Sunday, September 13, 2015

HOWTO: Fix a GE XL44 Gas Oven that won't pre-heat (or takes forever to pre-heat)

Disclaimer
You're messing with a gas oven. Natural gas is dangerous. Electricity is dangerous. You could break your oven. You could burn or kill yourself. If you're not comfortable with fooling around with these sorts of things, call a professional. I'm not a professional, I'm a homeowner who likes to tinker. This information is provided AS IS with no warranty express or implied. If you use any of this information to repair your stuff, YOU are responsible for the outcome and agree not to hold me responsible for it...even if the information I've provided here is dead wrong.
Repair Difficulty
Holy cow was this easy. Including taking apart, pulling the oven out of its spot, installing and putting it all back it took me 15 minutes to complete.
Symptoms
The problem can present itself as several different symptoms. In my case, the oven would take a long time to light and once it lit, it would shut off within a few seconds. I've had problems with this unit before and the symptom was that it wouldn't light at all. Because it was firing up but then shutting off, I had thought it might be the valve that was at fault, but after a lot of reading on the interwebs, I went after the igniter. When I tested the oven igniter, I noticed that it didn't glow nearly as yellow as the broiler igniter; that's a sure-fire sign of a failed igniter. It's a cheap part, available here: GE WB13K21 Igniter for Oven, and if it turns out that wasn't the bad part, rest assured, it'll fail at some point and it'll be good to have a replacement around. Be sure to search the exact model number of your oven (it's on a sticker that's visible when you open your warming drawer or oven door). Mine used the square igniter. Some use the round one.
What's wrong?
One word: Igniter. The igniter on these units has a lifetime, sometimes short, sometimes a few years. It depends on how often you use it, but it will fail. Most of the other parts on the oven will last a very long time. This one wont. Luckily, it's easy to replace.
Why is it doing this
Again, I'm not a professional, but I understand a little bit about how these things work. The process for starting your gas oven is pretty simple. Electricity runs through your igniter making it glow. In a working igniter, it will glow yellow/white and become *very* hot. When it reaches the right level of "hot", the valve that controls the flow of gas into the burner opens up. If for some reason the igniter isn't getting hot enough, the valve will not open. In my case, the igniter just beginning to fail. It was getting plenty hot (well past the point of being able to light the oven), but electrically it wasn't getting hot enough for the valve to keep gas flowing into the burner. As a result, within a second or so the valve would shut and the flame would die (and a small stench of natural gas would flow into the room).
Tools Needed
A 1/4" socket wrench or a screw driver that uses magnetic replaceable bits (common in "multi-screwdriver" tool sets -- they just happen to be 1/4").
A flat-head screw driver and a Phillips head screw driver (or appropriate bits for your magnetic replaceable head screwdriver).
Steps
Unplug the oven from power.
Shut the gas off leading to the oven.
Take the cover off of the bottom of the oven. This is done by removing the two screws in the back, pushing the bottom cover toward the back and tilting it up and out.

Take the warming drawer off by pulling it all the way out and then pushing up on the little plastic tab sticking out of the left side of the drawer arm and down on the right little plastic tab on the right.
You'll see the following in the back of your oven.
Unplug the plastic cable connection and pull the cable up from behind the igniter and burner in the back.
Remove the two screws securing the igniter.
OPTIONALLY - If you haven't purchased your part yet and just want to get the oven Bake feature working (we rarely use the broiler so we were more OK with that being out), you can swap the two igniters if they are identical in your XL44 (there are *many* models of XL44 on the market, so check them). If you decide to do this, remove the small metal panel from the back to get to the connection for the broiler igniter and remove the two screws securing it (Phillips head).
Install the new igniter. If you purchased one with a connection attached, just plug it back into where the other was.
Install the new igniter the same way the old one was installed, plug in the oven, re-open the gas valve and start a pre-heat. It should glow yellow:
Turn the oven off, let it cool, put it all back together and you're good to go!

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