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The surface element on my range will only work if I jiggle it. Can you tell me what's wrong?

This is a common problem in ranges, stoves and cooktops with removable surface elements.

Typical plug-in surface element

The tips of the plug-in element make contact with power from the range in a receptacle located beneath the cooktop. Inside these receptacles are contacts that can weaken or wear out over time. When this occurs, the electricity does not make continuous contact with the element and causes intermittent heating. This poor contact also generates heat that melts the receptacle block and damages the element contacts.

Burnt element tipsThe first thing you should do is inspect the tips of the plug-in element, they should be silver in color. If they are blackened or pitted, that is a sign of the problem I described. The terminal block that the burner plugs into needs to be replaced.

Depending on how bad the damage is to the element, it may be necessary to replace the element also. If only slightly discolored or burnt, you may be able to clean the element tips with steel wool or fine sand paper. Be warned however, the tips are plated with a thin layer of material to enhance conductivity. If you sand too hard, you will remove this coating and make the element unusable.

Burnt element tipsThe replacement terminal blocks (element receptacles) will either come with long wiring attached so that you can feed it directly to the switch that controls the element or with short wires and wire nuts to allow you to join it to the existing wiring.

If you decide to replace only the receptacle and not the element, keep an eye on that element in the future. If the same situation recurs, you'll need to replace both the element and the terminal block. Once a terminal block has been used with a bad element, it should be replaced and NOT used with the new element or damage to that new element can result.

To reduce the failure of the contacts in future, only remove the surface element for cleaning when absolutely necessary. The more the burner is removed, the sooner the contacts will weaken and cause problems.

A special note: On Jenn Air ranges, you should only use the genuine factory replacement receptacles. These come with heavy duty wiring and ceramic terminal blocks needed to withstand the extreme temperatures generated within the removable cartridges.

As of June 1, 2018, Underwriters Laboratory (UL) changed the standards for all electric coil elements. Ranges and cooktops using this type of burner are now equipped with temperature-limiting coils to reduce the risk of unattended cooking fires.

The temperature-limiting design could prevent the element on newer (2018+) model ranges from glowing fully red continuously, thereby reducing some cooking abilities.

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