their terminals, one at a time, and transfer each to the new module so you don’t mix them up. Remove the screws that secure the old module to the stove body and screw the new one in place.

Switches, control modules or igniters can go bad on a stove with electronic ignition. Use the following guide to test these devices.

  1. Check that the stove is plugged in, there is power to the outlet, and the circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. Spark ignition stoves need electricity to power the igniters. If your oven light turns on, you have power.
  2. Test if the switch (Photo 1) is at fault by turning a functioning burner to the “Light” position while simultaneously turning the one that’s not working to “Light.” If the burner that wasn’t working now comes on, the burner has a bad switch. See Photo 1 for instructions on replacing a switch.
  3. One at a time, turn each burner dial to “Light” for three seconds, then off again. Watch the igniters to see if they spark while you’re doing this. (Turning off the kitchen lights may help you see them.) Replace the module (Photo 3) if none of the igniters sparks. This is a common problem. (See “Tips for Buying Replacement Parts)
  4. Call in a pro to test the igniters. Igniters rarely fail, but they are difficult to test.

Problem 2: The oven won’t heat

Photo 1: check the fuse

Check your owner’s manual to see if your oven ignition system has a fuse. Ours was located under the cooktop, though locations vary. Replace it with the same size fuse if the fuse element is burnt.

Photo 2: Clean the pilot

Check to see if the pilot is lit (standing pilot only). It’s accessible under the panel in the oven or from underneath. If it’s not lit, clean it. Poke a needle into the end to clear the nozzle and scrub away debris with a brush. Also clean the tube or slit under the burner that connects the pilot to the gas ports on the opposite side of the burner.

Close-up of pilot

A burst of compressed air helps clear the soot. Light the pilot.

Before you open your wallet and call a professional to repair your oven:

Problem 3: An electric range burner won’t heat

Photo 1: Remove a bad burner

Compare the nonfunctioning burner with the other burners. If it looks pitted and scorched, unplug the range, then slip the burner out of its socket and replace it. To remove a burner, simply lift it slightly and pull the prongs from the socket. You may have to wiggle it slightly to get the prongs to release. Some burners are held by a screw that you must remove.

Photo 2: Tighten a burner connection

Wiggle the burner in the socket. If it’s loose in the socket, pull it out and spread the burner terminals slightly for a tighter connection. Do this gently—the metal is fragile and you don’t want to crack the heating element! Then clean the socket with a wire brush. Reinstall the burner, plug the stove back in and test the results.

Photo 3: Replace a bad socket

Replace a scorched socket by removing the screws that secure it to the range top. Then unscrew the range wires and screw them to the terminals on the new socket.

If your range has a burner that’s not working, chances are you can fix it without any special tools. To diagnose a burner problem, go through the steps in order. If the burners still don’t work, call a service professional for help. Our list should take care of 95 percent of the problems that could occur with a burner. If you see burnt wires, have a pro look at the range. It could indicate a bigger problem.

  1. Check the burner for wear. If it’s pitted and scorched (Photo 1), replace it.
  2. Check the connections for a solid contact (Photo 2).
  3. Remove a functioning burner of the same size and try it in the socket that’s not working. If that burner works, replace the bad burner with a new one.
  4. Inspect the burner socket. If it’s charred or scorched, replace it (Photo 3). There are two main types of wire connections. Sockets have either screw connections (Photo 3) or wire leads that you attach to the range wiring with the supplied ceramic wire connectors.

Caution

Always unplug your electric range before removing a burner.

Tips for Buying Replacement Parts

Before you go to purchase a part, write down the brand name, model number and serial number of the range. The range will have an engraved plate with this information usually located under the cooktop lid or on the back. Look in the Yellow Pages under “Appliances, Parts” for a supplier. Call first to be sure the part you need is in stock. Or order over the Internet.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

Old toothbrush
Small screwdriver
Needle
Small tube brush

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