Five Common Problems with Electric Stovetops

For many people, using their range or built-in cooktop is an everyday event. Here are 5 common problems that you may experience. 

Those taking a DIY approach to troubleshooting (and there are some very capable, experienced do-it-yourselfers out there) are urged to use extreme caution and to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions

Most electric stoves run on 220 volts, often a lethal amount of current.  Always make sure to turn off the electricity to your stove when inspecting or testing by unplugging it or cutting power at the breaker or fuse box.

Here are some tips for basic inspecting and replacing, mostly applicable to coil burner stovetops, including when to call in a qualified technician. 

For testing cords and burner terminals you can use a multimeter, available at most hardware stores and building centers.

There are three commonly-used terms for the switch that turns the surface element on and off and controls the heat level for that element.  They are interchangeably called the “surface element control switch” or “surface burner switch” or “infinite switch”. 

1. One of the Burners Won’t Turn On

If one of the electric burners won’t turn on or heats intermittently, test all the others. If just one coil is heating improperly or not at all: 

  • Check the connection and make sure the coil itself is firmly pushed down into the cooktop.
  • Replace the coil with another one from your cooktop — if that coil works fine then it’s time for a replacement coil. You can also often tell by looking at the connector ends of the coils to see whether they are bent or damaged.  You can also test the coil with a multimeter.  
  • If the replacement coil does not work, test the terminal that those connections plug into. Using a multimeter, check to see if they still have continuity. If not, then the terminal itself will need to be replaced. 
  • The burner switch may be the problem if the terminal seems fine. If the switch is faulty, either no electricity flows to the coil or it may manifest in the burner functioning only on the high setting. Refer to your owner’s manual to locate the burner switch or contact a technician. 
  • If you have a glass/ceramic stovetop, it is possible to remove the glass to inspect your burners, but it’s wise to contact a professional who has experience in these matters.

2. None of the Burners Will Turn On

Each burner on an electric stovetop is a separate entity. Most problems only cause one burner not to work. If no burners on an electric cooktop are functioning, this is usually an indicator of some overall electrical malfunction. Inspection might solve the issue.

  • Check the power source: When no burners are functioning, first check the electrical source to the stove. Some cooktops may be plugged into the outlet in the wall while others may be hardwired to your circuit breaker. If the plug was securely plugged in, remove it and test the outlet for power. If there is no electrical current to the outlet or it is not at the level that it should be, your stove will not function. The repair instead will need to be to the outlet (loose or broken wire) or there is no power coming from the breaker.
  • Check the circuit breaker: Is your electric cooktop hardwired to the circuit breaker? If so, check the circuit breaker. Make sure the switch in your circuit breaker to your stove is in the “on” position (a tripped breaker can be just back from the fully on position) and check for any blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers. If this is the case, you’ll need to investigate how the breaker got flipped in the first place, as it can be a sign of other issues.  You may spot loose connections, corrosion, or other damage that will interfere with proper operation.
  • Test the cord and terminals: Shut off electricity to your stovetop before testing the cord and the terminals. Your cord can be tested as a whole with a multimeter and you can test each connection at the terminal as well to find faults.

3. Your Electric Coils Stay Too Hot

Ideally, when you turn an electric burner from high to a lower temperature, the electricity is cut to the coil. The cooktop then senses when it has reached the desired temperature and turns the coil back on to maintain it. The coil then cycles electricity periodically to maintain the temperature.

If an electric cooktop coil stays on high, the flow of electricity isn’t cycling properly. When this happens, it is sometimes because the burner switch is malfunctioning.

Replacing a burner switch is somewhat complex. To make sure the job is done correctly, you are advised to contact a skilled repair technician.

4. Element Won’t Turn Off

An out of control burner is a fire and safety hazard that needs to be dealt with immediately.  The first thing you should do is unplug your stove. 

There are three possible causes of an element failing to shut off:  

  • Broken Knob
  • Faulty Surface element
  • Faulty Burner switch

Broken knob: If the knob is cracked or broken, it may not be able to turn the temperature control stick. To test, unplug the stove and remove the knob and turn the temperature control manually. If this works, the knob will need to be replaced.

Faulty Surface Element: A short in the surface element might cause the burner to not shut off.  The electrical contacts may have fused together, creating a constant voltage to the burner. If this is so, you will need to replace the surface burner element. 

Faulty Burner Switch: If neither of the above is the cause, a likely cause is the surface element switch. It tells the stove how hot to heat, and when to turn on and off. If you have a short in the switch, your stove can’t disable the heat to the burner. If the switch is fused or damaged, it will need to be replaced and is best done by an expert.

5. Cooktop Creates Sparks When Turned On

An electric cooktop should never spark. If you notice sparks from your electric unit, you definitely need to make some repairs. These sparks are very dangerous, as they are a potential source of fatal electric shock or house fire.

Likely causes:

  • Too much weight can damage the element and cause the burner to loosen from the connector – resulting in sparks
  • Frayed or broken wires
  • Problem with the unit’s internal components

If you cannot deal with the problem safely, you should always seek out a professional repair expert to resolve this issue quickly.

If you need assistance resolving your cooktop problems or issues with other major appliances, please contact C&W Appliance Service. Call us at (214) 358-1496 or (855) 358-1496 or submit our online service request form.

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