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Website owner: 
Dave Harnish
CEO: Sadie
Dave's Repair Service
1911 Heath Hill Rd
New Albany, PA 18833

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The DRSNews
May 2004

By Subscription Only
Published by Dave’s Repair Service, All Rights Reserved

In this issue:

1) How to Convert Your Gas Range to LP
2) How to Replace Your Electric Range's Bake Element

1) Back in the March issue, we talked about gas dryers, both diagnosing them when they don't heat and converting them from Natural to LP gas.

I thought I'd take a brief run at ranges this month, starting with their conversion to LP.

(Note: in most locales, gas ranges cannot legally be plumbed and connected by homeowners, but they can be converted and adjusted by a 'non-professional'. Please check your local codes on this. And please - if you're at all uncomfortable doing any of this, call in a pro. But watch what he does - it really isn't difficult!)

1) New ranges ship from the factory already set up for natural gas. There at least a couple of reasons for this: 

 a) A higher percentage of our population uses natural gas
 b) It's easier to convert to LP than back from LP to natural

There are basically two types of ranges to deal with: those with sealed top burners, which are pretty much the standard today, and the conventional, 'non-sealed' ones.

While they operate in much the same way, their conversion is usually different. There are still a few ranges that use adjustable sealed burner orifices, but most are 'fixed' and must be individually replaced to convert each burner from one fuel to another. 

(An orifice is simply a small brass fitting with a specifically sized hole very accurately drilled through it, and, if adjustable, has a provision to change the size of this hole by turning closed a threaded portion).

Either way, basically what you're doing when going from natural gas to LP is changing to a smaller orifice to allow for the higher pressure supplied by the 'bottled' gas (The available energy in each ft of gas is different too, but for our purpose here that's not important). Natural gas supplies typically run around a pressure of 5.5 inches water column, while LP runs at twice that pressure, averaging around 11 inches. The orifice through which the gas travels to the burner must be smaller to accommodate this difference.

Adjustable orifices are simply 'snugged' down, clockwise, with a 1/2 inch open-end wrench, to convert them. Nearly all oven burners use these too - more about that in a minute.

Fixed orifices are replaced, and the good news is: the LP parts are usually included with the new range. On some brands (GE being one), the unused set is attached to a storage point on the stove, and this is a great idea. This way, they can't get lost, and if you ever want to convert back, there they are!

The not-so-good news: these little top burner orifices very often require a metric wrench to remove & install. And some can't be changed without a very slender wrench or nut driver.

A very useful tip I picked up many years ago: to hold that little orifice in a regular nut driver or socket, tear a very small piece of paper towel, hold it over the open socket, then push the orifice into the socket. The paper does a great job of holding the orifice into the wrench, preventing its being dropped into the 'innards' of the range.

The installation instructions that come with your range will usually be pretty clear on which orifices go into each burner head. Many new cook tops use as many as three different sized burners, each with a different BTU rating and orifice size.  I usually start by laying the correct orifice beside its corresponding burner, just to be sure I get them right the first time. Again, the instructions should be clear on this. Some use a color code system, while others use size numbers. (Note to manufacturers: here's another area that needs a standardized system)

One detail that's commonly overlooked  on these is the simmer settings. Each top burner valve has a small screw inside its shaft that can be adjusted to provide a low simmer. This adjustment must be made on each burner once the range has been converted, or 'simmer' settings will be far too high to be useful.

A small-bladed screwdriver is needed for most of these. If you can't find one small enough, it's possible to grind one down to fit. I've noticed some of the most recent ranges are using a larger screw that's a lot easier to access, and that's a welcome change.

That should help get you through the top burner conversion. Not as hard as it sounds, and stay with us -the rest is much easier. 

First convert the regulator. This is the part to which the inlet connects. Remove the vent cap, flip the insert over and reinsert it (You'll usually see 'NAT' on one side and 'LP' on the other). Reinstall the cap, and that's done.

Then, find the brass orifice that supplies the bake burner (usually under the range, behind the drawer), and if included, the broil burner (usually inside the oven). These are adjustable, and, like adjustable top burners, are simply 'snugged' down clockwise with a 1/2 inch wrench. 

Then turn the oven on, keeping in mind that it may take up to 2 minutes for ignition to occur. Watch the burner flame. If, after burning for a minute or so, it pulls noisily away from the burner, it's getting too much primary air. Simply loosen the screw on the air shutter, where you just turned down the orifice, and close this shutter down a bit to reduce air into the mixture. If the flame is yellow-tipped and appears 'soft' (you'll know if you see it), open the shutter a bit to increase air into the mix. This adjustment isn't critical, and will rarely have to be done. But you should now about it. Again, the instructions should mention this.

Congratulations! Your new stove's flames should be a cheerful, even blue, and you just saved yourself some serious money.

2) Not to neglect electric range owners <grin>, here are a few tips on replacing that burnt out bake element in your oven. These will usually - not always - be obviously burnt out. I've seen cases where the burnout was wild enough to melt a hole right through the oven liner. Yikes!

First, power down the range. On most ovens, one of the bake element leads will be 'hot' with respect to ground, and can provide an unpleasant surprise if you're pulling it out still powered-up.

If your oven door comes off - and most do today - pull it. Makes this job much easier.

Years ago, most bake elements simply unplugged, and you took the old one to your local, corner appliance store (anybody remember those?), picked up a new one, and plugged it in. Early ones that used open Nichrome coils could even be re-wired back in the 50's.

These days, unless your oven uses one of the new 'hidden' bake elements, there are usually two screws holding the element to the back wall of the oven liner. Remove these and carefully pull the unit out. In most cases there's (just) enough wire to pull the terminals free of the back wall and disconnect them. If not, you'll have to pull the range out and access the wires from the back.

On most later ranges, the terminals are quick-disconnect, and this can be a good thing. If your originals are at all burnt or damaged be sure and replace them, using only nickle-plated, high-temperature terminals. 

Also be certain they're crimped properly, and not just squeezed flat. 

Note: I've used the Vaco 1900 crimping tool for years, and it makes a lasting repair, nicely 'dimple-crimping' terminals. It's really tough to find one anywhere these days, though, since they've been discontinued.

On elements using screw terminals, be sure to support the terminal with a pliers as you tighten the screws. 

Once the terminals are tight, just bolt it back in. Power up and set it to bake, being sure the new element has no 'hot spots' (glowing a lot more than the rest of the element). You're done!


If you have any topics you’d like to see discussed here or covered in an online article, let me know and I’ll do my best to oblige. The website is a resource I'm excited about, because it allows a lot more flexibility and detail than email. It's a lot easier, for example, to use photos to illustrate something in a web document than via email.

And thanks for all your encouragement - I really appreciate it! May the Lord richly bless you & yours!


Dave Harnish
Dave’s Repair Service
New Albany, PA

"Success isn't the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire." - R. Leach

Exodus 20:11




"Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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