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My oven won't turn on.
October 16, 2012 7:17 PM   Subscribe

Why won't my oven turn on?

The burners work, the broiler works -- but my oven won't turn on and I have a tray of uncooked dough sitting on the counter. Is there something I can do tonight to fix it myself? It is a GE gas stove.
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pilot light out?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:21 PM on October 16, 2012


Eponysterical.

Sometimes the oven in my old apartment would do this. The oven lighter didn't work well and wouldn't ignite. What usually worked for me was to slam the door shut a few times to work the weakly-flowing gas into the pilot and actually get it to catch.
posted by phunniemee at 7:23 PM on October 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


When this happened to me a few months ago the internet made me think it was the oven ignitor. And it was. $250 and 25 minutes of repair later it was fixed.

Uncooked dough (if bread): refrigerate overnight, get oven fixed, let warm to room temperature, bake.
posted by Phredward at 7:29 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Both times I have had trouble getting an oven to light it would come on if the oven was "on" and I then lit a burner on the stove, so sometimes I would keep a pot of water on the stove with a low flame just to make sure the oven stayed on.
posted by rustcellar at 7:30 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


How old is the oven? I moved into an apartment with a 5 or 6 y.o. working oven. 6 years later the oven would not turn on, or would sort of turn on (could see the pilot light) but never get hot enough to cook anything. I think the heating elements were shot or something. Appliances like ovens and refrigerators typically do not last more than 12-15 years. Not worth it to try to have it repaired -- a new oven runs maybe $400, $600 for a better model, while repairs would doubtlessly cost around the same if it's off warranty. I got a new oven, same size (be sure to measure it, especially if there is a tight-space issue), much better model, at PC Richard, delivered in 2 days, 12 months to pay at no interest (I have excellent credit).

Of course, this does not solve your immediate dough problem... Do you by any chance own or can borrow a countertop toaster-oven? (whatever you are trying to bake could hopefully be small enough to fit - I know loaf pans fit into my toaster-oven). Perhaps a kindly neighbor can let you do the immediate baking while you await a replacement oven?
posted by RRgal at 7:35 PM on October 16, 2012


When you turn on the burners or the oven, does it go tick-tick-tick-tick-woof! as it lights? If so, you have an electronic ignition, and the oven ignition is probably electronic as well. If it doesn't, and the burners just light after a moment or two, you have pilot lights.

If it's an electronic ignition, you can usually still fire it up manually by accessing the oven burner (usually in the broiler drawer or at the very bottom of the oven), finding the burner itself, turning on the gas and quickly lighting it with a long match (or a butane gas match, etc.) If you can't get it to light in a few seconds, turn the gas off and try to air it out (fan at it a bit with a newspaper or a towel), then try again. Once you hear it go woof and catch, you should be able to see the blue glow from the burner. Close everything up, set your temperature, and bake. Make sure to turn the oven off normally when done. You'll want to have an appliance repair person take a look at your oven, and probably replace the igniter for the burner. With an electronic ignition, turning off the knob for the oven turns that burner's gas off completely, so there's no danger of a gas leak.

If it's a pilot light, the pilot burner is usually all the way to the back or all the way to the front. You'll see a largish gas pipe coming in to the burner assembly, where it will split off into a "U" or round shape for the burner. Usually right where it splits, there will be a small gap in the pipe, and perhaps a very small pipe (about the diameter of a pencil lead) pointing at that gap. This is where your pilot light ought to be. No need to turn the gas on, a small trickle is there, just fiddle around with your match or gas lighter until the pilot catches. If it's been off like this for a while, you may want to leave the door open and fan at it with a newspaper or a towel to air it out a bit, especially if you smell gas. The darker the room is, the easier it will be to see the pilot when it's lit. Once you see that it's lit, go ahead and turn the oven gas on. You should hear it come on in just a second or two, and can probably see the faint blue glow if you look at the burner assembly. If you turn the oven gas off, wait a few seconds, and look at the pilot light; it should remain lit. Go ahead and turn the oven on again, it should re-light normally. Close everything up slowly and gently, and you should be in good shape.

If the pilot does not stay lit on its own, you ought to have the oven serviced. The way pilot lights work, there will always be a small amount of gas flowing, even if the oven knob is turned off. Because of this, you probably want to shut the gas off to the oven; there should be a shut-off valve right at the gas connection to the oven, probably behind it. If this is not an option, try to keep a window open and have it serviced as soon as possible.

During heavy winds (from your oven's vent), or if the oven door is slammed shut, the pilot light can be blown out. In that case, simply re-light it as above. But if it fails to stay lit on its own, you'll definitely want it checked out.
posted by xedrik at 7:38 PM on October 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Do you have that feature where you can pre-set it to come *on* at a certain time? I remember a few times my oven wouldn't come on and it was because I had inadvertently fiddled with the that setting.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:38 PM on October 16, 2012


Can you post a photo of the oven? Perhaps that would help diagnosis. (I grew up with an oven that had a separate time-piece for "on" and if it was set to a later time than the "time" knob, it wouldn't turn on, and blah blah annoying.)
posted by DoubleLune at 7:44 PM on October 16, 2012


Thanks, xedrik. I have an electric ignition. There is no knob to turn the oven on, it is a touch panel.
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 7:49 PM on October 16, 2012


Should still be able to light it manually then, if you go through the motions of turning the oven on, then manually light the burner. Probably want to have it checked out, though!
posted by xedrik at 7:52 PM on October 16, 2012


Hm, actually, strike that. Sorry. With a touch panel, there's probably an electrically-operated valve regulating the gas flow, since there's no knob turning the gas on and off. So it could be the igniter, or that valve. Either way, yeah, call for service.
posted by xedrik at 7:56 PM on October 16, 2012


With all the other DIY questions -- electrical, carpentry, plumbing, etc -- I am all "dude, just go for it!" But as a word of warning, one time I had a gas oven that wouldn't light, I did some tinkering around and got it to light, walked into the other room and BOOM!

All the explosion did was blow open the oven door, knock over a couple of pots, and shift the oven a few inches over, but it scared the crap out of me and could have been a Bad Thing.

I'm not saying don't DIY it, but if there's any doubt, toss the dough in the fridge and call in an expert.
posted by Forktine at 7:59 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have no matches and can't find an oven burner so I guess I won't be fixing the problem tonight. But thanks all for the advice on how to save my dough.
posted by Sylvia Plath's terrible fish at 8:02 PM on October 16, 2012


You have electric ignition? Check the fuse.
I futzed with my own oven a couple of days ago - all dials were lit, all displays were on, but the oven (electric, JennAir) refused to heat past 75F. I realized after some review of all probabilities that one of the fuses in my cupboard was switched to OFF when it should have been ON.
Problem solved, apples baked.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:18 PM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our electric-ignition gas range had this same problem a few weeks ago. It was the ignitor. We called a service: $150 and 30 minutes for a new ignitor.
posted by The Minotaur at 9:43 PM on October 16, 2012


xedric: If it's an electronic ignition, you can usually still fire it up manually by accessing the oven burner (usually in the broiler drawer or at the very bottom of the oven), finding the burner itself, turning on the gas and quickly lighting it with a long match If you can't get it to light in a few seconds, turn the gas off and try to air it out (fan at it a bit with a newspaper or a towel), then try again. Once you hear it go woof and catch, you should be able to see the blue glow from the burner.

It's not going to be quite so simple on any modern oven. As you can imagine, it would be incredibly unsafe if large amounts of gas were to flow into a contained space (like an oven) where there may not be a functioning ignition source. To allow that would be an invitation to explosions, house fires and devastating class-action lawsuits. So, the gas valve is always tied to a sensor of some sort that ensures the ignition source is working before the valve will open. With some ovens, it's possible to light the burner manually by using the match flame to warm the sensor that's connected to the gas valve, but this requires putting the match in a fairly precise location (below the sensor) and holding it there for several seconds, not just sticking it near the burner.

Here are some clear explanations of how these systems work.
posted by jon1270 at 3:07 AM on October 17, 2012


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