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At some point in your life you have (or you will) wake up to discover that one of your stove’s burners just isn’t working. You still have three (or more) to work with, so unless you frequently cook massive feasts, you probably can get by without one. But maybe you don’t have to. If you have a glass-top stove, repairing or replacing a single burner is a bit more complicated, and should probably only be attempted by a professional. But if you’ve got a heated-coil electric stove or a gas stove, a malfunctioning burner is usually a pretty easy fix—and if it’s not an easy fix, it’s often (though not always) a pretty easy replacement.

How to repair a burner on a gas or electric stove

Before spending a small fortune on a new one, it’s worth it to see if you can just fix the problem. Step one when contemplating a repair on your stove should always be to unplug it (yes, your gas stove is plugged into the wall) to avoid any chance of a shock. You should probably also shut off the gas to be completely safe.

Once that’s done, remove the burner grate and start working on the malfunctioning burner.

Repairing a gas stove burner

The first thing to check on a gas stove is the burner cap, the (typically black) disc that sits on top of the spreader. Remove and clean the cap thoroughly using a non-abrasive sponge or scrubber and some mild cleaner. Let it dry thoroughly, then replace it, making sure it sits firmly in place, and test your stove—often the problem is as simple as a dirty cap, or a cap that’s not seated properly.

If that doesn’t do the trick, remove the cap again and inspect the burner orifice. This is a small opening in the center of the burner, where the gas flows up to be ignited. It can easily become clogged, so take a bit of wire or any similarly stiff, narrow tool and push it gently into the opening and move it around a little. Don’t use too much force; you’re just trying to clear out any gunk that might be stopped the gas from flowing. Now look at the base the cap sits on—there are small “ports” all around its circumference where the flames get spread. Using the same wire, make sure there isn’t any collected gunk blocking these ports either. Replace the cap and test the burner.

If it still isn’t working, look at the igniter. This is a white nub on one side of the burner that produces the spark that lights the flame on your burner. You can usually (gently) pry this up using a small flathead screwdriver or other edge. Inspect the connections to see if anything has come loose, and reset as needed. Push it back into place and see if that has solved your problem.

If none of these steps fixes the issue, you probably need to replace the burner (see below).

Repairing an electric stove burner

An electric burner is a bit easier to troubleshoot—it’s either heating up and turning a nice hot red, or it’s not. Repairing a malfunctioning electric burner isn’t too hard:

  • Look for the connection, two thin metal rods linking the burner to the stove’s inner workings. Grab hold of the opposite end of the burner and gently pull it towards you, lifting slightly as you do. The burner will slide free.
  • Using a wire brush, clean the connection ends of the burner (the pieces that slide into the stove and connect to the power). Replace the burner by pushing it back into place, making sure the connections don’t get bent.

Turn the power back on and test the burner. If it still doesn’t heat up, or only heats up partially, you need to replace the burner.

How to replace a gas or electric burner

If you need to replace one of the burners on your stove, your first step is to know the model and manufacturer so you can order the correct replacement part—there are some “universal” replacement parts that might do the trick, but your best option will usually be to get parts specific to your stove. Typically this information can be found on the inside of the broiler or warming drawer if you have one, or inside the oven door. Once you have that information, go to the manufacturer’s website. Most appliance makers will happily sell you replacement parts.

Once you have the new burner, replacing it is fairly straightforward. Again, cut the power and gas to the stove before beginning work.

Replacing an electric burner

This is an easy replacement. Simply remove the bad burner as above, discard it, and push the new one into place. If the burner still won’t heat up, the oven has a bigger problem and you might need an electrician or a repair specialist to take a look.

Replacing a gas burner

First, remove the burner cap. Next, remove the base the cap sits on. This might simply lift off (sometimes this requires a twisting motion), but more commonly there will be a few obvious screws you’ll have to remove first. Once those are gone, the base will lift up. There will be wires connected to the igniter, which you can simply pull out. Secure the wires so they don’t slide inside the stovetop, then insert them into the igniter on your replacement burner base. Set it into place and replace the screws. Turn the power and gas back on and test.

If the gas burner still won’t light up properly, again you’re probably stuck calling for a repair professional.

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