Chances are you’ve been using your oven a lot during the holiday season, whether it’s cooking a turkey or a roast, or baking gingerbread cookies. Perhaps you like the idea of starting out the New Year with a clean oven which should be easily accomplished since your electric oven has a self-cleaning feature. The only problem is that the self-cleaning feature doesn’t want to cooperate.
Repair Clinic had identified six reasons why your electric oven is failing to self-clean. Before we get to those reasons, let’s go over how an oven can automatically clean itself in the first place.
How an electric oven’s self-clean feature works
So, how does an electric oven’s self-clean feature work? The oven self-cleans by doing the same thing it does when baking or broiling: the oven control will allow either one leg of alternating current (120 volts) or two legs of alternating current (240 volts) to travel to the bake or broil element, closing the circuit and causing the element to heat up. The difference is that most electric oven models will utilize both the bake and broil elements when the self-clean function is selected and the amount of heat in the oven will far surpass what is typically used to bake or broil food. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the oven temperature to reach 900° F (482° C) or higher when self-cleaning.
A door lock prevents the oven door from opening during the self-clean cycle
With that much heat building up inside the oven, you don’t want a child (or an adult) to accidentally open the oven door when the oven is self-cleaning. That’s why when the self-clean feature is selected, many models use a door lock motor to seal the door and prevent it from being opened during the self-clean cycle.
The self-clean cycle can last between 30 minutes to 6 hours
How long will an electric oven self-clean cycle last? That depends on the oven model and whether that oven has self-cleaning timing options. While the average self-cleaning cycle will take about three hours to run, some models will get the job done in a mere 30 minutes while others can take as long as 6 hours. During this time, the high amount of heat will literally incinerate the food particles and grease collected on the oven racks or walls of the oven, turning them into ash which can later be easily wiped away with a wet cloth.
Some oven models use steam to self-clean
Not all electric ovens use high heat to self-clean; some models will use steam to soften or loosen hard food deposits. Steam-cleaning is accomplished by pouring a cup of distilled water onto the bottom panel of the oven, closing the oven door, and choosing the “Steam Clean” setting. The oven temperature will only rise to about 250° F (121° C), but, during the hour the steam-cleaning cycle typically runs, the temperature will be hot enough to generate the steam needed to break down the food residue. While the steam-cleaning option is appealing for homeowners looking for a quick fix, experts say that using high heat is more effective for self-cleaning the entirety of the oven cavity.
Is it safe to run the self-clean cycle?
Since both high-heat and steam-clean oven self-clean cycles can produce smelly fumes in the kitchen, you may be wondering if it’s even safe to use the feature. The experts say there’s no need to worry, although it’s a good idea to turn on the range vent hood fan (if you have one) and open a window when running the oven’s self-clean function. It’s also recommended keeping everybody out of the kitchen until the self-clean cycle has finished.
While using the self-clean function won’t outright damage the oven, the excessive heat can potentially hasten the failure of worn parts like the bake or broil elements, switches, and the door latch. For this reason, you may want to avoid using the oven’s self-cleaning feature just ahead of a big family gathering or party.
Troubleshooting an electric oven that won’t self-clean
If your electric oven’s self-cleaning function simply isn’t functioning, Repair Clinic recommends troubleshooting these six potential causes:
1) Malfunctioning door lock motor & switch assembly – As noted above, during an electric oven’s self-cleaning cycle, the door switch activates the door lock motor to prevent the oven door from being opened. If the door lock motor and switch assembly is malfunctioning, the self-cleaning cycle may not start. For many lock assemblies, you can use a multimeter to test the microswitches inside the lock for electrical continuity – a continuous electrical path present in the switch. If a microswitch tests “negative” for electrical continuity when actuated, then the door lock assembly is defective and will need to be replaced.
2) Faulty thermal fuse – On some oven models, a thermal fuse will blow if the oven gets too hot, shutting off power to the oven. Since we know that a high-heat self-cleaning feature depends on the oven reaching temperatures of 900° F or more, a faulty thermal fuse may trip prematurely, interrupting the self-cleaning cycle. As with the door lock microswitches, you can use a multimeter to test the thermal fuse for electrical continuity to determine if it has blown.
3) Failing bake/broil element – If the bake or broil element is in the process of failing, the component may not be able to get hot enough for the oven to self-clean. You can often determine that you have a broken bake or broil element by closely examining the part for any visible breaks or blistering. And, yes, you can also use that multimeter to test the element for electrical continuity. If the meter reading shows something other than zero to fifty ohms of resistance when being tested, you’ll know the element is likely failing.
4) Defective oven door switch – The door switch is the component that alerts the oven control that the door is fully closed and the self-clean cycle can begin. However, a defective door switch can fail to alert the oven control that the door is, indeed, closed, preventing the self-clean cycle from starting. Use that multimeter to test the door switch for electrical continuity when the switch’s plunger is depressed to help determine if the part is defective or not.
5) Faulty temperature control thermostat – The oven control for some models is switch-based, using a thermostat and sensing bulb assembly to monitor the oven temperature. When the appropriate temperature is reached, the thermostat will shut off power to the heating elements. A faulty thermostat may have trouble assessing the oven temperature and prevent the oven from going into the self-cleaning mode.
6) Malfunctioning oven control board – If your oven uses an electronic control board to control voltage being sent to the heating elements, the board itself could be malfunctioning, although you should first rule out the failure of the other parts. While electronic control boards cannot be easily tested, you can inspect the board for signs of burning or a shorted-out component.
Free oven repair help provided by Repair Clinic
Want to learn how to properly test an electric oven bake or broil element for electrical continuity? Or, maybe, the correct way to replace a door lock motor on an LG gas range (model LRG3093ST)? Visit the “Videos & Articles” section of Repair Clinic’s website! That’s where you’ll find hundreds of free model-specific range and oven videos, step-by-step guides, and schematics to show you how to troubleshoot problems and install new parts to fix those problems.
Stick with genuine OEM parts when fixing your oven
When installing a new door switch, door lock motor, bake or broil element, or thermostat to repair your oven’s self-cleaning feature, it’s important to stick with genuine OEM parts for the best results. That’s why Repair Clinic stocks genuine manufacturer replacement parts that fit ovens from all the top names such as GE, Bosch, KitchenAid, Electrolux, LG, Kenmore, Samsung, and Hotpoint. To find all the compatible parts that fit your particular range or oven, enter the full model number in Repair Clinic’s “Search Parts Online & Get Answers” search bar. You can then use the “Part Category” and “Part Titles” navigation filters to refine the resulting list to locate the specific part you need. Fixing things is always easier when you have Repair Clinic as your repair partner.