Fixing a broken oven element

Welcome to episode #349 of “I don’t know what I’m doing.” Today I fixed a broken up oven element. How’s that for a hot topic?

I kinda wish I could have caught the meltdown on video, but it went kinda like this:

My daughter and I were making some cute Sculpey figurines for her birthday cake, and had the oven running on low to firm up some of the tinier parts as we worked.

Suddenly it was like we had one of those strobe fireworks going off. Right in the kitchen. Bright flashes complete with crackling noises.

I really shouldn’t stared right at it, because it was so bright I couldn’t see properly for a few minutes afterward. Basically my baking element kind of imploded and broke into several parts, scattering white ashy stuff around the oven.

Again, no video. But here are some of the chunks I pulled out today, and you can see a bit of the ash in the background:

Busted up element I pulled out of my oven. All that black stuff is apparently melted metal 😮

Well, it turns out replacing element is not expensive at all, and not very hard in theory. Several sites offered elements for around $20. Several videos explained how to handle the procedure. Thanks, YouTube.

I shut my oven off at the breaker so I wouldn’t have to unplug it, then got to work. The hard part for me was fiddling with tiny screws that simply didn’t want to come undone. They were just spinning, so I finally had to pry them out by leveraging a flat-head screwdriver behind them while using my other hand with a square-bit screwdriver to turn them. All while basically laying inside the oven, because apparently my arms aren’t as long as your average fixer’s. Good. Times.

Once the element mounts were unfastened, I had to pull them out the rest of the way. They seemed to want to pull back into the holes, so I detached one at a time and hooked up each end to the new element. That was a lot like replacing one of those little plug-in lightbulbs: again, a bit fiddly, but doable.

I was a bit dismayed that my new element came with one of its attachments bent. It would not have fit through the hole, so I just unbent it the best I could before continuing. I’m guessing that should be safe? If I die in a fire, blame

It’s not broken, it’s bent!

Now everything is plugged back in, turned back on, and working — just in time for me to bake my mom a birthday cake.

Here’s how Mary’s cake figurines turned out, by the way. They’ve got just a few fingerprints from us trying to hustle while we still had heat. The characters are from Bug Fables, and the cake is topped with dyed coconut strips for grass, and cake crumbs mixed with graham cracker crumbs for dirt. And it’s gluten free and vegan, of course. She’s old enough she didn’t need a “fun” cake, but also old enough we had a great time making it together.

Luckily the oven retained enough heat for us to bake the characters, and even more thankfully, I had baked the cake the evening before.

Kabu and Vi of Bug Fables, on an intentionally crumby birthday cake.

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