Model #RF378LXKQ0, this freestanding electric range had been working just fine, but the last time the customer went to use the oven, what was described as a series of sparks could be seen from behind the control panel. Oddly enough, the circuit breaker never tripped, but the light show was enough to get the customer to cut the power to the range and call for service.
For obvious reasons, we don’t like to see random bits of electricity arcing in or near our appliances and if you are unfortunate enough to have this happen, it’s best to shut off the power and seek qualified help. Electric ranges use 240 volts AC that is made up of two separate 120 volt AC circuits. These circuits connect to the appliance at the terminal block which is a connection point for the various circuits within the range including the oven and cooktop elements.
Because of the number of connections inside the typical range at each of the elements along with the control infinite switches, the most common reason for a spark show is a loose wire that is now contacting something metal that it shouldn’t be touching. This can be another wire, or since most ranges are made of metal, the chassis itself. Normally, a good working circuit breaking will trip once this contact has been made, but some are more resilient than others leaving the user possibly exposed to getting shocked simply by touching the range. These are simply words of caution as getting shocked has very little fun potential.
With the power off to the range, yes I checked, I removed the rear access panel which will give a good look at the wiring connections on the back of this range. Once removed, the tell tale signs of a live wire touching the housing could be seen along the back of the range. This arc welding had not only caused some burn marks, but the end of the wire was actually stuck to the back panel as a demonstration of how much heat can be generated using electricity. But the failure wasn’t as simple as a connector that had come loose. Looking at the end of the broil element shows a missing terminal and evidence the insulation around the connector had been exposed to excessive heat.
It appears the end of the element had been getting hot and eventually the terminal broke loose from the element. Once free, the next time the customer went to use the oven, current began to flow through the wire and created sparks as it contacted the back of the oven until coming to rest in it final location. Here it continued to arc until it melted to the back panel. The good news was other than a broil element, nothing else had failed.
A new broil element was replaced and the wire connector securely attached to the terminal connector on the element. Power was turned back on to the range and a quick test showed it was working just fine.
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