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The 'No-Heat' Electric Oven

Thought I’d run through a fast diagnosis procedure on an electric oven that’s not heating. This is a pretty common problem, and if you’re reasonably handy, not all that tough to figure out.

First, as always, verify that you have power available. Turn on a surface burner and ensure it heats to a nice red glow, and you’ll know you have the necessary 240V.

Be aware that it’s possible for one side of the 240V supply to ‘drop out’, allowing the surface burners to heat slightly and other components to look normal. But if your surface burners get red hot, you know you have 240V.

Next, and I may be dating myself here, but, if your range uses an analog clock, be sure it's set to ‘manual’. There are several different ‘manual’ and ‘time-bake’ arrangements, but the instructions are usually found on or around the clock face.

We have corrected this many, many times over the years and saved running a service call by asking about this on the phone when receiving a ‘no heat’ call.  With some ranges it’s really easy to turn the oven off without realizing it, even while cleaning the range, so be sure and check for this if your clock is analog. If your range uses a red light that indicates the oven’s on - and you’re sure it’s been working - you’ll be able to tell when you get the clock set back to ‘MAN’, because this indicator will come on (and you’ll be a hero!)

If your range uses one of the newer electronic controls and it’s not displaying any ‘error codes’, you’ll need to progress further.

First, power the range down and run your hand over the bake element, feeling and looking for any rough areas. If the unit is electrically open, you’ll usually (not always) find a rough, burnt area, and often this will be obvious. In some cases the element will actually be blown apart, and if that describes yours, the element is definitely bad! These aren’t expensive; most cost between $20 and $30.

But if there’s no obvious damage to the element surface, we’ll continue.

The fastest way to proceed is identical to what we discussed on the ‘no heat’ dryer, and the same 240V test bulb is again put to good use.  If you’re not comfortable dealing with 240V, though, all the usual disclaimers apply - call a technician!

Power down the range and pull the bake element partway out of the oven cavity, usually by removing 2 screws. Connect your 240V bulb to the element terminals, being sure they aren’t touching the cabinet, and power back up. Turn the oven to ‘bake’ and watch that bulb. Light: open bake element. No light: control or wiring problems.

If there’s no voltage to the bake element, you might want to power down and remove the range back panel, looking for burnt wires. If there doesn’t seem to be any wiring damage, I'd probably recommend you call a pro.

In most cases, you’ll find either a burnt terminal (replace only with high temp nickel plated ones) or an open element, and either of these are well within the capabilities of a handy homeowner.

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