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Basic stove repairs made easy

You may have had it with your stove and want to replace it entirely.

That can be as easy as unplugging it from the electrical outlet and wheeling in a new one. Or, it may be a relatively simple matter of turning off the gas, then fitting a new hose for the replacement.

But there are a range of repairs (pardon the pun) that you can carry out if your stove still has a lot of life left.

The exhaust system is a case in point. Exhaust systems are composed chiefly of a fan and vent.

When the fan dies, it's usually just a case of undoing a few screws, unplugging the old one and plugging in the replacement. Exhaust vents often require only cleaning to perform good service again.

Other vent problems can be a little larger. Holes can develop in the metal tubing. Mice can make their way into cabinets that house overhead exhaust pipes, or under the floor for integrated stove exhausts that pipe under the house. They chew on an amazing range of things, including any plastic components that might seal the vent. In other instances, the heat increases the rate of oxidation and eventually the tubing develops a hole.

Here again, though, it's often a simple repair. Some models of exhaust tubing require only a good tug to come loose. Others have a strap secured by a screw. Replacement tubing is inexpensive. Just make sure that all the parts are clean and free of grease and dirt deposits to keep the area odor free and less attractive to insects.

Burner replacement for a traditional coil-type electric stove is even easier. Most simply plug into a receptacle. Make sure the burner is off, then pull firmly and the coil will come loose. A new one snaps in even more easily.

Before replacing it, though, you'll want to make sure this will cure the problem. A coil has no moving parts and does only one thing: turn current into heat. Any disruption in the current will cause the coil to malfunction. That can happen if the tabs on the end of the coil where it forms two straight, parallel lines have become loose.

One way to discover if this is the real reason the coil isn't heating is to run a continuity test. Using a standard ohm meter, measure the resistance. It should be between 20-30 ohms.

Gas stoves can fail to function for a number of reasons. All are uncommon, but some happen more often than others. For example, since the holes through which gas flows are very small, they can become plugged. In theory, natural gas burns to release heat and generate only CO2 and water vapor. But small impurities, either in the gas or from the stove parts, can introduce carbon that may narrow the opening. Grease can migrate down into the small holes.

Cleaning is the first step. Just remove the outer sections and see if light comes through all the holes. Using a small mirror check the valve behind and look for any obstruction.

For more extensive repairs, it's frequently safer to call for a professional. Many gas utility companies will perform some repairs or safety inspections free.