Electric stove problem

gmom74November 8, 2010

I have an old GE double oven stove- small oven at head height and larger lower oven. I love this stove even though it's pretty old. Recently I was boiling some corn and had my left hand resting on a metal strip on the upper edge of the stove top. I reached into the boiling water with metal tongs to turn the corn and got a nasty shock. Does anyone know what might be happening? I don't want anyone getting hurt and don't want the house to catch fire. I've looked at the new so-called double oven stoves and the lower oven is practically on the floor- not for me. I hate getting just the one oven stove- don't want to have to remodel to put a second oven in. I've thought about having the stove rewired but no time now till Thanksgiving. What to do? Any advice? Thank you.

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Most likely is that a wire has broken through its insulation and is not touching the trim.

The breaker should trip, but on old equipment all bets are sort of off since it was not made to the same level of safety we use now.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2010 at 5:18PM
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    Bookmark   November 8, 2010 at 5:29PM
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Believe it or not, I'm with smithy on this one.

I'm gonna guess the stove is properly grounded, and the 'broken wire' is the heating element (burner) itself. It has worn through, making the pot, and thus the water, electrically live. You inserting metal tongs in there completed the circuit, burner -> pot -> water -> tongs -> you -> trim -> frame -> ground.

Solution? Replace burner. Problemo el-solvo.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 3:24AM
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I guess I agree with both of you. That is, it could be a frayed wire in the cooktop part, or a bad element. I think the cooktop part suffers more from heat effects than the oven(s) in that the wiring in the oven is usually buried in insulation whereas the wiring under the cooktop is not.

sometimes, with years of cleaning and being knocked around, the cooktop element sockets get loose and the wires fray at the ends.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 8:53AM
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On every open-element electric range I've ever seen, the elements rest on a steel support. I'd expect that if the range frame is grounded, so is that support. Thus a fault in the element *should* be grounded.

But things often get pretty cruddy in a range. If that element ground is now of very high resistance, some of the fault current might indeed be conducted to ground through the operator as Pharkus describes.

I'd start by lifting the element out of its support so that it's definitely isolated from the range frame, and measure the leakage current with a multimeter. A cheap neon tester to range frame should also detect leakage, though it'll glow on leakage you probably can't feel.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 3:13PM
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if the ceramic portion of the element has "worn through" on the top side where it makes contact with the bottom of the pan, the frame isn't going to ground it.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 7:31PM
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Does this range have "swing up" elements (eyes) or do they pull out of a connector? Have you lined the drip pans with foil? Was only one burner on when incident happened?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 7:38AM
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Thanks to everyone. Cuffs, only one burner was being used at the time of the incident and no, the drip pans are not lined with foil. Three burners can be pulled out easily so I can clean the pan underneath. The unit in question has six contact points in a clear plastic (I guess) housing with wiring that runs under the cooktop where I can't see it. Looking at the six contact points I see nothing broken-
Maybe I could just use the other burners but if the wiring underneath the cooktop is broken, even they could cause a shock. I have since used the unit but have been careful to not touch the metal on the cooktop- and I wasn't cooking anything in water.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 8:55AM
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Ron Natalie

Pull out the defective element and take it to the appliance store or home center and get a replacement. It won't run you $25 and the problem will be solved.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 9:05AM
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and I wasn't cooking anything in water.

Alright, now you're picking nits.

It doesn't matter what you were cooking or what you were cooking it in. You established an electrically-conductive through the contents of that pan.

Wait a minute. You were boiling corn. What do you boil corn in, if not water? Transmission fluid? Remind me not to ever eat at your house.

I think it's highly unlikely that the frame/chassis of the stove became live, since it is tied to ground/neutral. Even if it did become live, where did the OP get grounded? Do any of you seriously believe the case became hot while the food was grounded? Again, the OP got shocked only upon contact with both the stove and the tongs. I see no realistic way for the corn, after harvesting, to be grounded, so I'm going to very firmly assert that the vegetables were HOT, in more ways than one. I see NO WAY for this to occur OTHER than a failure in the element itself.

The OP needs to replace her burner. That's it. She does not need a new stove. Shocking the user proves that it is grounded, so poo-poo on the "it's old so it's not safe" concept.

gmom74, call an appliance repair place and order a burner. You'll probably need the stove's model number.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 11:01AM
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Ah yes, Pharkus. We have decided to take the advice of a few of you and replace the burner. There has been no time to do it yet. I'm hoping that Sears or another store will have the kind we need in stock so it doesn't have to be ordered. By the way, as I said, I have cooked on the unit again since the first episode but did not use water for the cooking. I am not an electrician so I didn't know if I boiled corn again or boiled a crab, whether I would get shocked again. Though it seemed to have something to do with that metal strip that I touched at the same time on the cooktop. But when we replace the unit, I don't plan to be the one to try it out. Maybe someone at the store will know how it can be tested without getting a shock again. And Pharkus, it would be safe to eat at our house- no strange ways of cooking here. Just plain old soul food. But then, that's strange to a lot of people, isn't it?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 2:27PM
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When I needed to get an oven element for my GE, I went to a neighborhood appliance store. You might want to check the yellow pages before going to Sears.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 7:23PM
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I'm with weedmeister. We've got a small family-owned appliance store in town that has always managed to have or quickly get parts for just about everything I've come across, regardless of brand or age.

I've had no such luck with Sears. Last time I called them, for an air conditioner part, I was told they HAD the part, and it was in stock. They even told me the price, but they weren't allowed to sell it to me.

Of course they offered me a brand-new air conditioner at a much higher cost.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 7:56PM
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