Help me fix my rice cooker
April 14, 2014 4:08 PM   Subscribe

My rice cooker stopped working! It's an old very basic model, and I suspect it's easy to fix - but I never fixed anything before!

It just stopped getting hot and the little light also stopped turning on. I know this is a long shot because you can only see these photos, but I love my rice cooker and they don't make this model anymore, so I decided to try anyway.

Rice cooker upside-down with guts exposed.

posted by TheGoodBlood to Grab Bag (12 answers total)
Some component in the electrical circuit has likely failed. This is not something anyone on the internet looking at a few photos is likely to be able to diagnose. If you don't have any experience safely troubleshooting electrical appliances, I wouldn't recommend futzing about with this. You might see if there's a small electronics or appliance repair person available in your area, but my guess is that their diagnostic efforts will cost you more than a new rice cooker will.
posted by stenseng at 4:32 PM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sometimes there are electronic repair clubs around town. You may be able to bring it in and have someone help you fix it for free, and show you some techniques. Without seeing it in person, its hard to be able to tell where the failure is, and most likely you wouldn't have the tools to fix it anyway.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:44 PM on April 14, 2014

As seen in your 4th picture, your power cord is very badly knotted and twisted up-- perhaps more so than any I can recall seeing in years of looking at used countertop appliances.

They aren't really designed to be able to tolerate that, and I think you could start by replacing the cord.

The easiest way is probably to go to a thrift store and buy the cheapest appliance with at least as much wattage as your cooker which also turns on and has an intact looking cord, and replace your cord with that one.

This is trickier than it sounds, but not too much; guidance from and consultation with a more experienced person would be worth getting.
posted by jamjam at 4:49 PM on April 14, 2014

Buy the cheapest electronic appliance you can find, and rip out the power cord. Ask your Facebook friends for a soldering iron. Buy them a beer.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:26 PM on April 14, 2014

Do you have an ohmmeter? A friend with an ohmmeter?
There's some advice here, especially the part about unplugging it.
The ideas about the cord are where to start- that would be the easiest thing to fix. Try to see where the power cord comes into the appliance.
But you at least need a continuity checker.
posted by MtDewd at 8:23 PM on April 14, 2014

It just stopped getting hot and the little light also stopped turning on.

This happened to my rice cooker, and I discovered the problem was that I had used hot water.

There was nothing to fix. I just used cold water the next time (always use cold water), and it worked fine.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:44 PM on April 14, 2014

**Don't try to repair this until you read this!**
TheGoodBlood, trying to repair this without any idea of how it works is horrible idea. Horrible with a capital DON'T DO IT. I know you want to fix this, but back away. 120volts hurts so, so bad and it can make your heart stop working.

Now if you insist on figuring this out on your own, you need to read some books first.

Learn some basic electronics (how to make a basic circuits) - I've heard good things about this book.

Some book on appliance repair - this used one is cheap Pay special attention to the parts about voltage safety.

You could probably learn all these things online, just follow the table of contents and google the topic. I'm all for repairing things that you own, but you need to have some base knowledge first and know how to be safe.
posted by Brent Parker at 9:30 PM on April 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Came here to post a similar warning as Brent's. Thing is, this operates at mains voltage, which can not only kill you directly if you miswire something and get electrocuted, but if you fix it incorrectly, you could have created a fire hazard. If you're cognizant of these hazards and willing to spend some time to learn how to do it right, then that's great. But if not, I'd find a small appliance repairman or just replace it outright.
posted by Aleyn at 12:38 AM on April 15, 2014

On reread, perhaps I was too cavalier about the dangers involved, but I assume you know that electricity is dangerous. That doesn't seem to stop millions of people from opening up their computers and replacing parts or otherwise making them work better. I guess rice cookers are more complicated than computers.
So I applaud your idea of fixing something instead of throwing one more item on the trash heap. But be careful. Like gravity, electricity needs to be respected , but you don't have to fear it. It would be nice if you had a friend who knows how to fix things to show you some guidelines. If you were within an hour's drive, I'd come by and help you myself.
posted by MtDewd at 5:30 AM on April 15, 2014

That doesn't seem to stop millions of people from opening up their computers and replacing parts or otherwise making them work better. I guess rice cookers are more complicated than computers.

Uh, this is why people should be very careful about taking internet advice. There's a world of difference between the voltages (and more importantly, the amperages) involved in a desktop computer and an appliance. Unless you go poking around *inside* the power supply of a desktop PC, there's no juice there that's going to hurt you significantly.

Everything is going to be running off of 3.3 volt, 5v, or 12v rails, which is kids play. An appliance like a rice cooker, basically says, let's take full bore 110v ac and throw in enough resistance to get hot enough to cook things.

That's a circuit that can kill you, or at the very least really ruin your afternoon. If you don't know enough about electronics to understand that your comparison is bad, and potentially dangerous, you *shouldn't be giving advice on the subject.*
posted by stenseng at 7:56 AM on April 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Disclaimer: As mentioned, the wiring in your rice cooker is every bit as dangerous as the wiring around your home. If you have even the slightest doubt, don't try to repair this yourself.

That said, rice cookers like yours are extremely simple. If you have the problem I suspect you might, the solution is also simple. I've had 3 rice cookers with those exact symptoms: light doesn't turn on, no heat. All 3 had the same problem: thermal fuses had gone bad.

Your rice cooker, and every identical cheap one that I've ever seen (I suspect the guts all come from one factory in China somewhere), works the same way. Pump electricity through a heating element until a temperature sensor detects temperatures above boiling, which means the liquid water is all gone and it's done cooking. There are two safety features that are common: a switch that your pot's weight must connect to operate, and a thermal fuse to permanently disable the cooker if it gets too hot (210*C or so, the exact rating isn't important). Sometimes these fuses just seem to fail on their own, turning rice cookers into bricks.

To test if this is your problem is actually quite low risk: obviously triple check that it's unplugged before opening it. Then look in those various wiring sheaths for something that looks like a thermal fuse: use google image search to get an idea of what they look like. Then, with a multimeter check the connectivity/resistance across it. High resistance means it popped and needs replacement. Low resistance means it's fine and your problem lies elsewhere. Find replacements for $1 on ebay.

The replacement itself is the part that you need to be very careful not to accidentally connect anything wall-voltage to something like the rice cooker's case, and that it will stay that way for the rest of its life. This is the part you really shouldn't do unless you know what you're doing (or value your rice cooker more than your life). Such a person has already stopped reading after I said "bad thermal fuse" because the rest is obvious to them, so at this point I can safely say "don't do it".
posted by ilikemefi at 4:46 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi it is probably the thermal cut off. I got my replacement one at Radio Shack for a couple of dollars, easy fix. See links below for instructions.

posted by flummox at 6:34 PM on April 15, 2014

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