Faulty stove and team create a heated situation

November 24, 2001|By Rob Kasper

SOMETHING WAS clicking last weekend and it sure wasn't the Ravens. Like many folks around here, I had spent the better portion of Sunday afternoon hollering at the television set and pounding furniture as I watched the Ravens throw the football game away, losing to the Cleveland Browns.

After I stopped making noise, I heard more commotion. It was a "click-click-click," a rapid-fire sound coming from the stovetop. One burner on the stove was conducting its personal fireworks show, sending out a succession of sparks, like a Fourth of July sparkler.

My first thought was that the appliance had taken this opportunity to seek revenge. Appliances do that. They wait until you are vulnerable, until, for example, your house is full of visiting relatives, and then they retaliate for perceived neglect. That happened to me a few Thanksgivings ago when I walked into the basement and spotted a pool of liquid on the floor. I really wanted that liquid to be linked to my diaper-clad nephew who was cavorting through the house. No such luck. Instead, the liquid had come from the hot water heater, which had chosen Thanksgiving weekend to expire.

Then last weekend, just as the cooking-heavy holiday season was about to start, a burner on the stovetop began throwing a fit. Thanks to the Ravens' defeat, I was in a bad mood. I wanted to smash things.

This, I have learned, is not the proper mindset to be in when attempting home repairs. It is already easy enough to break things during normal maintenance maneuvers. But if you are steaming mad when you swing that hammer or turn that wrench, then bad things happen.

Rather than clobbering the trouble-making burner, I tried to reach out and touch it. This proved to be a painful mistake for two reasons. First, the burner and its parts were warm. The burner had been cooking something a few minutes earlier, before its igniter started acting up.

Now it may seem obvious that you don't touch hot stove parts. But remember the situation. My football team had just lost. When your team loses, you get stupid.

After the burner ring cooled down, I reached out again, this time touching the igniter - a porcelain ring about the size of a pencil eraser - that was making the clicking noise. Although the burner runs on natural gas, the igniter, which lights it, is powered by electricity. This fact became shockingly clear to me when my bare finger got a jolt as I made contact with the sparking igniter. Once again, common sense would dictate turning off the power to the stove before attempting repairs. But once again, I was in a post-game fog.

After getting burned and jolted, I came to my senses. I dug out the operating manual for the range. I went to the troubleshooting section and looked up the problem and the possible remedies. The manual told me that if my igniter is continuously sparking, the problem could be in my power supply; it might not be properly grounded, or the polarity could be reversed. Or it could be that my igniter was dirty.

Since I don't understand polarity and am afraid of electricity, I chose the cleaning route. In a drawer, I found the "Igniter Cleaning Brush" that the manual told me to use. It looked exactly like a toothbrush.

The manual warned that when brushing your igniters, you never, ever use water. Maybe a drop or two of rubbing alcohol, but not water.

So with the power to the stove turned off and the brush in my hand, I gave the igniter a brisk, dry cleaning. When I restored power and reassembled the burner, I gave it a test run. The igniter clicked once and the gas flame filled the ring.

The stovetop, like many household appliances, simply needed attention. While I had the brush out, I cleaned the rest of the stovetop as well. It is working well, clicking efficiently on all burners. Now if only that football team could do the same.

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