Notes on our ovens

Russell Bateman
December 2012
last update:

Fixing our ovens...

When young, we fixed stuff ourselves. No big deal; poverty, semi-poverty or just frugality meant that we did it instead of paying someone else to do it.

Somewhere along the way, they figured it out. Auto makers began colluding with dealerships to produce cars that would need a modicum of repairs over their service life. Guys like me who used to know what every last thing under the hood did and what to do when it broke, long ago stopped recognizing much. Television sets, washers, ovens, refrigerators and other electric appliances became unserviceable at the component let alone subcomponent levels. Too, we get better jobs and better pay wimping out and allowing our manhood to drip away.

Well, today, I cheated the system. I fixed my two-oven stack, saving myself hundreds of dollars.

It used to be that when an oven stopped working, you replaced the heating element that no longer fired.

This is almost never the problem today. Last year, in my old house I kept for (usually related) college students. I lost an oven for want of a magic board to keep it running. Oven manufacturers discontinue component-level replacements after a few years and what was an dream oven I bought brand, spanking new in the late 1990s, an upscale one to boot, was reduced to worthless and I had to replace it.

That unit needed not only the circuit card that ran the oven elements, it also need the logic module—what ran the digit read-out, touch pad, etc.

I learned a few years ago, at the same time that I was first disabused of the out-dated notion that you can simply replace an element when it stops working, that modern ovens turn on and off the elements. This is the clicking sound you're hearing. In this way, they also use less power and need far less current. It cost me something like $350 to learn this lesson, about $200 of it was for a new circuit board.

When I installed my oven in the old house and the stack in my new one, I always ran 8-3 or at least 10-3 with ground to supply them. But I noticed that the ovens' factory cabling wasn't anything like that heavy. This can be because they now cycle on and off making it unnecessary to handle such huge current loads (30 or 40 amps back in the day) for so long a time. (Or, so I theorize.)

What this means is that when the oven goes out (excepting for the logic board), it's likely a relay/solenoid, the thing that goes clickity-click.

Having kept a board I needed to replace in my oven stack a few years back, I reached a conclusion based on inspecting it: the built-in obsolescence relies on the circuit board heating up and slowly letting its solder melt and/or dissipate. You replace the board because it stops functioning. It might have been a relay, but likely it wasn't. It was the board.

I just proved this to myself. I kept that old board and resoldered two relay lugs that were obviously "unsoldered" over the few years I'd had it thinking that if the board ever failed again, I'd at least try the old one now repaired. It was the upper oven.

The lower oven lost its broiler a year ago or so, but I've just been using the upper one. (Besides, everything I put under a broiler is reduced to ash anyway, so I generally avoid using it.) Last week, I lost the whole bottom oven for baking as well—just in time for Christmas dinner.

I'm about to embark on my traditional New Year's Eve dinner. Pulling it off with a single oven isn't pleasant to think about.

Today, I pulled it out, photographed the boards, recognized the new board (which was for the upper oven) and pulled the one for the bottom instead (after also noting all the colored cabling in case my photos weren't sufficient).

Sure enough, the dysfunction was identical to the old board for the top oven. Excited to prove my theory, I dug out my old Weller and applied new solder to two points underneath the board. I reassembled and fired up the lower oven.