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How to Install an Oven Ignitor

Imagine that you are all set to cook a big holiday meal -- but when you go to preheat the oven, nothing happens -- nada, no gas and no heat. Most likely, this means the electrically powered ignitor that ignites the gas as it enters the burner is shot and needs to be replaced.

Replacing the ignitor is not a difficult task to perform yourself, but it is one that requires you to know what you are doing. The risks include: accidentally electrocuting yourself; or allowing gas to escape from the oven creating a health and fire hazard. As Christopher Cross, a service technician for Proulx Oil & Propane in Newmarket, NH said during a recent demonstration of how to remove a defective oven ignitor and install a new one, "You are dealing with explosive gas and electricity, so this may not be something you want to do on your own. Think about it before you begin."

If after reading this brief tutorial you don't feel up to the task, consider having a trained and certified technician such as Cross replace the ignitor for you. However, if you feel confident about the process, installing an ignitor yourself is not that difficult once you perform a few safety precautions - and it's a lot cheaper than paying the hourly fee for a technician's service call.

According to Cross, the time it takes to install a new ignitor can range from 30 to 40 minutes depending on the complexity of the oven. GE and Kenmore brands tend to be fairly standard and straightforward, said Cross, while brands such as Viking and Thermador, which make higher-end and commercial ovens, can be more complicated. He adds that the cost of a new ignitor can also vary depending on the brand and style of oven - ranging in price from about $60 to more than $300.

In addition, the guidance provided below is specific to the make of the oven used to demonstrate the steps. Specifics, such as number and location of screws that fasten the burner tray and drip guard to the oven, may vary according to brand and type of oven. There are also two basic types of ignitors -- flat and round -- based on their shape it will be easy to tell which one to buy.

Getting ready

Before beginning you will need a few tools:

  • a one-quarter inch nut driver;
  • a five-sixteenths nut driver; and
  • a universal screwdriver.

Step 1 -- Begin by pulling the oven away from the wall, so you can gain access to the gas valve and electric outlet the oven is plugged into.

move oven to access gas line and electrical outlet
Figure 1: Proulx Oil & Propane service technician Christopher Cross pulls the oven away from the wall to gain access to the gas line and electric outlet.

After the oven is pulled from the wall, unplug the electric cord from the wall and turn the gas valve (generally a red, blue or sometimes yellow plastic knob attached to the gas line) to the off/closed position. For most gas valves, the 12 and 6 o'clock position is open and the 9 and 3 o'clock position is closed.

gas line
Figure 2: The gas line and valve behind the stove. The valve is in the off position.

Step 2 -- In this step, you are preparing the oven in order to gain access to the oven ignitor, which is attached to the burner. First, if possible, you want to remove the oven door (the ability to do this varies by brand). If not, leave the door open. Then, remove the racks from inside the oven.

oven before beginning work
Figure 3: The oven prior to beginning work.

After the door is opened and racks are removed, find and remove the screws that hold the burner tray cover in place. Generally, these screws are in the corners. Take out the burner tray cover.

removing screws from the burner tray
Figure 4: Cross removes the screws holding the burner tray down.

Next, remove the drip guard, which is held in place by three screws in the front of the oven.

removing the drip guard
Figure 5: Cross removes the drip guard.

Once the drip guard is removed, the gas burner (a long pipe that runs from the front to the back of the oven) should be visible. The ignitor is attached to the burner. Unfasten the screws holding the gas burner in place, but do not remove the burner.

pointing to the ignitor
Figure 6: Cross points to the ignitor that is attached to the gas burner.

Unfasten the screws that hold the ignitor in place and remove the burner from the oven by carefully lifting it off the gas orifice located beneath the oven. The oven ignitor will still be attached to its power source in the oven, so leave it in the oven for the time being. Once the burner is removed, pull out and remove the bottom tray (usually a drawer for pans beneath the oven).

displaying ignitor after removing the gas burner
Figure 7: Cross has removed the gas burner and left the ignitor in the oven.

Step 3 -- During this step, the ignitor will be removed from the oven. Be very careful not to touch the ceramic piece (the actual ignitor that heats and ignites the gas and is surrounded by a stainless steel "cage") running up the center of the ignitor because the oils on your skin could damage it. You want to avoid damaging the ignitor because in the subsequent step you will check to be sure it is the reason the oven will not heat.

pointing to the initor in its cage
Figure 8: Cross uses his thumb to indicate the ceramic ignitor in its "cage."

Looking underneath the oven in the space where the bottom tray would be, find the wire and wire clip (wire harness) that attaches the ignitor to its power source in the oven. Not all ignitors are attached by a clip or harness. Some use nuts that fasten the wires to the ignitor. "There are a lot of variations out there," said Cross. "No two stoves are always the same."

Detach the wire clip/harness from the ignitor.

detatched end of clip harness
Figure 9: Cross shows the detached end of the wire clip/harness underneath the oven.

In the background, you can see the gas orifice that the burner attaches to.

Step 4 -- Check to make sure the ignitor is the source of the problem by looking for cracks in the ceramic piece and/or by attaching it to a volt meter to see if it is operating at the proper microamps. To determine the correct level of microamps, check with your oven's manufacturer.

If the ignitor is not bad, move on to see if there is another cause of the oven not heating, such as the circuit board on the stove. At this point, it may be best to check with the manufacturer or call a service technician.

If the ignitor is bad, set it aside, and begin installing a new ignitor.

Step 5 -- Begin by attaching the new ignitor to the burner while it is still out of the oven. Cross warns to be careful while doing this step because the ignitor may be rather brittle. As noted above, do not touch the ceramic piece.

attaching the new ignitor
Figure 10: Cross attaches the new ignitor to the gas burner.

After the new ignitor is attached, reinstall the gas burner into the oven, but do not refasten the screws. Look underneath the oven to be sure the burner is properly seated on the gas orifice.

burner properly connected to gas orifice
Figure 11: Cross points to the burner properly seated on the gas orifice.

Then re-plug the ignitor into the wire clip/harness and refasten the screws that hold the burner in place. Next, reinstall the drip guard and the burner tray cover.

reinstalling the burner
Figure 12: Cross reinstalls the burner with the ignitor attached.

Step 6 -- Plug the oven back into the electric outlet, turn the gas valve back to the on/open position, and close/replace the oven door. However, leave the bottom tray off the oven so you can look underneath to be sure the ignitor and burner are working properly.

Then turn the oven on to make sure the gas ignites properly and the oven heats up. If it works, put the bottom tray back in place, replace the oven racks, and go back to cooking that lovely holiday meal.

If the oven does not work, you will need to look for other possible causes, which likely will require calling Cross at Proulx Oil & Propane -- or your local service provider.

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