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If gas burner won’t ignite, check for food debris in ports

Q: I have a problem with my gas stove. When I turn it on, I can hear the burner making the usual clicking noise, but it doesn’t light. What can the problem be?

A: I think the problem is that you cook too much. If you didn’t use your stove so much, you wouldn’t even know it was broken. Maybe the next thing you should make for dinner is reservations.

First, you should check the gas ports. The ignitors spark and light the gas when you turn the burner on.

Sometimes that spaghetti sauce you love will boil over the edge of the pot and drop onto the burner. The burner has gas ports all around the perimeter with the largest port positioned right in front of the ignitor.

So, when you first turn on the burner, gas blows out of the ports and is ignited by the spark. If the ports are full of gunk (particularly the large port in front of the ignitor), no gas will get to the spark.

Use something small and stiff, like a straightened-out paper clip, and poke out the old food from the burner ports. Clean the ignitor of any food debris as well.

If you can light the burner with a match, you can bet the ignition is the problem. Check the color of the spark. If it is blue, the system is strong. If it is yellowish or white, the system could be weak.

Check the gap between the electrode and the base of the burner; it should be about one-eighth of an inch thick. If it is not, change the gap so it is.

If the problem still exists, you will need to explore the “belly of the beast.” The top of the stove is hinged and will lift up, but you may need to goose it up a little. Depending on your style of stove or cooktop, you may need to remove the knobs to lift up the top. You also will have to remove the burner grates.

Once the top is up, check for loose connections in places like the ignitor, the spark module (the box the wires connect to), the wires and the ground. Also, look for a broken or damaged wire between the burner and the spark module.

Bad connections can usually be pushed back into place, or you can easily replace the contacts on the ends. You can buy some basic parts at a home center, and for most any parts you can go to an appliance parts store.

Normally a stove’s ignition will click three to five times at regular intervals every second. If your stove’s clicking sound is much slower than this, check the outlet that the stove is plugged into. Stick a tester into the outlet to make sure the polarity is not reversed. If it is, it will take only five minutes to fix it by correctly wiring the outlet.

If you hear inconsistent clicking, I would replace the spark module. You will need to get your stove’s manufacturer and model number (the manufacturer’s name will be on top of the stove, but the model number is usually hidden on a metal stamp behind the stove or under the cooktop) and call around to appliance stores to see who stocks it or go online to have one delivered.

When you get the module, it’s as easy as unscrewing the old one and replacing the unit wire for wire. Just remember to unplug the stove before you start working on it.

Mike Klimek is a licensed contractor and owner of Las Vegas Handyman. Questions may be sent by email to handymanoflasvegas@msn.com. Or, mail to 4710 W. Dewey Drive, No. 100, Las Vegas, NV 89118. His web address is www.handymanoflasvegas.com.

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