Strategies for DIY Appliance Repair – Electric Range Edition

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I’m starting to think that all the inanimate objects around my house somehow found out that I started a Finance DIY blog this year and want to help me fill it with content by breaking down. First, the dishwasher started acting up, then the dryer quit not once, but twice and now my flat top stove decided to become ¼ less useful. Most of these are common issues that crop up over the years of constant use, but it’s unusual to have it all happen one after another.

Before putting the house on the market previous owners did a lot of work to make it more attractive to a potential buyer. They hired a crew to paint all walls neutral colors, replaced the wall-to-wall carpeting, refinished wood floors, replaced vinyl floors with tile in the master bathroom, added granite countertops and backsplash tile in the kitchen and replaced all kitchen appliances with new stainless steel ones from GE. I must say their plan worked well as we were impressed with all the updates, especially compared to the other houses we saw in the same price range. We bought the house and put our own touches on it, but all major work has already been done.

It’s been almost six years since we’ve moved in so I should expect stuff to start showing its age. When my wife called me at work to say that the front left heating element stopped working on our stove I asked for the model and spent a few minutes online to figure out what can be wrong. My first thought was that the heating element must have gone bad so I looked up the replacement part price just to see what to expect.

I’ve  replaced my fair share of surface burner heating elements like this one which is extremely easy even for someone with limited DIY skills. Our current stove is of the smooth glass top variety which looks far less DIY friendly at first glance. However as with most appliances, the actual repair is very easy and there are many places online that will sell you the correct part if you know the model number.

For example, if your GE stove model number is JB690SF1SS and you need to replace the front left heating element, you could start by going to www.geapplianceparts.com and typing in the model number at the top of the page. Then you would go to “Cooktop” parts, look at the diagram and identify that you need part #57 called “ELEMENT RADIANT 9 DUAL” jotting down the actual part number “WB30T10133”.

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At this point you can simply buy the part from this site for around $105 shipped or you can shop for a better price, which is what you should absolutely do. It’s very easy now that you have the actual GE part number required to fix the stove. You can type “WB30T10133” into Google search and it will bring up many other sites that will probably have a better price than the one quoted before. For example, one of the first results will be this one selling for less than $60 with free shipping. That’s over a 40% discount for less than a minute of research – not bad!

It’s important to realize that this works very similar to DIY car repairs. Not only will you save on expensive labor but you will also save on parts because you will have a chance to find the best price yourself instead of paying “list prices”. List prices are for suckers and unfortunately that’s what you’ll pay if you bring your car to the shop or call an appliance repair company, on top of the astronomical hourly rates and “service call” fees.

One of the key ingredients to achieving Financial Independence faster is to NEVER PAY RETAIL! Insourcing virtually guarantees that you will never have to worry about this problem.

Lets rewind and note that I haven’t actually confirmed yet that the heating element was indeed the problem here. The quick research above was done after I hung up with my wife just to see what type of financial “damage” we are likely talking about here. After I got back home it was time to open up the stove to see what’s the problem. It’s just a few simple steps.

Pull out and unplug the stove.

There are 2 screws under the lip of the flat top clearly visible after opening the oven door. The one on the left is circled in red in this picture (click for a better view):

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Remove those screws, lift up the stove top and use something to prop it open. The heating element it held by a couple more screws which can be easily taken out allowing you to release the heating element.

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Inspect the coils inside the element. If there are any breaks, burns or visible damage you have found the culprit. You would now need to order the part and then swap it in. It’s all plug and play where you disconnect each wire one at a time on the old element and connect it to the same contact on the new element. A minute later you’ll have the old element in your hand and the new one hanging off the wires.

The one from my stove looks in perfect working condition so the problem must be somewhere else.

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Looking at the wiring it’s easy to spot the problem – one of the wires has disconnected causing the heating element to stop working.

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Put the wire back in its place and secure the element back up to the glass using the brackets and the screws.

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This is a good time to test your handiwork by plugging the stove back and firing up the burner. Everything was working once again so I finished putting the stove together while enjoying the satisfaction of fixing yet another problem with my own hands.

I might never know how in the world that wire got disconnected on a stationary object. My money is on the repeated opening and closing of the oven door loosening up the connection over the last 6 years. What I do know is that, as always, there are a couple of valuable lessons in this DIY:

  • The problem might initially seem worse than it is. Don’t say “we need a new stove” because one burner is not working. It’s tempting to quickly fix the problem by throwing money at it, especially if the offending appliance is older and “can use an upgrade anyway”.
  • Don’t rush to call the repair man. Do you think you could do the steps described here? This took 10 minutes start to finish and cost $0. If you call someone to come out they will still charge in the neighborhood of $80-$120 just for showing up and connecting the wire. You’d pay at least another $100 (list price!) for the part if the heating element was broken. Or you might get scammed and pay for a new part even if it wasn’t broken to begin with. There are lots of shady repairmen and auto mechanics that will gladly sell you an overpriced part that never needed replacing in the first place!
  • Don’t buy the replacement part until you are sure of the cause. As an “experienced DIYer” I was tempted to order a new heating element right after I hung up the phone with my wife. I felt like I was 99.9% sure it was a bad heating element based on some other repairs I’ve done before. I was 100% wrong.
  • Not being afraid to tackle the problem yourself and learning basic DIY skills will not only save you a ton of money but also a lot of time, since you won’t have to depend on other people’s schedules and be home “between 11 AM and 4 PM”.
  • DIY reinforces confidence in your ability to be self-reliant. In our increasingly outsourced world it’s satisfying to be able to quickly address any common household issue. My wife always jokes that I can always pick up handyman gigs if my IT career goes south. Once the mortgage is paid off, I could probably do that part time along with some simple auto repair and we’d still be able to pay all the bills. Diversification is not only for your investments. Diversify your skill set and never fear what the future may bring!

 

2 thoughts on “Strategies for DIY Appliance Repair – Electric Range Edition

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