Bum Oven

March 2017

The igniter in the oven had long since stopped working, so I have had to use a long tipped butane lighter to get the oven lit for the past couple of weeks. One day everything worked fine, the next the flame went out as soon as I stopped depressing the thermostat knob. Uh Oh. Trying to be an optimist, I tried it again the next day with the same result.

I purchased my Seaward Princess three burner stove and oven in the fall of 2014 to replace the old forced alcohol stove that came with Rubigale.  Shortly after, I realized that the oven wouldn’t stay lit for long after I started it. I discovered through trial and error (mostly staring at the burner with a flashlight after I lit it and sniffing for propane) that leaving it open for 15 or 20 seconds after lighting it seemed to solve that problem.

I called the dealer Sure Marine about it, and found that this was apparently now a known problem with the Princess (these are very popular stoves for RVs and boats), but to fix it, I’d have to bring the stove in. Given the hefty bill I had paid to get it installed and the tight fit, I decided that holding the door open for 15 seconds wasn’t a terrible hardship and I’d deal with it.

A few months later I found that two of the three burners on the stove wouldn’t light right away using the ignitor, so again I switched to using the butane lighter. I had been on many boats where the ignition didn’t work, so I thought this a normal stove failure after awhile like many grills. One day while tinkering with the stove I discovered that if you take the ignition switch knob off, there’s a AA battery in there! I replaced that, and that pop pop pop sound and spark was on amphetamines compared with what I had become used to.

The two burners still didn’t light right away, and through experimentation I learned that if  I didn’t have a pot on those burners, they would light with the switch. If I waited long enough with a pot on there, it usually involved a big WHOMPH sound and a little scream from me. Maybe the smell of singed hair once. A friend with the same stove said his lights better with a pot on it – so you might need to experiment if this is happening with yours.

The next problem was that the oven no longer lit with the ignition switch. Since I was used to being disappointed with the automatic ignitors, and had the butane lighter right there, I just started using that. I did consult the dealer and it was suggested that I clean out the jet which sounded like a long and involved process so I continued to use the lighter for several months.

Last weekend I was craving biscuits.  The oven worked the day before, but on this day each time I stopped holding the thermostat knob down, the burner went off.  Trying to be optimistic, I decided to just let the oven think about it, and I would try again the following day. Not surprisingly, there was no difference the second day. I called Sure Marine and later received a very detailed email from them with photos of the internal organs of my stove/oven. I understood very little of what I read…I am a veterinarian, not an electrician. So, I did the only thing I could think of and procrastinated.

Eventually the craving for baked goods won out and I disassembled the top of the stove and stared at a lot of copper wires and matched up some of the photos the dealer had sent. I got out the voltmeter. I had no idea what to do. The instructions were not meant for the novice. I wasn’t sure what to attach the voltmeter to, or exactly which thing corresponded to the description in the instructions.

Stove Top Off

I started with the electromagnet which seemed to be the easiest fix. I had no idea how this system worked, and I had the solenoid on thinking I would need to test voltage with it on. As I started to loosen the nut holding in the magnet, I heard the hiss of gas and smelled propane. Solenoid OFF!!!!

Electromagnets for the oven, right, and burner, left

Not a stellar start, but had two hours before the dealer closed and so I put on my grown up pants and continued. I still didn’t actually know what I was supposed to test with the voltmeter, so I moved on. I extracted the electromagnet and took it to the dealer and asked them to test it. SHAZAM!! It was bad.

Graham at Sure Marine was kind enough to show me what was happening. A couple in the store came up close behind me and asked if they could watch. It was a riveting demonstration. Graham hooked a wire with a thermocoupler at one end and the connector on the other to the top of the magnet (the red end of the wire below). Using a butane torch, he heated the thermocoupler while pushing in the spring on the bottom of the magnet. On mine, the spring unsprung. On the new one, it stayed compressed.

The Offender – Bad Electromagnet

I am a visual learner, and I now understood much more of what was happening. Of course if the flame comes out, you don’t want propane flowing. If the sensor isn’t kept hot (and he demonstrated this by removing the flames for just 2 or 3 seconds), the spring unsprings. The heat sends electricity to the magnet. So if I had flame (I did) and it was heating the sensor (it was), and the thermocoupler worked (didn’t know), and it still unsprung, the electromagnet was bad. His test took my thermocoupler out of the equation which was wonderful news because the access to this would require un-mounting the stove and disassembling a side panel.

Thermocoupler in the Oven

I was ecstatic! I did ask about the voltmeter test, and I would have needed to be an octopus to do this by myself for the oven. I happily paid $18 for my electromagnet and rushed home to put everything back together. I did a few test runs and the oven worked fine. The insides received a good scrub and everything was reassembled.

This was a great visual lesson for me and thanks to Sure Marine for their assistance!