Runaway element on stove

The front-left element on our stove – the one that gets the most use – has a tendency to ‘run away’. That is, you’ll set it to, say, 4, and as soon as you leave the kitchen or are occupied doing something else, the element will get as hot as it can get. Do elements burn out, like light bulbs? Is the switch bad? Do we have a poltergeist? How do I fix this?

That could be dangerous. Stop using it!

If it’s an old stove and you can afford it, I’d replace it because, if that element is defective, there could be other things that are in the process of deteriorating. You don’t want to find out which ones the hard way!

If it isn’t old, I’d say invest in having it repaired.

On many electric stoves the elements are plugged into sockets. If that’s true with yours you could swap with another element of the same size and see what happens. If you don’t have the problem, replace the element. If you do, it’s not the element.

It’s less than 10 years old, and I can’t afford a new one.

Actually, I just thought of that and I came back to mention it. It’s probably (but not a certainty) that I swap elements when I clean the stove. If so, then it’s not the element.

Thermostat is sticking on.
Probably a simple fix for a repair man.

Why would you count on “probably” swapping the elements? Why not just deliberately swap them now, so you can keep track of which is the questionable one and which is the known good one?

It’s unlikely to be the element itself; it’ll be the control unit for the element, which is probably somewhere up behind the controls.

If the replacement part’s still on the market, replace that part (or get a repairperson to do it if you’d have trouble moving the stove to get at the thing, or if you’re concerned about dealing with electrical parts.) If the replacement part’s no longer on the market, you’ll have to replace the whole stove; which is IMO an obnoxious, expensive, antiecological nuisance. The parts aren’t standardized and may be different for every model.

In the meantime, don’t use the burner. Tape the control in the off position to remind yourself not to. It’s way too likely to start a fire.

I once helped my father fix one of the appliances using a refurbished part bought from an appliance service store. We gave them the defective part in return. At least back then, even if replacement parts weren’t available as new stock, there were companies that refurbished these parts.

Oh, I’ll do it deliberately. I was just thinking that I probably swap them without thinking.

I had a problem with the microwave oven a year or so ago. NOBODY would do a repair, unless I’d bought it from them. I suspect that I may have the same problem with this Sears (Kenmore?) stove. I’ll have to post on Next Door to see if anyone around here can recommend a repairman. Or if it’s the switch, I can get a replacement and I might be able to figure it out myself.

Damn, I miss gas! :frowning:

I spent quite a while about three or four years ago trying to hunt up a replacement, through local stores or online, for that part for a thirty year old stove which was otherwise working just fine. No success whatsoever; had to replace the stove.

And the new one’s developed the same problem – I have to get around to getting that fixed. Since it didn’t take 30 years this time I can probably still get the part; but on the other hand to have this happen to what by my standards is an almost brand new stove is very annoying.

It was several decades ago when this happened at my house. I think back then, the controls for things like washing machines were largely mechanical, so it was possible to easily disconnect and reconnect them and to take them apart and fix them. The largely electronic controls in appliances today are probably not easily repaired.

It’s not likely to be the element.

The big question here is whether or not this is an old fashioned type stove with individual controls or if it has a single electronic type control panel. If it’s the old fashioned type, then the controller (the bit with the knob that you turn) needs to be replaced. The burner controller is typically somewhere between $10 and $50. They aren’t difficult to replace if you’re handy with appliance repair. If you don’t have experience with electrical wiring, let a pro do it.

If it’s a newer type stove that has a single control panel, then the usual fix is to replace the entire control panel. The panel will typically be somewhere around $150 to $250.

Many stoves these days have a fancy electronic control panel for the oven but old fashioned simple knob controllers for the burners.

Make and model of the stove?

It’s a Kenmore, but I don’t know the model. I think I probably got it about eight years ago. It has individual knobs to control the burner, and an electronic panel to control the oven/broiler. I don’t have experience with wiring, other than to change light switches and electrical sockets.

ETA: I did remove the knob.

I had the opposite issue with my microwave and the home warranty repair people. I asked them if they could just save time and install a new unit. But no, they came back three freaking times to attempt a repair on a $275 microwave. They finally got it working but damn, now I’m stuck with a 10 year old microwave that probably cost $400 to repair instead of getting a new one. Stupid is as stupid does comes to mind.

And the home warranty people used Sears service, not sure who is doing their service calls now.

It’s not much more difficult than changing out an electrical socket. Some burner controllers have a single connector on the back which makes it simple to swap out the wiring on the controller. Others have individual wires. You’ll need to be careful to get the wires in the right place if you don’t have a keyed connector for the wiring.

Some stoves come apart like a friggen Chinese puzzle box. But most of them you just take the back panel off and it’s relatively easy. Some you have to take the entire back panel off. Others just have a smaller panel over the top where the controls are. Some of the burner controllers bolt on from the back, and others from the front. Front is more common. If you pull the knob off and see screws holding it on, then yours bolts on from the front.

You are going to need the model number of the stove. It should be on the back panel somewhere. Alternately you can probably just get the part number off of the burner controller itself and look that up online.

Take a look at some youtube videos if you want to see what you are in for if you want to do this yourself.

Make sure you unplug the stove before taking it apart.