Appliance Repair Revelation: Troubleshooting Gas Stove Burner Ignition Problems

by Samurai Appliance Repair Man on September 17, 2004

in Range Repair, Stove Repair

Did you know that 90% of the spark modules in gas ranges and cooktops that are replaced are perfectly good? A statistic like that tells me that this topic is screaming for a revelation from the master. So, my incredulous grasshopper, remove your thumb from your dorsal orifice and come with me now on a journey through gas stove spark ignition systems and how to fix ‘em.

picture of a typical gas range spark module--click for larger viewHere’s a typical spark module. The N terminal on the input side must be wired directly to line neutral. The L terminal is the 120v supply which is supplied to the module through any one of surface switches. The output terminals each connect to two burner ignitors; so the module shown here is designed to handle four surface burners–the most common configuration. Modules came in all different sizes and configurations, depending on the range.

typical gas stove electric ignition wiring diagramNow, here’s what’s supposed to happen–refer to the wiring diagram show here and sing along. You turn on one of the surface switches to fire up a burner. When you turn the switch to the “ignite” position, you complete the circuit, through the switch, to the module. This fires up the coils to produce a 15,000 VDC spark to the burners. The path this high voltage spark takes is through the ignitor wires to the ignitor (the ceramic electrode thingy up at the burner) where the spark jumps to the burner base. The voltage then passes through the burner to the grounding strap, through the chassis and then to the grounding strap of its partner burner (remember, each output from the module is tied to two burners), to its burner base and then jumps from the burner base to the ignitor (that’s right from the base to the ignitor), passing back through the ignitor wire, to the coil, thus completing the spark circuit. The principle behind this is that the spark module must sense the electrical pulse. If it doesn’t, well, your stove won’t fire up right and that’s why you’re reading this illuminating and inspiring repair revelation.

When you’re having trouble getting your stove burners to ignite, usually it takes the form of one of the three types of problems:

  • You hear clicking but there’s no ignition.
  • You hear clicking but it’s erratic.
  • You don’t have ignition and you don’t even hear clicking.

Let’s take ‘em one at a time and list the things you need to look at.

You hear clicking but there’s no ignition.

First thing to do in this case are the following observation checks which do not require any tools, instruments, or taking anything apart.

  1. Check the spark color. A healthy ignition system will produce crisp blue sparks. A weak ignition system, on the other hand, will produce light blue, almost white sparks. The following two checks can be made by switching the suspected burner with a known operating burner:
    • Ignite the burner with a match to verify proper gas supply and air shutter adjustment. Make sure the flame is a clean blue flame, not yellow and sooty.
    • The gap between the ignitor and the burner base is too large. It should be about the thickness of two dimes.
    • Gookus is caked on the ignitor or burner base. Clean the burner caps, heads, flame spreaders, ignitors…that whole area. HINT: do not use stuff like Comet because you’ll gunk everything up big time. Warm water and Basic-H are a good choice.

    These following two checks are done by physical inspection “under the hood”:

    • Loose wiring connections at the ignitor, the grounding strap, or spark module.
    • Broken or pinched ignitor wire between the burner and module.
  2. Check the spark frequency. Say what? A healthy spark system will crank out three to five sparks per second. If yours is a lot slower than this, then the prime suspect is reverse polarity at the 120vac outlet the range is plugged into. The picture below shows a 120vac outlet with the proper polarity.

You hear clicking but it’s erratic.

Gas Stove Spark Ignition Troubleshooting Flowchart--click for larger viewThis is usually a bad spark module. But first, verify that the outlet polarity is correct before you change the module. This flow chart gives you further guidance on troubleshooting erratic spark problems.

You don’t have ignition and you don’t even hear clicking.

First, verify that the spark module is getting the 120v on terminal L when you turn on any one of the surface switches. If it is, and still no spark, that module is DOA, replace it– Part Number: spark module

Well, there it is, the web’s most definitive gas stove electric ignition troubleshooting guide. If this was helpful to you, your donations to The United Samurai Beer Fund are much appreciated. Cheers!

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate September 26, 2004 at 8:57 pm

I have almost reached the mountaintop, Master, but there is one more obstacle in my path. In regards to burner ignition, what if the burner lights, but the igniter stays on? The burner can be turned up and down, and all the while the igniter clicks on …and on…and…you get the idea.

What are your thoughts?

Samurai Appliance Repair Man September 26, 2004 at 11:30 pm

Ah, Grasshopper, you have raised a good case not covered in my repair revelation. Do the burners spark continuously no matter which burner is turned on? If so, replace the spark module. Does the continuous sparking occur only when one particular burner is turned on? If so, then that burner switch is bad. You can purchase the appropriate part(s) here.

Anonymous March 25, 2005 at 9:48 am

What is a particular burner base and cap pair do not work, if I use a different set on the same site it lights up. I tries cleaning that base and cap but it still does not light up. WHat could be wrong with it?

Samurai Appliance Repair Man March 26, 2005 at 5:58 am

Burners are designed to work with specific valves to regulate the gas flow and provide an ideal flame. If you install a different burner only, you have changed the design of the range, sometimes with dangerous results, as in the case where a flame becomes yellow and produces soot and carbon monoxide, a silent killer. In a sense, you got lucky: you don’t get any flame at all.

To correct this problem, buy and install the OEM burner designed and manufacturered for your range.

And another tip: screwing around with gas appliances when you don’t know what you’re doing is a great way to get yourself killed.

Anonymous May 10, 2005 at 8:55 am

My burner ignites fine. But the flame goes out as soon as I let go of the igniter button. What can I do?

phil May 16, 2005 at 10:51 pm

My burner won’t ignite in the morning. After I light it with a match once, it’s OK the rest of the day. Polarity is correct. I looked at the spark. It’s blue, but slow compared to a new range I put in my apartment. This cooktop has never sparked more than twice per second. It’s 10 years old.

Anonymous May 26, 2005 at 12:49 pm

When I turn on my front burner, I hear clicking and I see my rear burner ignitor spark. My front burner works fine using a match.

Trent May 27, 2005 at 12:12 pm

Gas burner doesn’t spark, yet it causes the burner behind it to spark instead?!?

It will ignite with a match.

Samurai Appliance Repair Man May 28, 2005 at 8:12 am

Look at the wiring diagram above. You’ll see that the spark module has a single output point labelled, “2.” When any one of the burner switches are closed, the spark module switches are closed, the module sends a spark to all the electrodes. If one of the electrodes isn’t sparking, it’s usually a cracked or gooked up electrode or a worn ignition wire.

Anonymous June 2, 2005 at 7:00 pm

When I light my burner, it only lights on half of the way around. How can I get the burner back to full function?

Anonymous June 24, 2005 at 9:27 pm

Hi – I have a jenn-air 5 burner gas stovetop – tonight, I boiled some water, but after turning off the burner, the igniter starts sparking and will not stop unless I turn the gas back on – any advice?

Thanks

Bob
rpress@hotmail.com

Anonymous June 25, 2005 at 4:03 pm

My range top burners will not ignite IF the oven is on. They do ignite consistently if the oven is off. I can light them manually with a match when teh oven is on. What would cause this?

Anonymous July 11, 2005 at 11:21 pm

Master–help!!
My landlord switched us from propane to natural gas and now our old Jenn-air can barely boil water- over an hour for pasta water- lanlord says its a funky stove- a plumber friend says drill out the orifices–but to what size??

what to do
signed

tired of simmered food

Anonymous July 14, 2005 at 8:49 am

similar to kate my little 18″ peerless premier gas range just starting clicking when i woke up this morning the only thing i can do to stop it is to unplug it but it just clicks away while flame is on. i think this has happened before but then it was caused by the burner to ignition parts being out of alignement or the burner being wet…would this be the spark module as well…? thank you…
tired of crickets

Samurai Appliance Repair Man July 14, 2005 at 8:56 am

Simmered: you’re going to end up OWNING your all your landlord’s property after you sue him for endangering your life by running an improperly adjusted gas range.

As for the other comments, it’s hard to to direct replies when everyone is named “Anonymous.”

Jorge Torres July 18, 2005 at 7:08 pm

Master, I am just a humble servant with a cricket problem that does not stop and goes on and on day and night.

My rice cooks fine, water for tea boils, chocolate molten cakes come out of the oven perfect.

Oh, Master, is it the spark module ($60), is it the igniter ($20), or is it my conscience hearing noises where they don’t exist?

Please illuminate my path and guide my soul to a proper gas cooktop repair, otherwise my wife will turn me into a cockroach!!

Your humble servant,

Beetle Bee

jack-san July 26, 2005 at 1:40 am

We have a GE gas cooktop. After somebody cleaned the cooktop or attempted to, the circuit breaker tripped. If we reset it, there is a muted poof noise at the cooktop and the circuit breaker trips again instantly.

What is short circuiting? The knobs were off so should we feel 90% confident that the switch harness is now ruined and needs to be replaced? How difficult is that for a handy person?

Need your guidance and wisdom … thanks.

Samurai Appliance Repair Man July 26, 2005 at 7:59 am

Can’t troubleshoot this one through the keyboard. You’re gonna need to do some surgery and go in to find where the bare wire is touching the chassis. Eyeballs and fingernails, that’s what this one is all about. If you need more detailed help, post this in the repair forum:

http://www.applianceguru.com.

Samurai

Jeff Danforth July 28, 2005 at 3:23 pm

Ah, Master, my rigid desire to stop those sparks has led me to your door.
Who knows what happened while the babysitter was alone? Now, the stove ignition won’t stop sparking. All the burners work fine; but looking up at the spark module from beneath will show arcing from the pins to the chassis! Eek! I know somehting got boiled over on one of the burners, but it seems dry, now. Can there be something other than the module?

greyhound July 28, 2005 at 5:57 pm

Jeff Danforth – strange coincidence, or do we have the same babysitter?

Actually, my suspect is my housecleaner. I left her alone at home (my faithful pooch guarded the jewelry, but we don’t get to cooktop security until week 11 of our guard dog class) and lo my cooktop clicks furiously (passionately? with yearning?) since she departed.

I hope the master deigns to drop some pearls of wisdom in our direction!

greyhound

Jeff Danforth July 28, 2005 at 7:37 pm

Got it! – Isolated what must have been a shorted switch. It even looked good on a circuit test. Took it out, cleaned it and blew as much air on it as I could to dry whatever was inside, if possible – whole shebang (oops, I mean) its spirit soars one more, master.

JEREMIAH August 3, 2005 at 10:32 am

MASTER,
OUR SPARK IGNITON MODULE ON A JENN AIR 5 BURNER WAS INSTALLED OVER 12 YEARS AGO. WE ORDERED A NEW ONE AND INSTALLED IT ACCORDING TO THE MANUEL. THE PACKAGE SAID UPGRADE ON THE NEW MODULE. AFTER INSTALLING IT AND PLUGGING IT IN ALL THE SPARKS FIRE AT THE SAME TIME AND DO NOT STOP. THE BURNERS ALL WORK, BUT I CAN’T STOP THE ALL THE SPARKS FROM FIRING UP, EVEN WHEN THE KNOBS ARE TURNED OFF. CAN YOU HELP?
JEREMIAH

Anonymous August 6, 2005 at 4:56 pm

We have a Jenn Air gas stovetop and all of a sudden it was possessed. All four of the igniter switches started going off at the same time. The only way to stop this is to unplug it. Solve my problem, I’ll buy you a six-pack. :) Cheri (from Potato land)

Geoff Hatcher August 9, 2005 at 1:36 pm

Hi, have a 24″ Brown Gas range in an apartment unit.
Both pilot are lit, the range burners ignite, however the oven will not, though it’s pilot is lit. Any suggestions?

Samurai Appliance Repair Man August 10, 2005 at 5:05 pm

Geoff, see this page for more information about that.

Belden Fox August 21, 2005 at 2:36 pm

Master,
You so ably described what makes the igniter spark but not what makes it stop once the burner fires up. The burner igniters on my DCS RGS-366SS gas range work fine unless the gas oven is heating. If the oven is heating the igniters keep sparking even after the burner ignites. And sparking, and sparking, and sparking. This sound makes me, um, agitated.
Yours in humble desperation,
Belden

bschineller November 22, 2005 at 11:16 pm

Hello Samurai,
Several years ago you talked me through the disassembly and thawing out of my frozen ice maker. You truly are the master! Thanks again! Now I come to you 2 days before Thanksgiving seeking instruction on how to correct my Miele KM342 gas cooktop spark ignition from loudly clicking incessantly even after the burners light. The clicking usually stops after 30 seconds or so, but then kicks back in. And the burners often shut themselves off. On the two wok burners, I always see a strong white spark. Carefully wiping down and re-seating the burner pieces generally but not always seems to help the burner stay lit, but even when lit, never has the clicking gone on for less than 15 seconds. Spark rate is about 2 per second. It’s done this since day one when I moved in, but reading your postings I now know it’s solvable. Can I enlist your help again talking me straight to the solution for this model?
Bill

JC August 17, 2006 at 6:29 pm

Dear Master Samurai,

One of our Whirlpool cooktop burners has been out for a while (this one wouldn’t ‘click’ at all; all other 3 work fine). So, delighted I came across your site, with the best troubleshooting instructions I’ve ever seen, I finally decided to take a look “under the hood”. It turns out that any burner knob I turn makes all 4 burners spark, except for the bad one (gas flow is ok and I can start it manually with a match). So now know I have a bad switch, which I’ll have to replace.
In the mean time, during my troubleshooting I created another problem…
To begin with, I pulled the cooktop out of the counter & unplugged the power but did not disconnect any of the gas piping (didn’t want to go that far into it). Nevertheless, I was trying to lift the top cover to look under. And each of the 4 burners is help-up, pressed up, against the top by means of 3 small screws under the spil-guard (ring cover around each burner). But as I tried to remove the screws for one of them, all 3 screws sheered-off! (the 1st did, right off; wd40 on the other 2 didn’t help at all). Needless to say I stoped any attempt from removing screws from any of the other burners.
But now I had a “sunk” burner, about leveled with the top cover itself and help in place just by the gas pipes under.

I was able lift the cover up (with all burners attached) just enough to look under & do a temporary fix for the sunk burner, with a small, rolled-up, section of stainless steel chimney mounting strap, from http://www.crutchfield.com/S-9eCWOzv8qFM/cgi-bin/ProdView.asp?g=15920&tab=detailed_info&i=209TV32#Tab
http://www.ronard.com/ychim.html (the straps hold the whole thing around the chimney).

I bent in about 1/2” of its end back into the roll (like spinning in the opposite direction), and then I stood the roll directly under the burner (right next to where the gas pipe plugs in). So it has a snug fit and kind of “springs” up (becaused of the bend-in segment) against the burner.

I know I’ll probably end up installing a new cooktop all together, just a matter of when I get some $$ in my pocket. But for now, is the fix I made safe? I mean, I know mechanically the roll sits well and it isn’t going anywhere, holding the burner in place real good. But does the burner heat-up on the underside? Will the small roll heat up under the burner?

Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
JC

esims January 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Okay I’m an idiot. I was cleaning the stove and during the process I wanted a bit of warm water on it apparently got it into the wrong spot on my gas stove and not knowing what to do with the smoke curling up I let it be. Now my knob for the front burner releases gas but activates the igniter on the back burner!
I figure I’m going to have to pry this baby apart but before I did I wanted to ask if you could tell me what in the world I should be looking for?

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