HELP! - got electrical shock touching stove chassis when off

fasola-shapenoteJune 4, 2010

Hey all-

I've got an older (1980s perhaps) Whirlpool electric stove. I just got shocked by it, touching the chassis. It was not on at the time.

I was standing over the stove, cracking open a pistachio nut, and dropped part of the shell on one of the burner coils. When I reached down to pick it up, I got a shock (the kind that feels like your arm is jiggling really fast, like when you're wiring a light switch and accidentally touch something you shouldn't).

So I grabbed my non-contact voltage sensor (one of those green-and-yellow ones that looks like a pen, which beeps and flashes a red light when brought near a live current), and sure enough it goes off anywhere within about 10 inches of the stove.

It's nothing obvious to me, like a frayed cord from a nearby appliance brushing against the stove.

What caused this, and how do I fix it? I don't have the money for even a used stove off of Craigslist, so I've got to be able to fix this thing.


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Your stove is probably connected with a 3 prong/ 3 wire cord which is grandfathered in from older days. A neutral connection may of came lose in the stove, wall receptacle, service panel, or any junction boxes (if any) on the way to the service panel. A lose neutral would put part of the current carrying components (clock, light, etc) in path with the chassis and create a shock hazard. It could also be that the grounding strap to the neutral from the appliance cord never was connected (leaving the appliance ungrounded) Have to open the cover where the cord comes in and check for tight connections and that a strap or jumper from the chassis to the neutral terminal is intact.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 12:49AM
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Yes, it is a 3-wire plug (all the 240v in this house - stove, hot water heater, clothes dryer, and wall A/C unit - is 3-wire).

So you're telling me that in order to create a 120v circuit for the oven light, clock, etc., it uses one of the two 120v legs, plus the ground as its neutral?

And that there is a break in that circuit along the ground/neutral line, so it's using the metal chassis of the stove as its ground/neutral in order to complete the circuit?

The internal wiring of the stove with regard to the clock and oven light and what-not is way too involved for me. I'd rather just disable all those 120v features and do without them; I don't ever use them anyhow. How do I go about doing that? I just want the simplest, fastest, easiest way to get my stove to quit shocking me.


    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 10:32AM
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You want to have a qualified repairmen take a look at this and get it repaired. Even if you could "disable" the 120V features, it wouldn't mean that there wasn't a shock hazard remaining. And until you can get this fixed, it remains very dangerous (i.e., it can kill you), so turn off the breaker for the stove until it's repaired properly.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 1:26PM
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You understand the suggested diagnosis correctly.

You can't easily just "disable all those 120v features and do without them". It can be done, sometimes, but why? The real problem here isn't "the oven has extra features". The problem is "the house wiring is screwed up, there's no neutral to this outlet". The latter is what you should be fixing, not just juryrigging the stove to compensate.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 1:26PM
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I doubt it is an outlet problem, though it would not hurt to check. Rather, I bet some of the insulation on the wiring internal to the stove has degraded and is now touching something. You're going to have to pull the stove away from the wall and check the state of the pigtail and wiring. Pay particular attention to the wiring to the coil tops. That wiring gets really hot and flexes when you move the coils for cleaning.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 2:09PM
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