1950s GE E11-K1 "The Liberator" element problem

Noggenfogger

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My home came with a 1950s-era GE electric range, and it's in remarkably good condition for a 50 year-old appliance. After much research, I discovered that my stove is a E11 "Liberator" (https://inspectapedia.com/Design/GE Appliances-1950.PDF - Page 10).

unnamed.jpg


I have a slight problem that's led me down a rabbit-hole: Only 1/2 of every heating element gets red-hot. For the smaller (6") elements, the middle section is working. For the larger (8") elements, the coils are interwoven, but it's the same thing: only 1/2 of the coil gets red. I find is suspicious that every element has the same problem, so I'm asking for help.

IMG_20200508_114706.jpg


I tried calling GE to get a copy of the owner's manual, but they had a hard time finding this model in their systems, and when they did find it, they couldn't give me a copy because it was on micro-fiche in their office-buildings which are off-limits due to COVID. My troubleshooting so has led me to believe that it's a problem with my switches, but I'm no expert here. Here's what I've tried so far.
  • I replaced one element with a new (GE-branded) electric element. That did not fix the problem.
  • I checked the wall-socket with my multimeter. It is providing 240V.
  • I disassembled the head unit, and checked continuity and voltage going to each switch: it seems to be fine.
    • Three wires go to each switch, I measured 120V from the first wire to the middle wire, and 240V from the first wire to the third wire. I measured 120V from the middle wire to the third wire.
    • PXL_20201219_004446238.jpg
  • I used contact cleaner inside one switch assembly to remove any corrosion, then sprayed in silicone lubricant to make the button-action easier.
So, I think that means that it's either my switch assemblies are broken, or maybe my elements are wired incorrectly. The elements are wired "Black, Red, White" (shown below) -- The working part of the element is connected to the black wire; the inactive part of every element is connected to the red wire, and the white wire is connected to both red and black.

PXL_20201220_022647765.jpg



Are the heating elements supposed to get fully red-hot when on the highest setting? Is it likely that my switches are broken / corroded? How should I go about fixing them?

Thanks for your help.
 

Dan O.

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Noggenfogger said:
Are the heating elements supposed to get fully red-hot when on the highest setting?

Usually, yes.

Noggenfogger said:
Is it likely that my switches are broken / corroded?

If you're getting the full 240 volts at the switch and also a neutral to make 120v and the wiring to the elements are Ok, than yes, the switch(es) is likely defective.

Noggenfogger said:
How should I go about fixing them?

If the switch is defective it would usually be replaced. I've never heard of anyone fixing them.


Noggenfogger said:
I would appreciate some help understanding how these switch units are supposed to operate.

On High the switch should usually send 240 volts to both coils of the element. On a lower setting it might send 240 volts to the larger element coil and only 120 volts to the other (smaller) one. On still a lower setting it might send 240 volts to the smaller coil and 120 to the larger one. On a lower setting yet, it might send only 120 colts to both coils. On the lowest settings it might just send 120 volts to just one of the coils or the other. That's what gives the different heat settings.


Dan O.
 
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Noggenfogger

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Thanks for the response.

If the switch is defective it would usually be replaced

Any idea where I can look into getting replacement switches? I struck out on Ebay.

Lastly, is there a chance that all my burners are wired incorrectly? Like I said, I find it suspicious that *all* the burners are failing in the exact same way. Is the configuration shown (White wire connected to both the black / red elements) correct?
 

Dan O.

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Noggenfogger said:
Any idea where I can look into getting replacement switches?

Not at the moment. You can periodically check eBay. If you 'save this search' at the eBay site, it'll email you when new items that match the search items get listed.

There are several part numbers that will work as well. All will be found with the following search when they get listed.

LINK > GE Push Button Switch WB23X30, WB23X1, WB23X4, WB23X5041, WB23X5046 search


Noggenfogger said:
Lastly, is there a chance that all my burners are wired incorrectly?

If it was miswired at all, none of the element should glow red AFAIK. You said some did glow red earlier so unless you altered the wiring since, no it could not be miswired IMO.


Dan O.
 

Noggenfogger

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So I sprung for buying the wiring diagram for my range from automatice.org (for $15.00! What a racket). Maybe you can help me interpret this diagram, but my burners *may* be miswired:

switch diagram.png


The wires coming off of this switch are cloth-bound Black, White, and Red. And they're connected to the burner as indicated in this image:

PXL_20201220_022647765.jpg


I think this configuration is incorrect, unless "Gray" means black, and "Black" means white. I'll need to disassemble the burners to double-check. "What could go wrong?"
 

Dan O.

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You can see the two terminals joined together on the element? That is the common terminal.

That conmmon terminal appears to connect to the black wire in the diagram. It also looks like the red wire goes to the outermost element terminal. The gray to the other element terminal.

To test the element you'd check continuity between the common and each of the other terminals one at a time. NO continuity means that coil of the element is defective.

LINK > How do I test for continuity?



Dan O.
 

Noggenfogger

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That conmmon terminal appears to connect to the black wire in the diagram. It also looks like the red wire goes to the outermost element terminal. The gray to the other element terminal.
The photo (with the multimeter leads) is just for demonstration of how the elements are wired in the range. It's hard to get a photo of them in-place. Would you agree that the wiring configuration in the photo is incorrect when compared to the diagram?

The continuity of the elements are fine. I don't believe that the elements are defective.
 

Dan O.

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If the elements are not wired how I described, they are not correct.

I have no idea if the wires at the switch have been altered as well. I couldn't say absolutely which wires goes where without tracing it from one end to the other to see where each is connected.

Dan O.
 

Noggenfogger

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Update: The burners were miswired. After swapping the white and black wires, the whole burner now gets hot.

I'm guessing that someone replaced the wires from the switches ~20 years ago, and whoever did it wired them up backwards. After spraying a bit of food-safe silicone lubricant into the switch housing, the switches all now operate like a dream, and everything works again.

Next task is to get the fluorescent light working. It looks like the ballast that powers the 30W 36" T8 tube is defective.
 
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