Notes on the Troubleshooting and Repair of Microwave Ovens


[Document Version: 3.10] [Last Updated: 05/25/1998]

Chapter 1) About the Author & Copyright

Notes on the Troubleshooting and Repair of Microwave Ovens

Author: Samuel M. Goldwasser
Corrections/suggestions: | Email

Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
All Rights Reserved

Reproduction of this document in whole or in part is permitted if both of the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. This notice is included in its entirety at the beginning.
  2. There is no charge except to cover the costs of copying.

Chapter 2) Introduction

Radar Range anyone?

Remember when you actually had to use the real oven to defrost a TV
dinner?  Think back - way back - before VCRs, before PCs (and yes, before
Apple computers as well), almost before dinosaurs, it would seem.  There
was a time when the term 'nuke' was not used for anything other than bombs
and power reactors.

For a long time, there was controversy as to whether microwave ovens were
safe - in terms of microwave emissions and molecular damage to the food.
Whether these issues have been resolved or just brushed aside is not totally
clear.  Nonetheless, the microwave oven has taken its place in virtually
every kitchen on the planet.  Connoisseurs of fine dining will turn up
their collective noses at the thought of using a microwave oven for much
beyond boiling water - if that.  However, it is difficult to deny the
convenience and cooking speed that is provided by this relatively simple

Microwave ovens are extremely reliable devices.  There is a good chance
that your oven will operate for 10 years or more without requiring repairs
of any kind - and at performance levels indistinguishable from when it
was first taken out of the box.  Unlike other consumer electronics
where a new model is introduced every 20 minutes - some even have useful
improvements - the microwave oven has not changed substantially in the
last 20 years.  Cooking is cooking.  Touchpads are now nearly universal
because they are cheaper to manufacture than mechanical timers (and also
more convenient).  However, an old microwave oven will heat foods just
as well as a brand new one.

This document provides maintenance and repair information applicable to
most of the microwave ovens in existence.  It will enable you to quickly
determine the likely cause and estimate the cost of parts.  You will be
able to make an informed decision as to whether a new oven is the better
alternative.  With minor exceptions, specific manufacturers and models will
not be covered as there are so many variations that such a treatment would
require a huge and very detailed text.  Rather, the most common problems
will be addressed and enough basic principles of operation will be provided
to enable you to narrow the problem down and likely determine a course of
action for repair.  In many cases, you will be able to do what is required
for a fraction of the cost that would be charged by a repair center - or - be
able to revive something that would otherwise have gone into the dumpster
or continued in its present occupation as a door stop or foot rest.

Should you still not be able to find a solution, you will have learned a great
deal and be able to ask appropriate questions and supply relevant information
if you decide to post to sci.electronics.repair.  In any case, you will have
the satisfaction of knowing you did as much as you could before taking it in
for professional repair.  You will be able to decide if it is worth the cost
of a repair as well.  With your new-found knowledge, you will have the upper
hand and will not easily be snowed by a dishonest or incompetent technician.

  2.1) On-line microwave oven repair database

Microtech maintains a web site with a large amount of information on microwave
oven repair including an on-line Tech Tips Database with hundreds of solutions
to common problem for many models of microwave ovens.  There are also an
extensive list of microwave oven related links to other interesting sites
(including this document!).  The comprehensive Safety Info is a must read
as well.  Microtech also offers instructional videos and books on microwave
oven and VCR repair.

It is quite possible your problem is already covered at the Microtech site.
In that case, you can greatly simplify your troubleshooting or at least
confirm a diagnosis before ordering parts.  My only reservation with respect
to tech tips databases in general - this has nothing to do with Microtech
in particular - is that symptoms can sometimes be deceiving and a solution
that works in one instance may not apply to your specific problem.  Therefore,
an understanding of the hows and whys of the equipment along with some good
old fashioned testing is highly desirable to minimize the risk of replacing
parts that turn out not to be bad.

  2.2) Expert system for microwave oven fault diagnosis

The MIDES (Microwave Oven Diagnosis Expert System) site represents an
interesting and possibly useful approach for isolating the cause of many common
failures.  It will take you through a customized step-by-step procedure based
on your symptoms (and specific microwave oven model in some cases) and the
results of its suggested tests.  For the novice, this may be an effective way
of obtaining a solution quickly as long as you follow the extremely important
safety information provided by MIDES (or this document).  You will not be
forced to acknowledge that you have read, understood, and followed their safety
precautions and warnings before performing each test.

  2.3) The simplest problems

* Bad interlocks switches or door misalignment causing fuses to blow or no
  operation when the start button is pressed.  Locate and replace defective
  switches and/or realign door.

* Arcing in oven chamber: clean oven chamber and waveguide thoroughly.  Replace
  carbonized or damaged waveguide cover.  Smooth rough metal edges.  Touch
  up the interior paint.

* Blown fuse due to power surge or old age:  Replace fuse.  On rare occasions,
  the main fuse may even be intermittent causing very strange symptoms.

* Erratic touchpad operation due to spill - let touchpad dry out for a week.

* Bugs in the works - the controller circuit board is a nice warm safe cozy
  place to raise a family.....

More detailed explanations are provided elsewhere in this document.

  2.4) Repair or replace?

With small to medium size microwave ovens going for $60-100 it hardly makes
sense to spend $60 to have one repaired.  Even full size microwave ovens with
full featured touchpanel can be had for under $200.  Thus, replacement
should be considered seriously before sinking a large investment into an
older oven.

However, if you can do the repair yourself, the equation changes dramatically
as your parts costs will be 1/2 to 1/4 of what a professional will charge
and of course your time is free.  The educational aspects may also be
appealing.  You will learn a lot in the process.  Many problems can be
solved quickly and inexpensively.  Fixing an old microwave for the dorm
room may just make sense after all.

Chapter 3) Installation and Preventive Maintenance

  3.1) Microwave oven installation and use

To assure safety and convenient, follow these recommendations:

* Read your users manual from cover to cover especially if this is your first
  microwave.  What a concept!  If nothing else, you may discover that your
  oven has features you were not aware were even possible.  In any case, there
  may be requirements or suggestions that are specific to your model and will
  enable you to get the most performance from your new microwave.

* Select a stand-alone unit rather than a built-in if possible.  It will be
  cheaper to buy, cheaper and easier to service, and possibly more reliable
  since ventilation and adjacent heat producing appliances will not be as
  much of a factor.

* Select a convenient location - easy access and not too high or too low.
  This is particularly important if the door of the oven opens down instead
  of to the left side (only a few models are built this way, however).

* Put the microwave oven on its own dedicated 3 wire grounded circuit.
  Temporary use of a 3 to 2 prong adapter is acceptable only if the outlet
  box is properly grounded to begin with (BX, Romex, or conduit with ground).

  Make sure the outlet is in good condition in either case.  Check that the
  plug (or adapter) fits tightly and that there is no appreciable heating
  of the outlet during use of the microwave oven.  If there is, spread the
  metal strips of each of the prongs apart if possible and/or replace the

  A grounded outlet is essential for safety.  Microwave ovens are high
  power devices and a separate circuit will eliminate nuisance fuse blowing
  or circuit breaker tripping when multiple appliances are being used at
  the same time.  It will also minimize the possibility of Radio Frequency
  Interference (RFI) between it and any electronic equipment which might be
  on the same circuit.  A GFCI is not needed as long as the outlet is properly
  grounded and may result in nuisance tripping with some microwave ovens.

  Inexpensice outlet testers are available at hardware stores, home centers,
  and electrical parts distributors, to confirm that the outlet is properly
  wired and grounded.

* Allow adequate ventilation - do not push it up against the wall or wedge
  it under a tight fitting wall cabinet (or inside one for that matter!).
  Leave at least 2 inches on all sides and top if possible.

* Do not let children use the microwave oven unless properly supervised.  It
  is very easy to cause a fire through the use of excessive times or power
  settings.  Even something as simple as microwave popcorn can explode and/or
  catch fire if heated for too long - e.g., 5 minutes instead of my precisely
  determined 3:41 on high :-).

  3.2) Microwave oven maintenance

Most people do not do anything to maintain a microwave oven.  While not
much is needed, regular cleaning at least will avoid potentially expensive
repairs in the future:

* Clean the interior of the oven chamber after use with a damp cloth and some
  detergent if necessary.  Built up food deposits can eventually carbonize
  resulting in sparks, arcs, heating, and damage to the mica waveguide cover
  and interior paint - as well as potentially more serious damage to the
  magnetron.  If there is any chance of food deposits having made their way
  above the waveguide cover in the roof of the chamber, remove the waveguide
  cover and thoroughly clean inside the waveguide as well.

* Clean the exterior of the cabinet and touchpad in a similar manner.  DO NOT
  use a spray where any can find its way inside through the door latch or
  ventilation holes, or a dripping wet cloth.  Be especially careful around
  the area of the touchpad since liquid can seep underneath resulting in
  unresponsive or stuck buttons or erratic operation.  Do not use strong
  solvents (though a bit of isopropyl alcohol is fine if needed to remove
  sticky residue from unwanted labels, for example).

* Inspect the cord and plug for physical damage and to make sure the
  plug is secure and tight in the outlet - particularly if the unit is
  installed inside a cabinet (yes, I know it is difficult to get at but
  I warned you about that!).  Heat, especially from a combination
  microwave/convection oven or from other heat producing appliances
  can damage the plug and/or cord.  If there is evidence of overheating at
  the outlet itself, the outlet (and possibly the plug as well) should be

* Periodically check for built up dust and dirt around the ventilation
  holes or grills.  Clean them up and use a vacuum cleaner to suck up
  loose dust.  Keeping the ventilation free will minimize the chance of

* Listen for any unusual sounds coming from inside the oven.  While these
  appliances are not exactly quiet, grinding, squealing, scraping, or other
  noises - especially if they were not there when the oven was new - may
  indicate the need for some more extensive maintenance like belt replacement
  or motor lubrication.  Attending to these minor problems now may prevent
  major repairs in the future.

* Keep your kitchen clean.  Yes, I know, this isn't exactly microwave
  specific but cockroaches and other uninvited guests might just like to
  take up residence inside the electronics bay of the oven on the nice warm
  controller circuit board or its neighborhood and they aren't generally
  the tidiest folks in the world.

  If it is too late and you have a recurring problem of cockroaches getting
  inside the electronics bay, tell them to get lost and then put window screen
  over the vents (or wherever they are entering).  Such an open mesh should
  not affect the cooling of the electronic components significantly.  However,
  the mesh will likely clog up more quickly than the original louvers so make
  sure it is cleaned regularly.  If possible, clean up whatever is attracting
  the unwanted tenants (and anything they may have left behind including their
  eggs!!).  WARNING: See the section: "SAFETY" before going inside.

CAUTION: Do not spray anything into the holes where the door latch is inserted
or anywhere around the touchpad as this can result in internal short circuits
and costly damage - or anywhere else inside, for that matter.  If you do this
by accident, immediately unplug the oven and let it dry out for a day or two.

  3.3) How long does microwave energy hang around?

You have probably been warned by your mother: "Wait a few seconds (or minutes)
after the beep for all the microwaves to disappear".  There is no scientific
basis for such a recommendation.  Once the beep has sounded (or the door has
opened), it is safe.  This is because:

1. There is no such thing as residual microwave radiation from a microwave
   oven - it is either being produced or is non-existent.

2. There is little energy storage in the microwave generator compared to
   the amount being used.  The typical high voltage capacitor - the only
   component that can store energy - has a capacity of less than 15 W-s
   (Watt-seconds) even for the largest ovens.  Power consumption is typically
   800 to 1500 W depending on oven size.  Therefore, the capacitor will be
   fully drained in much less than .1 second - long before the beep has ended
   or the door has cleared the front panel.  (Based on the numbers, above, for
   a 1500 W oven with a capacitor storing 15 W-s, it is more like .01 seconds!)

   WARNING: This only applies to a *working* microwave oven!  If there is no
   heat, the magnetron may not be drawing any current from the HV power
   supply and the HV capacitor can remain charged for a long time.  In this
   case, there is a very real risk of potentially lethal electrical shock even
   after several minutes or more of being unplugged!  See the section:
   "SAFETY" if you will be troubleshooting a microwave oven.

Chapter 4) Microwave Oven Troubleshooting

  4.1) SAFETY


Microwave ovens are probably the most dangerous of consumer appliances
to service.  Very high voltages (up to 5000 V) at potentially very high
currents (AMPs) are present when operating - deadly combination.  These
dangers do not go away even when unplugged as there is an energy storage
device - a high voltage capacitor - that can retain a dangerous charge
for a long time.  If you have the slightest doubts about your knowledge
and abilities to deal with these hazards, replace the oven or have it
professionally repaired.

Careless troubleshooting of a microwave oven can not only can fry you from
high voltages at relatively high currents but can microwave irradiate you as
well.  When you remove the metal cover of the microwave oven you expose
yourself to dangerous - potentially lethal - electrical connections.  You
may also be exposed to potentially harmful levels of microwave emissions if
you run the oven with the cover off and there is damage or misalignment to
the waveguide to the oven chamber.

There is a high voltage capacitor in the microwave generator.  Always ensure
that it is totally discharged before even thinking about touching or probing
anything in the high voltage power circuits.  See the troubleshooting sections
later in this document.

To prevent the possibility of extremely dangerous electric shock, do not
operate the oven with the cover off if at all possible.  If you must probe
live, remove the connections to the magnetron (see below) to prevent the
inadvertent generation of microwaves except when this is absolutely needed
during troubleshooting.  Discharge the high voltage capacitor and then use
clip leads to make any connections before you apply power to the oven.

The microwave oven circuitry is especially hazardous because the return for
the high voltage is the chassis - it is not isolated.  In addition, the HV
may exceed 5000 V peak with a continuous current rating of over .25 AMP at
50/60 Hz - the continuous power rating of the HV transformer may exceed
1500 W with short term availability of much greater power.  Always observe
high voltage protocol.

  4.2) Safety guidelines

These guidelines are to protect you from potentially deadly electrical shock
hazards as well as the equipment from accidental damage.

Note that the danger to you is not only in your body providing a conducting
path, particularly through your heart.  Any involuntary muscle contractions
caused by a shock, while perhaps harmless in themselves, may cause collateral
damage - there are many sharp edges inside this type of equipment as well as
other electrically live parts you may contact accidentally.

The purpose of this set of guidelines is not to frighten you but rather to
make you aware of the appropriate precautions.  Repair of TVs, monitors,
microwave ovens, and other consumer and industrial equipment can be both
rewarding and economical.  Just be sure that it is also safe!

* Don't work alone - in the event of an emergency another person's presence
  may be essential.

* Always keep one hand in your pocket when anywhere around a powered
  line-connected or high voltage system.

* Wear rubber bottom shoes or sneakers.

* Don't wear any jewelry or other articles that could accidentally contact
  circuitry and conduct current, or get caught in moving parts.

* Set up your work area away from possible grounds that you may accidentally

* Know your equipment: TVs and monitors may use parts of the metal chassis
  as ground return yet the chassis may be electrically live with respect to the
  earth ground of the AC line.  Microwave ovens use the chassis as ground
  return for the high voltage.  In addition, do not assume that the chassis
  is a suitable ground for your test equipment!

* If circuit boards need to be removed from their mountings, put insulating
  material between the boards and anything they may short to.  Hold them in
  place with string or electrical tape.  Prop them up with insulation sticks -
  plastic or wood.

* If you need to probe, solder, or otherwise touch circuits with power off,
  discharge (across) large power supply filter capacitors with a 25 W or
  greater resistor of 5 to 50 ohms/V approximate value.

  For the microwave oven in particular, use a 25K to 100K 25 W resistor with
  a secure clip lead to the chassis.  Mount the resistor on the end of a well
  insulated stick.  Touch each of the capacitor terminals to the non-grounded
  end of the resistor for several seconds.  Then, to be doubly sure that the
  capacitor if fully discharged, short across its terminals with the blade of
  a well insulated screwdriver.  I also recommend leaving a clip lead shorting
  across the capacitor terminals while working as added insurance.  At most,
  you will blow a fuse if you should forget to remove it when powering up the

* Connect/disconnect any test leads with the equipment unpowered and
  unplugged. Use clip leads or solder temporary wires to reach cramped
  locations or difficult to access locations.

* If you must probe live, put electrical tape over all but the last 1/16"
  of the test probes to avoid the possibility of an accidental short which
  could cause damage to various components.  Clip the reference end of the
  meter or scope to the appropriate ground return so that you need to only
  probe with one hand.

* Perform as many tests as possible with power off and the equipment unplugged.
  For example, the semiconductors in the power supply section of a TV or
  monitor can be tested for short circuits with an ohmmeter.

* Use an isolation transformer if there is any chance of contacting line
  connected circuits.  A Variac(tm) is not an isolation transformer!
  The use of a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protected outlet is a
  good idea but will not protect you from shock from many points in a line
  connected TV or monitor, or the high voltage side of a microwave oven, for
  example.  A circuit breaker is too slow and insensitive to provide any
  protection for you or in many cases, your equipment.  A GFCI may, however
  prevent your scope probe ground from smoking should you accidentally connect
  an earth grounded scope to a live chassis.

* Don't attempt repair work when you are tired.  Not only will you be more
  careless, but your primary diagnostic tool - deductive reasoning - will
  not be operating at full capacity.

* Finally, never assume anything without checking it out for yourself!
  Don't take shortcuts!

As noted, a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) will NOT protect you
from the high voltage since the secondary of the HV transformer is
providing this current and any current drawn off of the secondary
to ground will not be detected by the GFCI.  However, use of a GFCI is
desirable to minimize the risk of a shock from the line portions
of the circuitry if you don't have an isolation transformer.

An isolation transformer is even limited value as well since the chassis IS
the HV return and is a large very tempting place to touch, lean on, or brush
up against.

And, of course, none of these devices will protect fools from themselves!

Take extreme care whenever working with the cover off of a microwave oven.

  4.3) Troubleshooting tips

Many problems have simple solutions.  Don't immediately assume that
your problem is some combination of esoteric complex convoluted
failures.  For a microwave oven, there may be a defective door
interlock switch or just a tired fuse.

If you get stuck, sleep on it.  Sometimes, just letting the problem
bounce around in your head will lead to a different more successful
approach or solution.  Don't work when you are really tired - it is both
dangerous (particularly with microwave ovens) and mostly non-productive
(or possibly destructive - very destructive).

If you need to remove the cover or other disassembly, make notes of which
screw went where - they may not all be identical.  More notes is better
than less.

Pill bottles, film canisters, and plastic ice cube trays come in handy for
sorting and storing screws and other small parts after disassembly.

Select a work area which is well lighted and where dropped parts can
be located - not on a deep pile shag rug.  Something like a large plastic
tray with a slight lip may come in handy as it prevents small parts from
rolling off of the work table.  The best location will also be relatively
dust free and allow you to suspend your troubleshooting to eat or sleep or
think without having to pile everything into a cardboard box for storage.

A basic set of high quality hand tools will be all you need to work on a
microwave oven.   These do not need to be really expensive but poor quality
tools are worse than useless and can cause damage.  Stanley or Craftsman
are fine.  Needed tools include a selection of Philips and straight blade
screwdrivers, needlenose pliers, wire cutters and wire strippers.

A medium power soldering iron and rosin core solder (never never use acid
core solder or the stuff for sweating copper pipes on electronic equipment)
will be needed if you should need to disconnect any soldered wires (on
purpose or by accident) or replace soldered components.

However, most of the power components in microwave ovens use solderless
connectors (lugs) and replacements usually come with these as well.

See the document: "Troubleshooting and Repair of Consumer Electronics Equipment" for additional info on soldering and rework techniques and
other general information.

An assortment of solderless connectors (lugs and wirenuts) is handy when
repairing the internal wiring.  A crimping tool will be needed as well but
the $4 variety is fine for occasional use.

Old dead microwaves can often be valuable source of hardware and sometimes
even components like interlock switches and magnetrons as these components
are often interchangeable.  While not advocating being a pack rat, this
does have its advantages at times.

  4.4) Test equipment

Don't start with the electronic test equipment, start with some analytical
thinking.  Many problems associated with consumer electronic equipment
do not require a schematic (though one may be useful).  The majority of
microwave oven problems are easily solved with at most a multimeter (DMM
or VOM).  You do not need an oscilloscope for microwave oven repair unless
you end up trying to fix the logic in the controller - extremely unlikely.

A DMM or VOM is necessary for checking of power supply voltages (NOT
the high voltage, however) and testing of interlock switches, fuses,
wiring, and most of the components of the microwave generator.  This does
not need to be expensive but since you will be depending on its readings,
reliability is important.  Even a relatively inexpensive DMM from Radio
Shack will be fine for most repair work.  You will wonder how you ever
lived without one!  Cost: $25-50.

Other useful pieces of 'test equipment':

* A microwave leakage detector.  Inexpensive types are readily available
  at home centers or by mail order.  These are not super accurate or
  sensitive but are better than nothing.  Also see the sections: "Microwave leakage meters" and "Simple microwave leak detectors".

* A microwave power detector.  These can be purchased or you can make one
  from a small neon (NE2) or incandescent bulb with its lead wires twisted
  together.  Sometimes these homemade solutions do not survive for long
  but will definitely confirm that microwave power is present inside the
  oven chamber.  Note: always have a load inside the oven when testing - a
  cup of water is adequate.

* A thermometer (glass not metal) to monitor water temperature during
  power tests.

* High voltage probe (professional, not homemade!).  However, this is
  only rarely actually required.  Low voltage, resistance, or continuity
  checks will identify most problems.  WARNING: the high voltage in a
  microwave oven is NEGATIVE (-) with respect to the chassis.  Should
  you accidentally use the wrong test probe polarity with your meter,
  don't just interchange the probes = it may be last thing you ever do.
  Unplug the oven, discharge the HV capacitor, and only then change the

There are special magnetron and microwave test instruments but unless you are
in the business, these are unnecessary extravagances.

  4.5) Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor

It is essential - for your safety and to prevent damage to the device under
test as well as your test equipment - that the large high voltage capacitor
in the microwave generator be fully discharged before touching anything
or making measurements.  While these are supposed to include internal
bleeder resistors, these can fail.  In any case, several minutes may be
required for the voltage to drop to negligible levels.

The technique I recommend is to use a high wattage resistor of about 5 to
50 ohms/V of the working voltage of the capacitor.  This will prevent the
arc-welding associated with screwdriver discharge but will have a short enough
time constant so that the capacitor will drop to a low voltage in at most a
few seconds (dependent of course on the RC time constant and its original

* For the high voltage capacitor in a microwave oven, use a 25 W or larger
  100 K ohm resistor for your discharge widget with a clip lead to the
  chassis.  The reason to use a large (high wattage) resistor is again not
  so much power dissipation as voltage holdoff.  You don't want the HV
  zapping across the terminals terminals of the resistor.

* Clip the ground wire to an unpainted spot on the chassis.  Use the discharge
  probe on each side of the capacitor in turn for a second or two.  Since the
  time constant RC is about .1 second, this should drain the charge quickly and

* Then, confirm with a WELL INSULATED screwdriver across the capacitor
  terminals.  If there is a big spark, you will know that somehow, your
  original attempt was less than entirely successful.  There is a very slight
  chance the capacitor could be damaged by the uncontrolled discharge but at
  least there will be no danger.

* Finally, it is a good idea to put a clip lead across the capacitor terminals
  just to be sure it stays fully discharged while you are working in the area.
  Yes, capacitors have been known to spontaneously regain some charge.  At
  worst, you will blow the fuse upon powering up if you forget to remove it.

WARNING: DO NOT use a DMM for checking voltage on the capacitor unless you
have a proper high voltage probe.  If your discharging did not work, you may
blow everything - including yourself.

A suitable discharge tool can be made as follows:

* Solder one end of the appropriate size resistor (100K ohms, 25W in this case)
  to a well insulated clip lead about 2 to 3 feet long.  Don't just wrap it
  around - this connection must be secure for safety reasons.

* Solder the other end of the resistor to a well insulated contact point
  such as a 2 inch length of bare #14 copper wire mounted on the end of a
  2 foot piece of PVC or Plexiglas rod which will act as an extension handle.

* Secure the resistor to the insulating rod with some plastic electrical tape.

This discharge tool will keep you safely clear of the danger area.  The
capacitor discharge indicator circuit described in the document: "Capacitor
Testing and Safe Discharging" can be built into the discharge tool if desired.

Again, always double check with a reliable high voltage meter or by shorting
with an insulated screwdriver!

Reasons to use a resistor and not a screwdriver to discharge capacitors:

1. It will not destroy screwdrivers and capacitor terminals.

2. It will not damage the capacitor (due to the current pulse).

3. It will reduce your spouse's stress level in not having to hear those
   scary snaps and crackles.

  4.6) Getting inside a microwave oven

You will void the warranty - at least in principle.  There are usually no
warranty seals on a microwave so unless you cause visible damage or mangle the
screws or plastic, it is unlikely that this would be detected.  You need to
decide.  A microwave still under warranty should probably be returned for
warranty service for any covered problems except those with the most obvious
and easy solutions.

Unplug the unit!  Usually, the sheet metal cover over the top and sides
is easily removed after unscrewing 8-16 philips head sheet metal screws.
Most of these are on the back but a few may screw into the sides.  They
are not usually all the same!  At least one of these includes a lockwasher
to securely ground the cover to the case.  Make note of any differences
in screw types so they can be put back in the same place.  The cover will
then lift up and off.  Note how fingers on the cover interlock with
the main cabinet - these are critical to ensure prevention of microwave
leakage after reassembly.

Discharge the high voltage capacitor as described in the section: "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor" before even thinking about touching

A schematic showing all of the power generation components is usually
glued to the inside of the cover.  How much of the controller is included
varies but is usually minimal.

Fortunately, all the parts in a microwave can be easily replaced and most of
the parts for the microwave generator are readily available from places
like MCM Electronics, Dalbani, and Premium Parts.

Reassemble in reverse order.  Take particular care to avoid pinching any
wires when reinstalling the cover.  Fortunately, the inside of a microwave
is wide open and this is not difficult.  Make sure ALL of the metal fingers
around the front edge engage properly with the front panel lip.  This is
critical to avoid microwave emissions should the waveguide or magnetron
become physically damaged in any way.  Confirm that the screws you removed
go back in the proper locations, particularly the one that grounds the
cover to the chassis.

Chapter 5) Principles of Operation

  5.1) Instant (2 minutes on HIGH) microwave oven theory

A typical microwave oven uses between 500 and 1000 W of microwave energy
at 2.45 GHz to heat the food.  This heating is caused mainly by the vibration
of the water molecules.  Thus plastic, glass, or even paper containers will
heat only through conduction from the hot food.  There is little transfer of
energy directly to these materials.  This also means that the food does not
need to be a conductor of electricity (try heating a cup of distilled water)
and that electromagnetic induction (used elsewhere for high frequency
non-contact heating) is not involved.

What is significant about 2.45 GHz?  Not that much.  Water molecules are not
resonant at this frequency.  A wide range of frequencies will work to heat
water efficiently.  2.45 GHz was probably chosen for a number of other reasons
including not interfering with existing EM spectrum assignments and convenience
in implementation.  In addition, the wavelength (about 5 inches) results in
reasonable penetration of the microwave energy into the food.  The 3 dB (half
power) point is about 1 inch for liquid water - half the power is absorbed in
the outer 1 inch of depth, another 1/4 of the power in the next inch, and so

Since the oven chamber cavity is a good reflector of microwaves, nearly all
the energy generated by the oven is available to heat the food and heating
speed is thus only dependent on the available power and how much food is being
cooked.  Ignoring losses through convection, the time to heat food is roughly
proportional to its weight.  Thus two cups of water will take around twice as
long to bring to a boil as one.

Heating is not (as popularly assumed) from the inside out.  The penetration
depth of the microwave energy is a few cm so that the outside is cooked faster
than the inside.  However, unlike a conventional oven, the microwave energy
does penetrate these few cm rather than being totally applied to the exterior
of the food.  The misconception may arise when sampling something like
a pie filling just out of the microwave (or conventional oven for that
matter).  Since the pie can only cool from the outside, the interior filling
will appear to be much hotter than the crust and will remain that way for a
long time.

One very real effect that may occur with liquids is superheating.  It is
possible to heat a pure liquid like water to above its boiling point
if there are no centers for bubbles to form such as dust specks or container
imperfections.  Such a superheated liquid may boil suddenly and violently
upon removal from the oven with dangerous consequences.  This can take place
in a microwave since the heating is relatively uniform throughout the liquid.
With a stovetop, heating is via conduction from the burner or coil and there
will be ample  opportunity for small bubbles to form on the bottom long before
the entire volume has reached the boiling point.

Most metal objects should be excluded from a microwave oven as any sharp
edges (areas of high electric field gradient) may create sparking
or arcing which at the very least is a fire hazard.  Microwave safe metal
shelves will have nicely rounded corners.

A microwave oven should never be operated without anything inside as the
microwave generator then has no load - all the energy bounces around
inside an a great deal is reflected back to the source.  This may cause
expensive damage to the magnetron and other components.

  5.2) Why don't microwaves leak out from through the glass?

"I am trying to find out what the glass on a microwave consists of 
 exactly.  i have not been able to get a better answer than
 'a wire mesh'.  if you can help, i would greatly appreciate it."

There *is* a wire mesh embedded in the glass panel.  Since the holes
in the mesh are much much smaller than the wavelength of the 2.45 GHz
microwaves (about 5 inches or 12.5 cm), it is essentially opaque to
microwaves and essentially all the energy is reflected back into the
oven cavity.

(From: Filip (I'll buy a vowel) Gieszczykiewicz (filipg@repairfaq.org)).

Greetings. Did you ever see a "mesh" satellite disk up close? You will
note that it looks much like it's made out of simple wire mesh that
you can get in a hardware store (in the USA, it's called "chicken fence"
:-). The reason this works is that the wave that the dish picks up
is longer than the hole in the mesh. Consider bouncing a tennis
ball on the "wire mesh" in the microwave - it WOULD work because
the ball is bigger than the holes. The wave in the microwave is
about 2.5cm "long" ... as long as the holes are smaller than that
(actually, you want them as small as possible - without affecting the
"watching the food" - to minimize any stray and harmonic waves
from escaping... like bouncing tennis and golf and ping-pong balls and
marbles off the mesh - you want to catch all the possible sizes - yet
still be able to see through it) they will not let anything out of the

BTW, it's not really "glass" but rather a 'sandwich' of glass, from
the outside, wire mesh (usually a sheet of metal which is either stamped
or drilled with a hole pattern - like a color TV CRT mask!), and followed
by a sheet of glass or plastic to make sure that food splatters and
vapor condensation are easy to clean - imagine scraping the mesh!

  5.3) How a microwave oven works

The operation of a microwave oven is really very simple.  It consists
of two parts: the controller and the microwave generator.

A schematic diagram of the microwave generating circuitry and portions of
the controller is usually glued to the inside of the cover.

The controller is what times the cooking by turning the microwave energy
on and off.  Power level is determined by the ratio of on time to off time
in a 10-30 second cycle.

The microwave generator takes AC line power. steps it up to a high voltage,
and applies this to a special type of vacuum tube called a magnetron - little
changed from its invention during World War II (for Radar).

  5.4) Controller

The controller usually includes a microcomputer, though very inexpensive
units may simply have a mechanical timer (which ironically, is probably
more expensive to manufacture!).  The controller runs the digital clock
and cook timer; sets microwave power levels; runs the display; and in high
performance ovens, monitors the moisture or temperature sensors.

Power level is set by pulse width control of the microwave generator usually
with a cycle that lasts 10-30 seconds.  For example, HIGH will be continuous
on, MEDIUM may be 10 seconds on, 10 seconds off, and LOW may be 5 seconds on,
15 seconds off.  The power ratios are not quite linear as there is a 1 to 3
second warmup period after microwave power is switched on.

The operating voltages for the controller usually are derived from a stepdown
transformer.  The controller activates the microwave generating circuitry
using either a relay or triac.

  5.5) Sensors

More sophisticated ovens may include various sensors.  Most common are
probes for temperature and moisture.  A convection oven will include a
temperature sensor above the oven chamber.

Since these sensors are exposed to the food or its vapors, failures of the
sensor probes themselves are common.

  5.6) Cooling fans

Since 30 to 50 percent of the power into a microwave oven is dissipated as
heat in the Magnetron, cooling is extremely important.  Always inspect the
cooling fan/motor for dust and dirt and lubricate if necessary.  A couple of
drops of electric motor oil or 3-in-One will go a long way.  If there are any
belts, inspect for deterioration and replace if necessary.

An oven that shuts off after a few minutes of operation could have a cooling
problem, a defective overtemperature thermostat, a bad magnetron, or is being
operated from very high AC line voltage increasing power to the oven.

One interesting note: Since 30 to 50 percent of the power goes out the vents
in the back as heat, a microwave oven is really only more efficient than
conventional means such as a stovetop or gas or electric oven for heating
small quantities of anything.  With a normal oven or stovetop, wasted energy
goes into heating the pot or oven, the air, and so on.  However, this is
relatively independent of the quantity of food and may be considered to be a
fixed overhead.  Therefore, there is a crossover point beyond which it is more
efficient to use conventional heat than high tech microwaves.

  5.7) Microwave generator

This is the subsystem that converts AC line power into microwave energy.  It
consists of 5 parts: high voltage transformer, rectifier diode, capacitor,
magnetron, waveguide to oven chamber.

* High Voltage Transformer.  Typically has a secondary of around 2,000 VRMS
  at .25 amp - more or less depending on the power rating of the oven.
  There will also be a low voltage winding for the Magnetron filament (3.3 V
  at 10 A is typical).

  You cannot miss this as it is the largest and heaviest component visible
  once the cover is removed.  There will be a pair of quick-connect terminals
  for the AC input, a pair of leads for the Magnetron filament. and a single
  connection for the HV output.  The HV return will be fastened directly to
  the transformer frame and thus the chassis.

* Rectifier - usually rated 12,000 to 15,000 PRV at around .5 amp.  Most
  commonly, this will be rectangular or cylindrical, about .5 inch long
  with wire leads.  Sometimes, it is a box bolted to the chassis.  One
  end will be electrically connected to the chassis.

* Capacitor - .65 to 1.2 uF at a working voltage of around 2,000 VAC.  Note
  that this use of 'working voltage' may be deceiving as the actual voltage
  on the capacitor may exceed this value during operation.  The capacitor
  is metal cased with quick-connect terminals on top (one end).  Always
  discharge the capacitor as described below before touching anything inside
  once the cover is removed.

* Magnetron - the microwave producing tube includes a heated filament
  cathode, multiple resonant cavities with a pair of permanent ceramic ring
  magnets to force the electron beams into helical orbits, and output antenna.
  The magnetron is most often box shaped with cooling fins in its midsection,
  the filament/HV connections on the bottom section, and the antenna (hidden
  by the waveguide) on top.  Sometimes, it is cylindrical in shape but this is
  less common.  The frequency of the microwaves is usually 2.45 GHz.

  5.8) Magnetron construction and operation

The cavity magnetron was invented by the British before World War II.  It is
considered by many to be the invention most critical to the Allied victory
in Europe.

The story goes that shortly after the War, a researcher at the Raytheon
Corporation, Dr. Percy Spencer, was standing near one of the high power radar
units and noticed that a candy bar in his shirt pocket had softened.  In the
typical 'I have to know why this happened' mentality of a true scientist, he
decided to investigate further.  The Amana Radarange and the entire future
microwave oven industry were the result.

Here are two descriptions of magnetron construction.  The first is what you
will likely find if you go to a library and read about radar.  (Some really old
microwave ovens may use the classic design as well.)  This is followed by my
autopsy of a dead magnetron of the type that is probably in the microwave oven
in your kitchen.  (Items (1) to (6) in the following sections apply to each
type while items (7) to (9) apply to both types.)

For more detailed information with some nice diagrams, see the articles at the
Microtech Web Site.  Topics include basic microwave theory as well as a
complete discussion of microwave oven magnetron construction and principles of

  5.9) Magnetron construction - basic textbook description

This is the description you will find in any textbook on radar or microwave
engineering.  The original Amana Radarange and other early microwave ovens
likely used this design as well.

1. A centrally located cylindrical electron emitting cathode.  This is supplied
   with pulsed or continuous power of many thousands of volts (negative with
   respect to the anode.

2. A cylindrical anode block surrounding but separate and well insulated from
   the cathode.

3. Multiple cylindrical resonator cavities at a fixed radius from the cathode
   bored in the anode block.  Channels link the cavities to the central area
   in which the cathode is located.

   The wavelength of the microwave energy is approximately 7.94 times the
   diameter of the cavities.  (For the frequency of 2.45 GHz (12.4 cm) used
   in a microwave oven this would result in a cavity diameter of approximately
   .62" (15.7 mm).

4. An antenna pickup in one of the cylindrical cavities which couples the
   microwave energy to the waveguide.

5. The entire assembly is placed in a powerful magnetic field (several thousand
   Gauss compared to the Earth's magnetic field of about .5 Gauss).  This is
   usually supplied by a permanent magnet though electromagnets have been also
   used.  The original designs used huge somewhat horseshoe shaped permanent
   magnets which were among the most powerful of the day.

6. Cooling of the anode block must be provided by forced air, water, or oil
   since the microwave generation process is only about 60 to 75 percent
   efficient and these are often high power tubes (many kilowatts).

  5.10) Magnetron construction - modern microwave oven

This description is specifically for the 2M214 (which I disassembled) or
similar types used in the majority of medium-to-high power units.  However,
nearly all other magnetrons used in modern domestic microwave ovens should be
very similar.

The item numbers are referenced to the diagram in the section: "Cross section diagram of typical magnetron".

Also see this photo of the Typical Magnetron Anode and Resonant Structure.
This is a view looking up through the anode cylinder from the filament end of
the tube.  See the text below for parts names and dimensions.

1. The filament and cathode are one in the same and made of solid tungsten
   wire, about .020" (.5 mm) diameter, formed in a helix with about 8 to 12
   turns, 5/32" (4 mm) diameter and just over 3/8" (9.5 mm) in length.  The
   cathode is coated with a material which is good for electron emission.

   Note: this coating is the only material contained in the microwave oven
   magnetron that might be at all hazardous.  Beryllium, a toxic metal, may
   be used in large radar magnetrons but should not be present in the types
   found in domestic microwave ovens.

   The filament gets its power via a pair of high current RF chokes - a dozen
   or so turns of heavy wire on a ferrite core - to prevent microwave leakage
   back into the filament circuit and electronics bay of the oven.  Typical
   filament power is 3.3 VAC at 10 A.

   The cathode is supplied with a pulsating negative voltage with a peak value
   of up to 5,000 V.

2. The anode is a cylinder made from .062" (1.5 mm) thick copper with an
   inside diameter of 1-3/8" (35 mm) and a length of about 1" (25.4 mm).

   Steel plates (which probably help to shape the magnetic field, see below)
   and thin steel covers (to which the filament and antenna insulators are
   sealed) are welded to the ends of the cylinder.

   The filament leads/supports enter through a cylindrical ceramic insulator
   sealed to the bottom cover and then pass through a hole in the bottom end

3. Rather than cylindrical cavities (as you would find in most descriptions
   of radar magnetrons), there are a set of 10 copper vanes .062" (1.5 mm)
   thick and approximately 1/2" (12.7 mm) long by 3/8" (9.5 mm) wide.  These
   are brazed or silver soldered to the inside wall of the cylinder facing
   inward leaving a 5/16" (8 mm) central area clear for the filament/cathode.

   Surrounding this space are the .062" (1.5 mm) thick edges of the 10 vanes
   with gaps of approximately .04" (1 mm) between them.

   Copper shorting rings at both ends near the center join alternating vanes.
   Thus, all the even numbered vanes are shorted to each other and all the odd
   numbered vanes are shorted to each other.  Of course, all the rings are
   also all shorted at the outside where they are joined to the inner wall
   of the cylinder.

   This structure results in multiple resonant cavities which behave like
   sets of very high quality low loss L-C tuned circuits with a sharp peak
   at 2.45 GHz.  At this high frequency, individual inductors and capacitors
   are not used.  The inductance and capacitance are provided by the precise
   configuration and spacing of the copper vanes, shorting rings, and anode

4. A connection is made near the middle of a single vane to act as the output
   power takeoff.  It passes through a hole in the top end plate, exits the
   tube via a cylindrical ceramic insulator sealed to the top cover, and
   attaches to the pressed-on bull-nose antenna cap.

5. The entire assembly is placed in a powerful magnetic field (several thousand
   Gauss compared to the Earth's magnetic field of about .5 Gauss).  This is
   provided by a pair of ceramic ring magnets placed against the top and bottom
   covers of the anode cylinder.  For the 2M214, these are about 2-1/8" (54 mm)
   OD, 1-13/16" (46 mm) ID, 1/2" (12.7 mm) thick.

6. A set of thin aluminum fins act as a heat sink for removing the significant
   amount of wasted heat produced by the microwave generation process since
   it is only about 60 to 75 percent efficient.  These are press fit on the
   magnetron anode and also in contact with the magnetron case.  There will
   always be a cooling fan to blow air through this assembly.

   The anode and magnetron case are at ground potential and connected to the

  5.11) Magnetron construction - common features

The following items apply to all types of magnetrons.

7. The gap between the cathode and anode, and the resonant cavities, are all in
   a vacuum.

8. When powered, electrons stream from the cathode to the anode.  The magnetic
   field forces them to travel in curved paths in bunches like the spokes of
   a wheel.  The simplest way to describe what happens is that the electron
   bunches brush against the openings of the resonating cavities in the anode
   and excite microwave production in a way analogous to what happens when you
   blow across the top of a Coke bottle or through a whistle.

9. The frequency/wavelength of the microwaves is mostly determined by the size
   and shape of the resonating cavities - not by the magnetic field as is
   popularly thought.  However, the strength of the magnetic field does affect
   the threshold voltage (the minimum anode voltage required for the magnetron
   to generate any microwaves), power output, and efficiency.

  5.12) Cross section diagram of typical magnetron

The really extraordinary ASCII art below represents (or is supposed to
represent) a cross section of the 2M214 type magnetron (not to scale) through
the center as viewed from the side.

                               |  ____  |
                               |_|    |_|  Antenna cap
                               / |____| \
                              |  | || |  | Antenna insulator
                              |  | || |  |
                      xxxxxxxx|__| || |__|xxxxxxxx RF sealing gasket
          ____________________|    ||    |____________________ 
         |        |       (5)||    ||    ||       (5)|        |
         |        |   Top    ||    ||    ||   Top    |        |
         |        |  Magnet  ||    ||    ||  Magnet  |        | Outer case
         |        |__________||    ||    ||__________|        |
         |              ______|     \\   |______              |
         |             /____    (7)   \\    ____\             |
         |____________||    \__  ______ \\ /    ||____________|
         |            ||_______ |__  __| _\\ ___||            |
         |____________||       | o || o |  ||(4)||____________|
         |            ||       | o || o |       ||        (6) | Heat sink fins
         |____________|| Vane  | o || o |  Vane ||____________|
         |            || (3)   | o || o |  (3)  ||            |
         |____________||       | o || o |       ||____________| o: Filament
         |            ||_______|(1)|| o |_______||            |    helix
         |____________||     __ |_||||_| __     ||____________|
         |            ||____/   || ||      \____||<-- (2)     |
         |             \______   \\ \\    ______/             |
         |         __________ |  ||  ||  | __________         |
         |        |       (5)||  ||  ||  ||       (5)|        |
         |        |  Bottom  ||  ||  ||  ||  Bottom  |        |
         |        |  Magnet  ||  ||  ||  ||  Magnet  |        |
         |________|__________||  ||  ||  ||__________|________|
             |                |__||__||__|                |
             |                 | ||  || |  Filament       |
             |                 | ||  || |  insulator      |
             |   (RF chokes    |_||__||_|                 |
             |    not shown)     ||  ||  Filament/cathode |
             |                   ||  ||  connections      |

  5.13) Microwave generator circuit diagram

Nearly all microwave ovens use basically the same design for the microwave
generator.  This has resulted in a relatively simple system manufactured at
low cost.

The typical circuit is shown below.  This is the sort of diagram you are
likely to find pasted inside the metal cover.  Only the power circuits
are likely included (not the controller unless it is a simple motor driven
timer) but since most problems will be in the microwave generator, this
schematic may be all you need.

                                      || +------------------------+
                                      ||( 3.3 VAC, 10 A, typical  |
                        TP  Relay or  || +------------+------+    | Magnetron
           _ Fuse   I   __    Triac   ||              |    +-|----|-+
   o------- _---+---/ --  ----/ ----+ || +------||----+    | |_  _| |
                |                    )||( HV Cap      |    |   \/   |
  AC           I \ I=Interlock       )||(           __|__  |   ___  |
 Line           |  TP=Thermal Prot.  )||( 2,000 VAC _\_/_  +----|:--+
   o------------+-------------------+ ||( .25 A       | HV      |'--> Micro-
                                      ||( typical     | Diode   |      waves
       (Controller not shown)         || +------------+---------+
                                                      -  Chassis ground

Note the unusual circuit configuration - the magnetron is across the diode,
not the capacitor as in a 'normal' power supply.  What this means is that the
peak voltage across the magnetron is the transformer secondary + the voltage
across the capacitor, so the peaks will approach the peak-peak value of the
transformer or nearly 5000 V in the example above.  This is a half wave voltage
doubler.  The output waveform looks like a sinusoid with a p-p voltage equal to
the p-p voltage of the transformer secondary with its positive peaks at chassis
ground (no load).  The peaks are negative with respect to the chassis.  The
negative peaks will get squashed somewhat under load.  Take extreme care - up
to 5000 V at AMPs available!  WARNING: Never attempt to view this waveform on
an oscilloscope unless you have a commercial high voltage probe and know how
to use it safely!

The easiest way to analyze the half wave doubler operation is with the
magnetron (temporarily) removed from the circuit.  Then, it becomes a simple
half wave rectifier/filter so far as the voltage acrtoss the capacitor is
concerned - which will be approximately V(peak) = V(RMS) * 1.414 where V(RMS)
is the output of the high voltage transformer.  The voltage across the HV
rectifier will then be: V(peak) + V where V is the waveform out of the
transformer.  The magnetron load, being across the HV diode, reduces the peak
value of this somewhat - where most of its conduction takes place.

WARNING: What this implies is that if the magnetron is not present or is not
drawing power for some reason - like an open filament - up to V(peak) will
still be present across the capacitor when power is removed.  At the end of
normal operation, some of this will likely be discharged immediately but will
not likely go below about 2,000 V due to the load since the magnetron does not
conduct at low voltages.

Other types of power supplies have been used in a few models - including high
frequency inverters - but it is hard to beat the simplicity, low cost, and
reliability of the half wave doubler configuration.  See the section: "High frequency inverter type HV power supplies".

There is also usually a bleeder resistor as part of the capacitor, not shown.
THE OVEN HAS BEEN POWERED.  The bleeder may be defective and open as this does
not effect operation of oven and/or the time constant may be long - minutes.
Some ovens may not have a bleeder at all.

In addition, there will likely be an over-temperature thermostat - thermal
protector - somewhere in the primary circuit, often bolted to the magnetron
case.  There may also be a thermal fuse or other protector physically
elsewhere but in series with the primary to the high voltage transformer.

Other parts of the switched primary circuit include the oven interlock
switches, cooling fan, turntable motor (if any), oven light, etc.

  5.14) Interlock switches

Various door interlock switches prevent inadvertent generation of microwaves
unless the door is closed completely.  At least one of these will be directly
in series with the transformer primary so that a short in the relay or triac
cannot accidentally turn on the microwaves with the door open.  The interlocks
must be activated in the correct sequence when the door is closed or opened.

Interestingly, another interlock is set up to directly short the power line
if it is activated in an incorrect sequence.  The interlocks are designed
so that if the door is correctly aligned, they will sequence correctly.
Otherwise, a short will be put across the power line causing the fuse
to blow forcing the oven to be serviced.  At least that is the most likely
rational for putting a switch across the power line.

Failed door interlocks account for the majority of microwave oven problems -
perhaps as high as 75 percent.

Chapter 6) Troubleshooting Guide

  6.1) Instant troubleshooting chart - most common problems and possible causes

The following chart lists a variety of common problems and nearly all possible
causes.  Diagnostic procedures will then be needed to determine which actually
apply.  The 'possible causes' are listed in *approximate* order of likelihood.
Most of these problems are covered in more detail elsewhere in this document.

While this chart lists many problems, it is does not cover everything that can
go wrong.  However, it can be a starting point for guiding your thinking in
the proper direction.  Even if not listed here, your particular problem may
still be dealt with elsewhere in this document.

Problem: Totally dead oven.
Possible causes:

 1. No power to outlet (overload or fault in microwave or other appliance).
 2. Blown main fuse - likely due to other problems.
 3. Open thermal protector or thermal fuse.
 4. Defective controller or its power supply.
 5. Clock needs to be set before other functions will operate (some models).

Problem: No response to any buttons on touchpad.
Possible causes:

 1. Door is not closed (some models).
 2. You waited to long (open and close door to wake it up).
 3. Controller is confused (pull plug for a minute or two to reset).      
 4. Defective interlock switches.
 5. Faulty controller or its power supply.
 6. Touchpad or controller board contaminated by overenthusiastic cleaning.
 7. Defective/damaged touchpad.

Problem: Oven runs when door is still open.
Possible causes:

 1. Damaged interlock assembly.
 2. Cooling fans (only) running due to bad sensor or still warm.

Problem: Oven starts on its own as soon as door is closed.
Possible causes:

 1. Defective triac or relay.
 2. Controller is confused (pull plug for a minute or two to reset).
 3. Defective controller or its power supply.
 4. Touchpad or controller board contaminated by overenthusiastic cleaning.
 5. Defective/damaged touchpad.

Problem: Oven works but display is blank.
Possible causes:

 1. Defective controller or its power supply.
 2. Broken display panel.
 3. Oven needs to be reset (pull plug for a minute or two to reset).

Problem: Whacked out controller or incorrect operation.
Possible causes:

 1. Previous or multipart cook cycle not complete.
 2. Controller is confused (pull plug for a minute or two to reset).
 3. Defective controller or its power supply.
 4. Touchpad or controller board contaminated by overenthusiastic cleaning.
 5. Defective/damaged touchpad.
 6. Defective sensor (particulalry covection/mirowave combos).

Problem: Erratic behavior.
Possible causes:

 1. Previous or multipart cook cycle not complete.
 2. Bad connections in controller or microwave generator.
 3. Faulty relay - primary (or HV side, much less commonly used).
 4. Defective controller or its power supply.
 5. Bad contacts/connections on mechanical timers.  Intermittent fuse.
 6. Power surge at start of cook cycle confusing controller.
 7. Microwave (RF) leakage into electronics bay.

Problem: Some keys on the touchpad do not function or perform the wrong action.
Possible causes:

 1. Touchpad or controller board contaminated by overenthusiastic cleaning.
 2. Defective/damaged touchpad.
 3. Controller is confused (pull plug for a minute or two to reset).
 4. Faulty controller.

Problem: Microwave oven does not respond to START button.
Possible causes:

 1. Defective START button.
 2. Faulty interlock switches.
 3. Door is not securely closed.
 4. Faulty controller.
 5. You waited too long - open and close door to wake it up!

Problem: No heat but otherwise normal operation.
Possible causes:

 1. Blown fuse in HV transformer primary circuit or HV fuse (if used).
 2. Bad connections (particularly to magnetron filament).
 3. Open thermal protector or thermal fuse.
 4. Open HV capacitor, HV diode, HV transformer, or magnetron filament.
 5. Shorted HV diode, HV capacitor (will blow a fuse), or magnetron.
 6. Defective HV relay (not commonly used).

Problem: Fuse blows when closing or opening door:
Possible causes:

 1. Defective door interlock switchs.
 2. Misaligned door.

Problem: Loud hum and/or burning smell when attempting to cook.
Possible causes:

 1. Shorted HV diode, magnetron.
 2. Burnt carbonized food in or above oven chamber.
 3. Shorted winding in HV transformer.
 4. Frayed insulation on HV wiring.

Problem: Arcing in or above oven chamber.
Possible causes:

 1. Burnt carbonized food deposits.
 2. Exposed sharp metal edges.

Problem: Fuse blows when initiating cook cycle.
Possible causes:

 1. Defective interlock switches or misaligned door.
 2. Shorted HV capacitor.
 3. Shorted HV diode.
 4. Shorted magnetron (probably won't blow main fuse but HV fuse if used).
 5. Defective triac.
 6. Old age or power surges.
 7. Defective HV transformer.
 8. Short in wiring due to vibration or poor manufacturing.

Problem: Fuse blows when microwave shuts off (during or at end of cook cycle).
Possible causes:

 1. Defective triac (doesn't turn off properly).
 2. Defective relay.
 3. Shorting wires.

Problem: Oven heats on high setting regardless of power setting.
Possible causes:

 1. Faulty primary relay or triac or HV relay (not commonly used).
 2. Faulty controller.

Problem: Oven immediately starts to cook when door is closed.
Possible causes:

 1. Shorted relay or triac.
 2. Faulty controller.

Problem: Oven heats but power seems low or erratic.
Possible causes:

 1. Low line voltage.
 2. Magnetron with low emission.
 3. Faulty controller or set for wrong mode.
 4. Stirrer (or turntable) not working.
 5. Intermittent connections to magnetron filament or elsewhere.
 6. Faulty primary relay or triac or HV relay (not commonly used).   

Problem: Oven heats but shuts off randomly.
Possible causes:

 1. Overheating due to blocked air vents or inoperative cooling fan.
 2. Overheating due to bad magnetron.
 3. Bad connections in controller or microwave generator.
 4. Faulty interlock switch or marginal door alignment.
 5. Faulty controller.
 6. Overheating due to extremely high line voltage.

Problem: Oven makes (possibly erratic) buzzing noise when heating.
Possible causes:

 1. Fan blades hitting support or shroud.
 2. Vibrating sheet metal.
 3. Vibrating transformer laminations.
 4. Turntable or stirrer hitting some debris.

Problem: Oven light does not work.
Possible causes:

 1. Burnt out bulb :-).
 2. Bad connections.

Problem: Fans or turntables that do not work.
Possible causes:

 1. Gummed up lubrication or bad motor bearing(s).
 2. Loose or broken belt.
 3. Bad motor.
 4. Bad thermostat.
 5. Bad connections.

  6.2) What can go wrong

The most common problems occur in the microwave generating portion of the
system, though the controller can be blown by a lightning strike or other power
surge.  Bad interlock switches probably account for the majority of microwave
oven problems.  Also, since the touchpad is exposed, there is a chance that it
can get wet or damaged.  If wet, a week or so of non-use may cure keys that
don't work.  If damaged, it will probably need to be replaced - this is
straightforward if the part can be obtained, usually direct from the
manufacturer.  Unfortunately, it is an expensive part ($20-50 typical).

The interlock switches, being electromechanical can fail to complete the
primary circuit on an oven which appears to operate normally with no blown
fuses but no heat as well.  Faulty interlocks or a misaligned door may result
in the fuse blowing as described above due to the incorrect sequencing of the
door interlock switches.  Failed interlocks are considered to be the most
common problems with microwave ovens, perhaps as high as 75% of all failures.
See the section: "Testing and replacing of interlock switches".

No adjustments should ever be required for a microwave oven and there are no
screws to turn so don't look for any!

  6.3) General system problems

The following problems are likely power or controller related and not in
the microwave generator unless due to a blown fuse or bad/intermittent

    * Totally dead oven.
    * No response to any buttons on touchpad
    * Oven runs when door is still open.
    * Oven starts on its own as soon as door is closed.
    * Oven works but display is blank.
    * Whacked out controller or incorrect operation.
    * Erratic behavior.
    * Some keys on the touchpad do not function or perform the wrong action.
    * Microwave oven does not respond to START button.

First, unplug the microwave oven for a couple of minutes.  Sometimes, the
microcontroller will get into a whacko mode for some unknown reason - perhaps
a power surge - and simply needs to be reset.  The problem may never reoccur.

Note: when working on controller related problems, unplug the connection
to the microwave generator (HV transformer primary) from the power relay
or triac - it is often a separate connector.  This will prevent any possible
accidental generation of microwave energy as well as eliminating the high
voltage (but not the AC line) shock hazard during servicing.

If this does not help, there is likely a problem with the controller circuitry
or its power and you will have to get inside the oven.

  6.4) Uninvited guests

Some cockroaches (or other lower life forms) may have taken up residence on
the controller circuit board.  It is warm, cozy, safe, and from their point of
view makes an ideal habitat.  If you got the microwave oven from a flea market,
garage sale, the curb, a relative, or friend, or if your kitchen isn't the
cleanest in the world, such visitors are quite possible.  Creatures with six
or more legs (well, some two legged varieties as well) are not known for their
skills in the areas of housekeeping and personal hygiene.

Clean the circuit board and connectors thoroughly with water and then isopropyl
alcohol.  Dry completely.  Inspect the circuit traces for corrosion or other
damage.  If there are any actual breaks, these will have be be jumpered with
fine wire and then soldered.  Hopefully, no electronic components were affected
though there is always a slight possibility of other problems.

  6.5) Totally dead oven

First, check power to the outlet using a lamp or radio you know works.  The
fuse or circuit breaker at your service panel may have blown/tripped due to
an overload or fault in the microwave oven or some other appliance.  You may
just have too many appliances plugged into this circuit - microwave ovens are
high current appliances and should be on a dedicated circuit if possible.  If
you attempt to run a heating appliance like a toaster or fryer at the same
time, you *will* blow the fuse or trip the circuit breaker.  A refrigerator
should never be plugged into the same circuit for this reason as well - you
really don't want it to be without power because of your popcorn!

If you find the fuse blown or circuit breaker tripped, unplug everything from
the circuit to which the microwave is connected (keep in mind that other
outlets may be fed from the same circuit).  Replace the fuse or reset the
circuit breaker.  If the same thing happens again, you have a problem with
the outlet or other wiring on the same branch circuit.  If plugging in the
microwave causes the fuse to blow or circuit breaker to trip immediately,
there is a short circuit in the power cord or elsewhere.

Next, try to set the clock.  With some ovens the screen will be totally blank
following a power outage - there may be nothing wrong with it.  Furthermore,
some ovens will not allow you perform any cooking related actions until the
clock is set to a valid time.

Assuming these are not your problems, a fuse has probably blown although
a dead controller is a possibility.

If the main fuse is upstream of the controller, then any short circuit
in the microwave generator will also disable the controller and display.
If this is the case, then putting in a new fuse will enable the
touchpad/display to function but may blow again as soon as a cook cycle
is initiated if there is an actual fault in the microwave circuits.

Therefore, try a new fuse.  If this blows immediately, there may be a
short very near the line cord, in the controller, or a defective triac
(if your oven uses a triac).  If it does not blow, initiate a cook cycle
(with a cup of water inside).  If the oven now works, the fuse may simply
have been tired of living.  This is common.

If the fuse still blows immediately, confirm that the controller is
operational by unplugging the microwave generator, power relay, and/or
triac from the controller.  If a new fuse does not now blow when a cook
cycle is initiated - and it appears to operate normally - then one of
the components in the microwave generator is defective (shorted).  See
the section: "Microwave generator problems".

Some models have a thermal fuse as well and this may have failed for no
reason or a cooling fan may not be working and the oven overheated (in
which case it probably would have died while you were cooking something
for an important guest - assuming you would use a microwave oven for such
a thing!).

Other possible causes: bad controller power supply or bad controller chip.
The most common way that the controller circuitry can be harmed is by a power
surge such as from a lightning strike.  Hopefully, only components on the
primary side of the power transformer will be affected.  In some cases,
circuit board traces may have been vaporized (but repair may still be
possible by simply jumpering across the crater).  Assuming that the main fuse
checks out, then check the power supply for the controller next. Also check
for bad solder connections.

  6.6) No response to any buttons on touchpad

There can be many causes for this behavior (or lack of behavior):

* Door is not closed - on many ovens, there will be no response to any
  buttons - even setting the clock - unless the door is securely closed.

* You waited too long - some models (like Sharp) have a timeout.  If you
  close the door but don't proceed to activate any functions with a couple
  of minutes, they will require you to open and close the door to reset their
  pathetic brains.

* Controller is confused - a power surge or random non-reproducible action of
  the universe may have resulted in the controller's program ending up in an
  infinite loop.  Pull the plug for a minute or two to reset it.

* Defective interlock switches - this can result in the controller thinking
  the door is open and ignoring you.

* Faulty controller or its power supply - a power surge may have damaged
  the electronics.  Other than checking for bad connections and obviously
  bad power supply components, diagnosing this will be tough without a
  schematic (and possibly much more).

* Touchpad or controller board contaminated by overenthusiastic cleaning - if
  you recently power washed the oven (or even if you only use some spray
  cleaner), some may have gotten inside and shorted out the touchpad or

* Defective or damage touchpad - physical abuse is not a recommended technique
  for getting a microwave oven to cooperate.  If there is any visible damage
  to the touchpad - the outer film is broken - it will probably need to be

Also see the section: "Some of the keys on the touchpad do not function or perform the wrong action".

  6.7) Oven runs when door is still open

WARNING: Needless to say, DO NOT operate the oven with the door open!  While
extremely unlikely, the microwave be generator could be running!

For microwaves to actually be generated with the door still open would require
the failure of all 3 interlock switches.  The only way this could really
happen would be for the 'fingers' from the door that engage the interlocks to
break off inside the oven keeping the interlocks engaged.  In this case, the
controller would think the door was always closed.

Where no such damage is evident, a failure of this type is extremely unlikely
since power to the microwave generator passes through 2 of the 3 interlock
switches.  If both of these failed in the closed position, the third switch
would have blown the fuse the last time the door was opened.

Another more benign possibility is that one or more fans are running as a
result of either a defective sensor or normal operation to maintain air flow
until all parts have cooled off.

  6.8) Oven starts on its own as soon as door is closed

If the oven starts up as soon as the door is closed - regardless of whether a
cook cycle has been selected, the cause could be a shorted triac or relay or
a problem with the controller or touchpad.

First, unplug the oven for a couple of minutes to try to reset the controller.

If this doesn't help, put a cup of water into the oven and let it run for a
minute to check for heating.  (You could also note the normal sound change or
slight dimming of lights that accompanies operation of the magnetron.)
Much more must be enabled to actually power the magnetron so this might point
more to the controller as being faulty but not always.

Also see the section: "Whacked out controller or incorrect operation".

  6.9) Oven works but totally dead display

If all functions work normally including heating but the display is blank
(assuming you can issue them without being able to see the display),
the problem is almost certainly in the controller or its power supply.

Try pulling the plug for a minute or two - for some reason the display portion
of the controller may have been sent out to lunch by a power surge or alpha
particle.  It woudn't be the first time.

Check for bad connections between the display panel and the power supply
and solder joints on the controller board.

With everything else operational, a bad microcontroller chip is not that
likely but is still a possibility.   If the oven was physically abused,
the display panel may have fractured though it would take quite a bit
of violence.  In this case, more serious damage to the door seals may
have resulted as well which would be a definite hazard.

  6.10) Whacked out controller or incorrect operation

The following are some of the possible symptoms:

* All the display digits may have come on, EEEE or FFFF, or be displaying in

* The end-of-cooking cycle or keypress tone may be wailing away continuously.
  (By 'tone' I mean from the controller (not a low buzzing or humming when
  attempting to cook which would indicate a microwave generator power problem
  like a shorted magnetron).

* Pressing a button on the touchpad may result in a totally incorrect action
  such as entering the time resulting in the oven starting to cook.  However,
  for the special case where pressing START results in erratic behavios, see
  the section: "Erratic behavior".

* The oven may start cooking (or at least appear to) as soon as the door is
  closed.  Pressing buttons on the touchpad may or may not have any effect.
  (This could also be a shorted triac or power relay).

First, try unplugging the oven for a couple of minutes - perhaps the controller
is just confused due to a power surge, lightning strike or the EMP from a
nearby nuclear detonation because it wanted attention.

If you recently cleaned the oven, some liquid may have accidentally gotten
inside the touchpad or even the controller circuitry (though this is less
likely).  See the section: "Some of the keys on the touchpad do not function or perform the wrong action".

If the oven seems to have a mind of its own - running a cycle you didn't
think you programmed, are you sure a previous cook cycle was not interrupted
and forgotten?  Try to recreate the problem using a cup of water as a load.

Assuming this does not apply, it sounds like a controller problem - possibly
just a power supply but could also be the controller chip.  My guess is that
unless you were to find some simple bad connections or an obvious problem
with the controller's power supply, the cost to repair would be very high
as the custom parts are likely only available from the manufacturer.

The controller's program may be corrupted (unlikely) but we have no real way
of diagnosing this except by exclusion of all other possibilities.  Depending
on the model, some or all operations - even setting the clock - may be
conditional on the door interlocks being closed, so these should be checked.
Some ovens will not allow any actions to be performed if the door has been
closed for more than a few minutes - open and close the door to reset.

A controller failure does little to predict the reliability of the rest
of the oven.  The microwave generator circuits could last a long time
or fail tomorrow.  The output of the magnetron tube may decrease slightly
with use but there is no particular reason to expect it to fail any time
soon.  This and the other parts are easily replaceable.

However, unless this oven has a lot of fancy features, you can buy a
replacement (depending on size) for $100-200 so it is probably not worth
fixing unless it is something relatively simple and inexpensive.

  6.11) Erratic behavior

There are three different situation:

* Whenever the oven performs unexpectedly both during setup and the cook cycle,
  suspect the controller power supply or bad connections.

* Where problems only occur when entering or during the cook cycle, suspect a
  power relay or mechanical timer (if used) with dirty or worn contacts, or
  (less likely) the power surge from energizing the microwave generator or
  microwave (RF) leakage into the electronics bay affecting the controller.

* However, if erratic simply means that it doesn't heat consistently, see
  the section: "Oven heats but power seems low or erratic".

The filter capacitor(s) in the controller's power supply may be dried
up or faulty.  Check with a capacitor meter or substitute known good ones.
Prod the logic board to see if the problem comes and goes.  Reseat the
flex cable connector to the touchpad.

For mechanical timers, the timing motor could be defective or require
lubrication.  The contacts could be dirty or worn.  There may be bad
connections or loose lugs.

The primary relay may have dirty or burnt contacts resulting in erratic
operation.  If the oven uses a HV relay for power control, this may be

If the times and power levels appear on the display reliably but then become
scrambled when entering the cook cycle or the oven behaves strangely in some
other way when entering the cook cycle, there are several possibilies:

* The power surge caused by the cook cycle starting is resulting in changes
  to the settings or else the microcontroller is not interpreting them
  properly.  This may be due to a faulty part of bad connections in the
  controller or elsewhere.  As with intermittent problems, a thorough search
  for loose ground and other connections and bad solder joints may locate
  the source of the difficulty.

* Microwave (RF) leakage into the electronics bay due to an faulty joint
  between the magnetron and the waveguide or structure failure of the
  magnetron may be interfering with the operation of the microcontroller.
  Unless the oven was dropped or 'repaired' by an butcher, this sort of
  failure is unlikely.  If you suspect either of these, inspect the integrety
  of the magnetron-waveguide joint and make sure the RF gasket is in place.
  Unfortunately, this is sometimes difficult to pinpoint because unless there
  is obvious mechanical damage, the 'problem' may disappear once the cover
  is removed for testing.  See the section: "Problems with internal microwave leakage".

* On rare occasions, the main fuse may become intermittent rather than failing
  completely.  The surge or vibration of starting can jiggle the element open
  or closed.  It is easy to try replacing it!

  6.12) Problems with internal microwave leakage

(From: Charles Godard (cgodard@iamerica.net)).

I only service Amana's, but have serviced lot's of them over the years.  I've
only found a few that leaked with my expensive leak detector.  The most
memorable was the one with the leak that was due to the copper gasket that's
between the magnetron tube and the cavity.  I just reformed the gasket and
reseated the magnetron and that fixed the leak.

The symptom was that the Touch Pad timer lights and indicators would change
while the unit was cooking.  I thought I had a timer problem.  I took it apart
and checked for loose solder joints and even cleaned the glass touch pad

For some reason that I don't remember now, I checked for radiation with the
cover off the unit and found it extremely high.

It turned out that the radiation was affecting the controller.

From the outside, with the cover on, the unit didn't leak.

Long ago, I tried one of the cheapie detectors because one of my parts supply
houses suggested it, and it detected leaks on everything.  After that I
shelled out the bucks and bought a real detector.

(From: Matthew Sekulic (goatboy@telusplanet.net)).

I have had a similar experience with a Sanyo, similar symptoms, but with the
leakage from the spot welded waveguide inside the unit.  Our calibration meter
showed a two watt leakage, with none escaping the outer case when attached.

(My worst case of actual external leakage was from a misaligned door at
.75 watts with the probe's styrofoam spacer placed against the door, of course
dropping off to near zero a few inches away.  My clue in was a spark between
the waveguide and the case, when I was messing with the Controller PCB.)

  6.13) Some of the keys on the touchpad do not function or perform the wrong action

Look carefully for any visible signs of damage or spills.  The touchpads
often use pressure sensitive resistive elements which are supposed to be
sealed.  However, any damage or just old age may permit spilled liquid
to enter and short the sensors.  A week or so of drying may cure these
problems.  If there is actual visible damage, it may be necessary to
replace the touchpad unit, usually only available from the original
manufacturer.  Also, check the snap type connector where the touchpad
flex-cable plugs into the controller board.  Reseating this cable may cur
a some keys dead problem.

With a little bit of effort (or perhaps a lot of effort), the internal
circuitry of the touchpad can be determined. This may require peeling it
off of the front panel).  Then, use resistors to jumper the proper contacts
on the flex cable connector to simulate key presses.  This should permit
the functions to be verified before a new touchpad is ordered.

Caution: unplug the microwave generator from the controller when doing
this sort of experiment!

If the problem was the result of a spill into the touchpad, replacement will
probably be needed.

However, if you have nothing to lose, and would dump it otherwise, remove the
touchpad entirely and wash it in clean water in an effort to clear out any
contamination, then do the same using high purity alcohol to drive out the
water, and then dry it out thoroughly.  This is a long shot but might work.

  6.14) Microwave oven does not respond to START button

While all other functions operate normally including clock, cook time, and
power setting, pressing START does nothing, including no relay action and
the timer digits do not count down.  It is as though the START button is
being totally ignored.  (However, if there is a momentary response but then
the oven shuts off, see the section: "Erratic behavior".

If there is an alternate way of activating the cook cycle, try it.  For
example, Sharp Carousel IIs have a 'Minute Plus' button which will cook
for one minute on HIGH.  Use this to confirm the basic controller logic and
interlock circuitry.  If it works, then the problem may indeed be a faulty
START button.  If it is also ignored, then there may be a bad interlock
or some other problem with the controller.

Check for bad interlocks or interlocks that are not being properly activated.

Next confirm if possible that the START touch pad button is not itself faulty.
If you can locate the matrix connections for this button, the resistance should
go down dramatically (similar to the other buttons).  See the section: "Some of the keys on the touchpad do not function or perform the wrong action"  The
START button does, after all, sees quite a lot of action!

Assuming it is not the touch pad, it sounds like the controller is either not
sensing the start command or refusing to cooperate for some reason - perhaps
it thinks an interlock is open.  Otherwise, the timer would start counting.
Testing the relay or triac control signal will likely show that it is not
there.  Check that there are no missing power supply voltages for the
controller and bad connection.

  6.15) Microwave generator problems

Failures in the microwave generator can cause various symptoms including:

* No heat but otherwise normal operations.
* Fuse blows when closing or opening door.
* Loud hum and/or burning smell when attempting to cook.
* Arcing in or above oven chamber.
* Fuse blows when initiating cook cycle.
* Fuse blows when microwave shuts off (during or at end of cook cycle).
* Oven heats on high setting regardless of power setting.
* Oven immediately starts to cook when door is closed.
* Oven heats but power seems low or erratic.
* Oven heats but shuts off randomly.

Most of these are easy to diagnose and the required parts are readily
available at reasonable prices.

  6.16) No heat but otherwise normal operation

If the main power fuse is located in the primary of the high voltage
transformer rather then at the line input, the clock and touchpad will
work but the fuse will blow upon initiating a cook cycle.  Or, if the
fuse has already blown there will simply be no heating action once the
cook cycle is started.  There are other variations depending on whether the
cooling fan, oven light, and so forth are located down stream of the fuse.

Some models may have a separate high voltage fuse.  If this is blown, there
will be no heating but no other symptoms.  However, high voltage fuses are
somewhat rare on domestic ovens.

A number of failures can result in the fuse NOT blowing but still no heat:

* Bad connections - these may be almost anywhere in the microwave generator
  or the primary circuit of the HV transformer.  A common location is at the
  crimp connections to the magnetron filament as they are high current and
  can overheat and result in no or intermittent contact.  See the section:
  See the section: "Testing the magnetron". 

* Open thermal protector - usually located on magnetron case.  Test for
  continuity.  It should read as a dead short - near zero ohms.  See the
  section: "Testing thermal protectors and thermal fuses".

* Open thermal fuse - some ovens have one of these in the primary circuit.
  It may be in either connection to the HV transformer or elsewhere.  Test
  for continuity.  It should read as a dead short - near zero ohms.

* Open HV capacitor - see the section: "Testing the high voltage capacitor".
  A shorted HV capacitor would likely immediately blow the fuse.

* Open HV diode - see the section: "Testing the high voltage diode".

* Open magnetron filament - This failure may also be due to loose, burnt,
  or deteriorated press (Fast-on) lugs for the filament connections and not
  an actual magnetron problem.  See the section: "Testing the magnetron".

* Open winding in HV transformer.  See the section: "Testing the high voltage transformer".

* Defective HV relay.  A few models use a relay in the actual high voltage
  circuitry (rather than the primary) to regulate cooking power.  This may
  have dirty or burnt contacts, a defective coil, or bad connections

* Shorted HV diode - see the section: "Testing the high voltage diode".

* Short or other fault in the magnetron - see the section: "Testing the magnetron".

* Short in certain portions of the HV wiring.  See the section: "Testing and repairing the wiring and connections".

A shorted HV diode, magnetron, or certain parts of the HV wiring would
probably result in a loud hum from the HV transformer but will likely not
blow the main fuse.  (However, the HV fuse - not present on most domestic
ovens - might blow.)

Depending on design, a number of other component failures could result in
no heat as well including a defective relay or triac, interlock switch(s),
and controller.

  6.17) Fuse blows when closing or opening door

This means that the main fuse in the microwave (or less commonly, the fuse or
circuit breaker for the power outlet) pops when the microwave oven door is
closed or opened.  This may be erratic, occurring only 1 out of 10 times, for

The cause is almost certainly related to either the door interlock switches
or the door itself.  Marginal door alignment, broken 'fingers' which operate
the switches, dislocated parts in the interlock mechanism, or a defective
interlock switch may result in either consistent or erratic behavior of this

On some ovens, this can happen at any time regardless of the control panel
settings or whether the oven is in the cook cycle or not.  On others, it can
only happen when interrupting the cook cycle by opening the door or when
initiating the cook cycle from the front panel (if the switches are in the
wrong state).

The rational for this basic design - some form of which is used in virtually
all microwave ovens - is that a defect in the interlock switches or door
alignment, which might result in dangerous microwave radiation leakage, will
produce a hard permanent failure.  This will prevent the oven from being used
until it is inspected and repaired.

* As noted, one of the interlock switches is actually across the power line.
  If the switches are activated in the wrong sequence due to a misaligned door,
  that switch will not turn off before the other switches turn on shorting the
  power line.  Similarly, if its contacts are welded closed, the power line
  will be shorted when the other switches close.

  See the section: "Testing and replacing of interlock switches".

* Inspect the door, its mounting, and the plastic 'fingers' which operate the
  interlock switches as well.  Again, if the sequence is not correct, the
  power line will be shorted blowing the fuse.  If the oven was dropped, then
  such damage is quite likely.  Look for broken or dislocated parts, warpage,
  and other indications of problems with the door and interlock mechanism
  Of course, if the oven was dropped, there could be much more extensive
  internal damage as well.

  6.18) Loud hum and/or burning smell when attempting to cook

A loud abnormal hum is an indication of a short somewhere.  The sound may
originate from the HV transformer vibrating and/or from within the magnetron
depending on cause.  There may be a burnt odor associated with this behavior:

* Shorted HV diode - see the section: "Testing the high voltage diode".

* Shorted magnetron (filament to anode) or other internal fault in the
  magnetron - see the section: "Testing the magnetron".  Arcing within
  the Magnetron case (visible through ventilation holes in the bottom
  section) is usually an indication of a bad magnetron.

* Other short resulting from frayed insulation or wires touching in the
  microwave generator.

* Shorted HV transformer - see the section: "Testing the high voltage transformer".

* Short resulting from burnt on food (usually) in or around the waveguide.
  If the odor is coming from the oven chamber, see the section: "Arcing in or above oven chamber".

The following procedure will quickly identify the most likely component if
the problem is not food/spills/carbon related:

(Usually a loud hum is caused by a short in the HV transformer, HV diode, or
magnetron.  The other items listed below would likely blow the main fuse but
possibly not always.)

(Portions from: Tony (tonyb@ramhb.co.nz)).

1. Discharge HV capacitor! (If there is a short it is doubtful if it has any
   charge but never hurts to be safe).

2. Remove one end of the lead from the HV capacitor to the transformer.

3. Start the oven.  
   * Hum gone?  If so, it is the HV circuitry, go to step 4.

   * If it still hums you probably have a faulty HV Transformer.  (Not

4. Discharge the HV capacitor again, reconnect wire and disconnect the 2 wires
   to the magnetron.

5. Restart oven.   

   * Hum Gone?  If so, magnetron is shorted.  Replace or get a new oven.

   * Hum still there?  If so, go to step 6.

6. You have either 

   * Shorted HV capacitor,
   * Shorted HV Diode,

   * Shorted clamp diode across the HV Cap terminals (if one is present, about
     30% of microwave ovens use these).  (The oven will run 100% without this
     protection for the HV capacitor but it should be replaced if possible.)

   * Some older Panasonic ovens have a HV reed switch and these can also short
     but these are rare now because of the age.

  6.19) Arcing in or above oven chamber

There is often a simple cause:

* Arcing in the oven chamber with a normal load (a cup of water, for example),
  often just indicates that a thorough cleaning of the oven chamber is needed,
  particularly around and inside/above the waveguide cover.  Any food that gets
  trapped here will eventually burn and carbonize resulting in a focal point
  for further arcing.  Usually, the waveguide cover is designed to be removable
  without taking the cover off of the oven.   However, burnt food and carbon
  often make this difficult so that some disassembly will be required.  Clean
  the waveguide cover and clean inside the waveguide as well.  If the waveguide
  cover is broken or damaged seriously, replacement material is available.
  The oven will work fine without it but replacement will prevent contamination
  of the waveguide with food vapors or splatters which can lead to more
  expensive damage.  Take extra care to cover all food (which you should do
  anyhow) until the waveguide cover is replaced.

* Any sharp metal edges may also result in arcing or sparking.  However, the
  only way such damage could occur as part of the oven (not added knives or
  forks!) would be through physical abuse.

* If your oven uses a stirrer above the oven chamber (no turntable), it may be
  stuck.  The result will be an uneven distribution of microwave energy and
  localized heating, arcing, and possibly melting plastic or metal.

  6.20) Fuse blows when initiating cook cycle

The fuse may only blow when actually attempting to cook but depending on
design, triacs and/or door switches may always be live and may result in a
blown fuse at any time when plugged in or when the door is opened or closed.

The following can cause the fuse to blow (in approximate order of likelihood):

* Defective interlock switches or misaligned door.  At least one of the
  interlock switches is across the power line and will blow the fuse if not
  activated in the correct sequence.  See the sections: "Fuse blows when closing or opening door" and "Testing and replacing of interlock switches".

* Shorted HV capacitor.  See the section: "Testing the high voltage capacitor".

* Shorted HV diode (see note below).  See the section: "Testing the high voltage diode".

* Shorted magnetron (filament to anode - see note below).  See the section:
  "Testing the magnetron".

* Defective triac (shorted or partially shorted).  See the section: "Testing and replacing the triac".

* Old age or power surge.  Fuses sometimes blow for no apparent reason.

* Defective HV transformer (shorted windings.  See the section: "Testing the high voltage transformer".

* Shorted wiring due to vibration or poor manufacturing quality.  See the
  section: "Testing and repairing the wiring and connections".

Note that a shorted magnetron or shorted HV diode - which you would think
should blow the fuse - probably will not do so because current will be limited
by the impedance of the HV capacitor (assuming it is not shorted as well).
However, there will likely be a loud hum from the HV transformer as it strains
under the excess load.  Such a sound in conjunction with no heat is a likely
symptom of a shorted magnetron or HV diode.  If your oven has a separate
high voltage fuse - somewhat rare in domestic ovens - it may certainly blow
due to a fault in any of the HV components.

Fuses also die of old age.  The types of fuses used in microwave ovens are
subjected to a heavy load and you may find that all that is needed is to
replace the fuse with one with equivalent ratings. (but check for shorts
first).  There could be an intermittent problem as well which will only show
up at some random time in the future.  A poorly timed power surge (as opposed
to the well timed variety) could also weaken the fuse element resulting in
eventual failure.

The fuses used in microwave ovens are usually ceramic 1-1/4" x 1/4" 15 or
20 A 250 V fast blow type.  Replace with exactly the same type and rating.

Another possible cause of a blown fuse is a partially bad triac.  Some ovens
use a triac rather than a relay to control the main power to the high voltage
transformer.  One type of failure of a triac is for it to be totally shorted
causing the oven to come on whenever the door is closed.  Alternatively, the
gate may be defective preventing the triac from ever turning on.  A third, and
most interesting possibility, is that one half of the triac is bad - shorted
or open, or doesn't turn on or turn off reliably.  Recall that a triac is in
effect a pair of SCRs in parallel in opposite directions.  If one side is
defective, the main fuse will blow due to transformer core saturation since
the triac will act as a rectifier and transformers really do not like DC.

See the chapter: "Testing and Replacement of Components" for more information
on this and similar problems.

  6.21) Fuse blows when microwave shuts off (during or at end of cook cycle)

This could be due to a number of faults including shorting wires or defective
relay.  However, a common cause that might not be obvious is that the triac
used to switch power to the high voltage transformer is faulty.  What is
probably happening is that only one half of the triac (recall that a triac
is controlled for both polarities of the line voltage/current) is turning off
completely resulting in DC to the HV transformer, core saturation, and
excessive current which blows the fuse.  Drive to the triac could also be
marginal but the bad triac is more likely.

The following description applies directly to some GE and Hotpoint models.
Modify it accordingly for your oven.  Depending on model, the triac may
be located on the control board or mounted directly on the chassis.

(From: John Gallawa (mtek@pen.net)).

I have seen exactly this problem; and I've seen it baffle many a repair shop.
It is likely that the triac on the 'Power Control Board' is breaking down.
This is a fairly common problem in GE and Hotpoint models that use this board.

You can usually confirm the problem by setting the oven to a lower power level,
say "medium," and heat a cup of water.  You will probably hear a 'thump!' each
time the magnetron cycles on. This is an indication of a weakened triac.

Replace the triac (Q1) with either of the following: ECG 56010, or SK 10265.
Finally, replace the line fuse, install the outer cover, and test the oven
for proper operation.
The only other alternative is to replace the board. The cost used to be pretty
reasonable, but now it's gotten expensive - probably about $80.00.

The triac is probably located beneath a red plastic guard on the power control
board. Its designation is usually Q1.

(From: John Montalbano (jrmont@iquest.net)).

The microwave oven in my General Electric JHP65G002AD cooking center
blew its 15 AMP fuse each time the timing cycle expired. Replacing the
triac GE Part number WB27X5085 ($65.00 from GE) with a new NTE56014
($13.00) solved the problem.

(From: Les Bartel lbartel@veribest.com)).

I had the exact same symptoms on my GE microwave.  I replaced the triac with a
$3 15 amp off-the-shelf triac and it has been working for several years since.

See the chapter: "Testing and Replacement of Components" for more information
on triac testing though replacement is probably the only sure test.

  6.22) Oven heats on high setting regardless of power setting

Power levels in a microwave oven are controlled by cycling the microwave
generator on and off with a variable duty cycle - kind of like slow pulse
width modulation.  For 'HIGH', it runs continuously; for low, it may run
10% on and 90% off; other settings are in between.

When the oven always seems to be stuck at high power, it is likely to be
due to one of two possible causes - a faulty relay or Triac, or controller.
The relay or triac may have failed in the on state.  This will probably
show up with ohmmeter tests (with the oven unplugged!) but not always.

Replacements should be readily available.  If the problem is is the
controller, it will be more difficult to diagnose as schematics for the
controller are usually not readily available.  However, it could be something
simple like a bad connection or dirty connector.

  6.23) Oven immediately starts to cook when door is closed

This means that the relay or triac which controls power to the microwave
generator, or the controller or timer has failed in the on state.  If the
problem is the relay or triac, it is simple to diagnose and repair since the
component can be easily identified and tested.  If the problem is is the
controller, it will be more difficult as schematics are usually not readily
available.  Check the relay or triac with an ohmmeter.  Disconnect the
output of the timer or controller and see if it still come on immediately.
With a mechanical timer, repair may be possible.

  6.24) Oven heats but power seems low or erratic

Some considerations are how old the oven is and did the problem happen
suddenly or did it just gradually weaken over the years.

First, are you sure the problem is real?  Perhaps you are just a little
less patient than you used to be.  Perform a water heating test or try
to pop a bag of popcorn using you usual time setting.  See the section:
"Testing the oven - the water heating test".

* If you are subject to brownouts or are running on your own generator,
  the line voltage may be low.  Power output is quite sensitive to the
  AC input - there is no regulation. A 10% drop in line voltage is likely
  to reduce microwave power output by more than 20%.

* Magnetrons, like other vacuum tubes, can weaken with age and use.  An oven
  that sees daily use may indeed weaken over the course of several years.  It
  is unlikely that any other electronic components could change value in such a
  way as to significantly affect power output.  However, a failure of the
  controller or sensor (if you have one) could result in short cycling.

  Testing on HIGH will eliminate this possibility.  Make sure the magnetron is
  powered continuously and it is not cycling.  You can often tell by listening
  for the relay clicks and/or by observing the oven light/other lights dimming
  as the magnetron kicks in.  50% power should result in approximately equal
  on and off times.

* If you run the oven on HIGH, can you tell if it is actually heating
  continuously or rather it thinks you want LOW?  Many microwave ovens make a
  clicking sound as they use a relay to switch microwave power on and off -
  check if you can hear this.  Alternatively, lights on the same circuit or
  the oven light may dim slightly when the magnetron kicks in.  There should
  not be any cycling on HIGH - the microwave power should stay on continuously
  while it is cooking.  If it is cycling, there may be a problem with the
  controller or you may unknowingly be in a low power mode - check it.

* Mechanical problems are also possible.  Where a spinning paddle wheel is
  used to 'stir' the microwave energy (often where there is no turntable), its
  failure to rotate can result in hot and cold spots.  Thus, you may see an
  unexplained variation in cooking times.  The paddle is often accessible by
  unclipping a plastic cover above the oven cavity.  Check for bearing failure,
  binding, broken or lose belt if direct driven, etc.  Note that some are
  rotated by air flow from the cooling fan and require that cover to be in
  place to rotate.  Therefore, it is not really possible to inspect for correct
  operation with the cover removed.  However, you can put a microwave power
  indicator (NE2 neon light bulb with its leads twisted together) in the oven
  (with a cup of water for a load) and observe it through the window.  You
  should see a periodic variation in intensity as the paddles do their job.

* There could be intermittent connections to the magnetron filament, thermal
  protector, or elsewhere.  But, these would likely show up as erratic
  operation - no heat at all sometimes - not just a weak oven.

  Inspect and clean and tighten (if necessary) all connections in the microwave
  generator including the magnetron filament, HV transformer, HV Diode, HV
  capacitor, and thermal protector.  Be sure to unplug the unit first and
  discharge the HV capacitor before touching anything!

* The thermal protector may be intermittent.  Test by clipping a light bulb
  across it or monitoring with a multimeter on AC voltage.  See the section:
  "Testing thermal protectors and thermal fuses".

  6.25) Oven heats but shuts off randomly

Everything operates normally, but the oven shuts off after varying amounts of
time.  This could be a faulty magnetron, bad cooling fan (or just built up dust
and grime block ventilation grilles), bad thermal protector, faulty controller,
some other intermittent component, or bad connections.

* If resetting it allows cooking to resume immediately, if even for a few
  seconds, I would not suspect the magnetron or thermal problem as no cool
  down time is required.  It could be bad connections in the controller or
  elasewhere, a marginal door interlock switch, or a controller problem.
  Jiggle the door to see if this will cause it to shut off.

* If the magnetron was overheating, you would not be able to resume cooking
  until it cooled and the thermal protector reset.  If it just stopped working
  (i.e., the filament opened), everything would appear normal but there would
  be no heating.  If the magnetron were shorting, there would likely be a loud
  hum associated with the periods where there was no heat.

* If it is not possible to resume cooking for a few minutes indicating that
  something needs time to cool off, then the magnetron could be faulty but
  check for the obvious cooling problems first: blocked or dirty ventilation
  grill.  Determine if the magnetron cooling fan is operating by listening for
  its sound or looking through the ventilation opening in the back of the oven.
  If it is not, there could be a broken or weak belt, gummed up or lack of
  lubrication, other mechanical problems, a bad motor, or bad connections.

* Extremely high power line voltage may also result in overheating on a poorly
  designed or oven where the components are marginal.

  6.26) Oven makes (possibly erratic) buzzing noise when heating

Assuming operation is normal otherwise, this is most likely either a fan or
other motor vibrating on its mounts, fan blades hitting something, or some
sheet metal or the high voltage power transformer laminations vibrating.
There may be something stuck under the turntable or above the waveguide cover
interfering with the stirrer.

Something may have loosened up with age and use.

If the noise is caused be simple vibrations, no damage is likely to result.
However, if the main cooling fan is on its way out and it stops or gets stuck,
parts will overheat quite quickly at which point the oven will shut down
(hopefully) and there could be damage to the magnetron or other components.
Therefore, at least identifying the cause is probably a good idea.

The solution may be as simple as tightening a screw or weging a shim
between two pieces of vibrating sheet metal.

  6.27) Oven light does not work

If the oven light no longer works, believe it or not, a burned out
light bulb is likely.

You would think that something like replacing a light bulb would be
trivial and self evident.  Unfortunately, not always so with microwave
ovens.  Light bulbs may be typically located in any of 3 places:

1. Oven chamber - it may be behind a mesh grill requiring a screw or snap
   to be removed.  This is the easiest.

2. Rear - the bulb may be in a recessed compartment accessible by removing
   a screw or two on the back of the oven.

3. Inside - it may be behind a non-removable grille requiring the removal
   of the cover.

These are typically not your usual vanilla flavored appliance bulbs either.

Bad connections are also possible but not that likely.

  6.28) Fans or turntables that do not work

There are up to 4 motors in a microwave oven:

* Magnetron cooling fan - always present.

* Mechanical timer (on inexpensive non-touchpanel or older units).

* Turntable

* Convection air circulation (combo units only).

When any of these do not operate properly, the most likely causes are:

* Gummed up lubrication/dry bearings.  Check for free rotation of the
  affected part(s).  Clean and lubrication as needed.  Also confirm that
  there are no other mechanical problems (e.g., turntable improperly

* Loose or broken belt.  Confirm that belt is properly installed.  Test to
  determine if it is worn and flabby - stretch it by about 25%.  It should
  return to its relaxed length instantly.  Clean and/or replace if needed.

* Bad motor.  Disconnect one wire and check for continuity with an ohmmeter.
  If open, winding is bad but check for break at terminal which you can

* Bad thermostat.  Where a fan only runs when the oven is hot as in a
  microwave/convection oven, the thermostat or controller could also be
  at fault.  Locate the thermostat and jumper across its terminals with
  power off.  Plug the oven in and see if the fan now runs all the time
  or at least when the appropriate mode(s) are entered.

* Bad connections - trace wiring and check continuity (unplugged, capacitor
  discharge) to motor terminals.

  6.29) What to do if the door handle breaks off

Usually this happens at the places where the handle is screwed to the door.

I would NOT recommend making the repair in any manner that compromises
the shielding properties of the door.  (I have visions of someone using
1/2" stove bolts through the door and handle which would definitely be a
bad idea).  Anything that penetrates the door seal is a potential hazard -
likely a very small one but it is not worth the risk.

Therefore, I would recommend staying with repairs that can be made totally
externally unless there is no possibility of a change to the integrity of
the door.  For example, replacing the screws with similar sized screws that
gripped better or using filler to reconstruct or strengthen the threaded
holes would be acceptable.

Plastic is generally tough to glue where a strong bond is needed and where
the joint is subject to abuse.  However, depending on the type of plastic,
one or more of the following may work: semiflexible adhesive like windshield
sealer, plastic cement (the kind that fuses the plastic, not model cement),
Duco cement, PVC (pipe) cement, or even superglue (though it seems not all
brands are equally effective).  Make sure the surfaces to be glued are
perfectly clean (remove any residual library paste if you tried that!) and
provide a means of clamping the pieces until the bond sets up (adhesive
tape and/or rubber bands may be all you need).  Consider providing some
reinforcements around the joint (i.e., plastic splints or sisters depending
on your profession) for added durability.

Replacement door handles and/or entire doors may be available from the
manufacturer of the oven.  Replacements for a few Panasonic models are
even stocked by MCM Electronics (and no doubt other places as well).

(From: John Gallawa (mtek@pen.net)).

Here are the door disassembly instructions from the Amana service manual.
Many others are similar:

1. Pry out the inner door trim with a small screwdriver on the latch side of
   the door.

2. Remove two screws securing the latch assembly and door handle to the outer
   panel (this may be all that's needed to replace the handle).

3. Remove six screws and release 4 spring fingers that secure the choke to the
   outer panel.

Warning: A microwave leakage test must be performed any time a door is
removed, replaced, disassembled, or adjusted for any reason.

  6.30) Crack in door

"My microwave oven has a crack in the glass of its door. Is this safe to
 continue using or should I get it fixed? Will there be any radiation leakage?"

So you were throwing roasts at the oven again, huh? :-)

If the metal screen/mesh is behind and separate from the glass, there is no
danger.  In this case, the function of the glass is mostly cosmetic and a
small crack should not be a problem.

However, if the screen is inside the glass and now broken as well, there
could be microwave leakage.  Even if it is not actually broken at this
time, future failure is possible.  Therefore, the glass panel or entire
door should be replaced.

  6.31) Repairing damage to the oven interior

If spilled food - solid or liquid - is not cleaned up soon after the
oven is used, it will tend to harden and carbonize.  Not only will this
be much more difficult to remove, but hot spots may develop and result in
possible sparking, arcing, and damage to the interior paint.

If this happens in the vicinity of the mica waveguide cover, it may be
damaged as well.  In addition, sometimes splatters may find their way
above the waveguide cover and cause problems above the roof of the oven
chamber in the waveguide.

Needless to say, clean up spills and food explosions as soon as possible.
Not only will it be easier, the chance of future expensive problems will
be minimized.

To prevent arcing and sparking, the interior needs to be smooth.  Sharp
edges and hard carbon in particular creates places where electric field
gradients can become great enough to cause problems.  Thus the warning
not to use any metal utensils in a microwave.

Once damage occurs - paint blisters and peels, or totally hardened impossible
to remove carbon deposits - more drastic action is called for:

* Assuming cleaning does not work on the carbon - even after repeated attempts,
  carefully scrape it off with a blunt knife or other suitable tool.  This will
  probably damage the paint.  Use fine sandpaper to completely smooth out the
  metal and feather the edges of the paint in the immediate area.

  Special microwave oven cavity paint is available but any common gloss enamel
  will work just as well (and costs about 1/10th as much).  Use touch-up paint
  (with a small brush) or spray paint.  The typical color is beige, almond, or
  some other form of off-white - just match it to your oven (if you care).

  Until you can obtain the paint, the oven will work fine but since the chamber
  is made of sheet steel, rust will set in eventually.  So, do paint it.

* If the waveguide cover is damaged seriously - such that it no longer
  will prevent splatters from entering the waveguide, obtain replacement
  material, cut to fit.  Leaving it larger than necessary is fine as well.
  Use a suitable bit in a hand drill to make holes in the mica for the
  mounting screws or plastic snaps.

  Alternatives to mica which can stand the elevated temperatures in a microwave
  oven may also be acceptable.  Possible choices include plastic or fiberglass
  laminate but not all materials will allow microwaves to pass without some
  heating - check it out.  Heat a cup of water and the candidate material on
  high for a couple of minutes.  If the material doesn't heat up, it should be
  fine.  Of course, it must also not have any metal coating (don't use a piece
  of one of those 'browning disks' :-).  Mica is also non-flammable which is
  may not be the case with other materials.

* If the interior of the door is damaged seriously such that either it will
  not longer seal around the edge properly or that the mesh screening is
  breeched, a replacement will be required to assure continued safety with
  respect to minimizing microwave emissions.

Microwave oven cavity paint, waveguide cover mica sheets, and even some
replacement doors are available from the parts suppliers listed at the
end of this document.  For most ovens, parts like doors will need to
be obtained direct from the manufacturer, however.

  6.32) Microwave/convection oven problems

In addition to the microwave components, these ovens also include an air
circulating fan and an electric heating element as well as a temperature
sensing themister.  Any of these can fail.

* A convection oven which shuts down after a couple of minutes during the
  preheat cycle with the temperature display (if any) stuck at LOW (even though
  the oven is hot when opened) may have a bad thermistor temperature sensor.

* The overtemperature protection sensor (rather than the normal temperature
  sensor) is shutting the oven down.  The termister will usually be accessible
  after removing the oven cover.  It will be located centrally just above the
  oven ceiling duct or elsewhere in the convection air flow.  It is a two
  terminal device that may look like a tiny resistor or diode and may be
  mounted on a metal header fastened with a couple of screws.  Remove and test
  with an ohmmeter.  An infinite reading means it is bad.  As a test, jumper
  a 50 K ohm potentiometer in place of the thermistor.  During preheat, as
  you lower the resistance of the pot you should see the temperature readout
  climb.  The oven will then indicate READY when the simulated temperature
  exceeds the setpoint.  Replacement thermistors are available from the oven
  manufacturer - about $20.  Cheaper alternatives may be possible but you
  would need to know the exact specifications and it is probably impossible to
  obtain this information.

  Also see the section: "Sensor problems", below.

* If the convection preheat cycle never completes and the oven is cool when
  opened, then either the heating element is bad (test with an ohmmeter) or
  the relay controlling the heating element or the controller itself is bad.
  If the circulating fan runs off of the same relay and it is operating, then
  the problem must be the heating element.

* The heating element will be either a Calrod type (GE trade name?) which is
  a steel tube enclosing a Nichrome wire coil embedded in ceramic filler or
  a coiled Nichrome element strung between ceramic insulators.  The former
  is probably only available from the oven manufacture, though it is worth 
  trying an appliance parts distributor or a place like MCM electronics
  first.  It may be possible to find a replacement Nichrome coil and form
  it to fit.  Make sure the wire gauge and length are identical.

* The circulating fan is probably driven by a belt, which may break or
  deteriorate.  Inspect the belt.  If it is loose, cracked, or does not
  return to its normal length instantly after being stretched by 25% replace
  it.  Check the fan motor and fan itself for adequate lubrication.  Check
  the fan blades for corrosion and damage.

  6.33) Sensor problems

Fancier microwave or microwave/convection ovens include various probes that
can be used to shut off the oven when the food is supposedly done or maintain
it at a preset temperature.

A problem with a sensor, controller, or wiring, may result in incorrect
operation (never getting past 'preheat' or not terminating a cook cycle) or
in a display of 'EEEE', 'FFFF', ERROR, or something similar:

  (From: Wilton Itamoto (witam40231@aol.com)).

  "FFFF" display is a common problem in older Panasonic convection ovens.  The
  problem is the temperature sensor thermostat located on the top rear of the
  oven.  This is the convection temp. sensor for the correct oven temperature.
  Replacing this open sensor will correct the problem.

When problems develop with these automatic features, the sensor and the probe
cable are the primary suspects.  However, it is possible that the electronic
circuitry could also be affected by a damaged or defective probe unit.

* Check for bad connections where the probe plugs in as well as broken wires
  inside the cable particularly near the ends where it gets flexed.

* Temperature probes may use a thermistor similar to one that controls the
  convection portion of a microwave/convection oven.  Steam/humidity probes
  may also behave similarly.

* If you have never tried the probe before, check your users manual.  It may
  only be active in certain modes, etc.

The best test of the probe unit is to substitute a known good one.  Of course,
this is generally not convenient.

* There should be some resistance when measuring between the signal conductors
  of the probe cable.  It may be high (hundreds of K ohms) but probably should
  not be open.  A very low value (a few ohms or less) might indicate a short
  in the cable or sensor.

* See the section: "Microwave/convection oven problems" for a discussion of
  thermistors.  Testing to determine if the controller is responding to the
  input from the sensor can be done in a similar manner except that access
  must be from inside the electronics bay while the oven is running (the probe
  normally plugs in inside the oven chamber).  Substitute a fixed or variable
  resistor and see if you can get the oven to shut off (or stay on) as a
  function of resistance.  Caution: Don't forget to put a cup of water in as
  a load if you are testing microwave operation.

If the resistor test determines that the controller is responding, than a
bad probe unit is likely.

If the probe checks out or substituting a known good one makes no difference
in behavior, look for corrosion or other deterioration of the socket in the
oven chamber as well as bad connections.  Faulty circuitry in the controller
is also possible.

Chapter 7) Testing and Replacement of Components

  7.1) Testing the oven - the water heating test

The precise number of degrees a known quantity of water increases in
temperature for a known time and power level is a very accurate test of
the actual useful microwave power.  A couple of minutes with a cup of
water and a thermometer will conclusively determine if your microwave
oven is weak or you are just less patient (or the manufacturer of your
frozen dinners has increased their weight - sure, fat chance of that!)

You can skip the heavy math below and jump right to the final result
if you like.  However, for those who are interested:

  * 1 Calorie (C) will raise the temperature of 1 gram (g) of liquid water
    exactly 1 degree Centigrade (DegC) or 9/5 degree Fahrenheit (DegF).

  * 1 Calorie is equal to 4.184 Joules (J) or 1 J = .239 C.

  * 1 Watt (W) of power is 1 J/s or 1 KW is 1000 J/s.

  * 1 cup is 8 ounces (oz) which is 8 x 28.35 g/oz = 226.8 g.

  * 1 minute equals 60 s (but you know this!).

Therefore, in one minute, a 1 KW microwave oven will raise the temperature
of 1 cup of water by:

    T(rise) = (60 s * 1000 J/s * .239C/J * (g * DegC)/C)/(226.8 g) = 63 DegC.

             Or, if your prefer Fahrenheit: 114 DegF.

To account for estimated losses due to conduction, convection, and imperfect
power transfer, I suggest using temperature rises of 60 DegC and 109 DegF.

Therefore, a very simple test is to place a measured cup of water in the
microwave from the tap and measure its temperature before and after heating
for exactly 1 minute on HIGH.  Scale the expected temperature rise by the
ratio of the microwave (not AC line) power of your oven compared to a 1 KW

Or, from a Litton microwave handbook:

        Heat one Liter (L) of water on HIGH for 1 minute.

        Oven power = temperature rise in DegC multiplied by 70.

Use a plastic container rather than a glass one to minimize the needed
energy loss to raise its temperature by conduction from the hot water.
There will be some losses due to convection but this should not be that
significant for these short tests.

(Note: if the water is boiling when it comes out - at 100 DegC or 212 DegF,
then the test is invalid - use colder water or a shorter time.)

The intermediate power levels can be tested as well.  The heating effect of
a microwave oven is nearly linear.  Thus, a cup of water should take nearly
roughly twice as long to heat a specific number of degrees on 50% power or
3.3 times as long on 30% power as on full power.  However, for low power
tests, increasing the time to 2 minutes with 2 cups of water will result
in more accurate measurements due to the long period pulse width power
control use by microwave ovens which may have a cycle of up to 30 seconds.

Any significant discrepancy between your measurements and the specified
microwave power levels - say more than 10 % on HIGH - may indicate a problem.
(Due to conduction and convection losses as well as the time required to
heat the filament of the magnetron for each on-cycle, the accuracies of
the intermediate power level measurements may be slightly lower).

See the section: "Oven heats but power seems low or erratic".

Testing the main fuse.

Where the oven is dead or mostly dead, the main fuse is the place to start.

Locate and remove the main fuse.  It will usually be a 1" x 1-1/4" ABC
ceramic type directly in-line with the Hot (black wire) of the power cord.

Test it with an ohmmeter - the reading should be zero ohms.

If it is blown, suspect problems with the interlock switches, high voltage
capacitor, or high voltage wiring.

If it is good but the oven makes a loud humming sound when you attempt to
cook, suspect the magnetron or high voltage diode.

  7.2) Testing and replacing of interlock switches

With the oven unplugged, put an ohmmeter across the AC input just before the
interlocks (but beyond the power relay or triac if it precedes these).  Open
and close the door slowly several times - there should be no significant
change in resistance and it should be more than a few ohms.  If it approaches
zero while opening or closing the door, the interlock switches and door
alignment should be checked.  (You may need to disconnect one side of the
transformer primary since its resistance is a fraction of an ohm.  Refer to
the schematic pasted inside the cover.)

Replace with switches having a precisely identical fit and equal or better
electrical specifications (terminal configuration, current rating).  When
removing the old switch make a note as to where each wire goes.  Check
the embossed marking on the old switch - don't depend on location as your
replacement might just have a different arrangement.  Make sure the new
switch aligns correctly with the actuating mechanism and then check for
correct electrical operation with an ohmmeter before applying power.

  7.3) Making measurements inside microwave ovens

WARNING: In general, I DO NOT recommend making any sorts of measurements on
the high voltage components of a live microwave oven.  I only include this
section for those who really want to know the details.

You may be temped to break out your Radio Shack DMM and start poking away
inside a live microwave oven.  DON'T!  This isn't like a CD player!  Most of
the time, no measurements of any kind on the oven while it is operating will
be needed to identify and correct the problem.  However, where this is not the
case, here are some guidelines to a long life:

WARNING: ALWAYS pull the plug and discharge the HV capacitor BEFORE doing
anything inside!  Never be tempted to make any changes of any kind while
the oven is on - not even if your meter is being consumed by 5 foot flames!
First, pull the plug and discharge the HV capacitor!

* High voltage - DON'T even think about this unless you have a proper high
  voltage probe or meter, or a proper microwave oven tester - AND KNOW HOW TO
  USE IT SAFELY.  Even professionals have been killed performing measurements
  of this type using proper equipment!  Luckily, current measurements can
  provide enough information to help make a diagnosis.

  WARNING: The high voltage components inside a microwave oven are at a
  NEGATIVE potential with respect to the chassis.  DO NOT be tempted to
  interchange the probe and ground wire if you are using a high voltage
  probe on a meter with a POSITIVE input (e.g., for testing CRT HV) and no
  polarity switch!  The ground cable doesn't have anywhere near the required
  insulation.  Get the proper equipment!

* Magnetron current - Place a 10 ohm 10 watt resistor in series with the HV
  diode cathode and ground.  Measure the voltage drop across this resistor.
  Sensitivity will be 10 V/A.  Normal anode current is around 300 to 400 mA
  for a typical oven.  This will be -3 to -4 VDC across the 10 ohm resistor
  with respect to chassis ground.  SET EVERYTHING UP AND THEN STAND BACK and
  don't forget to DISCHARGE the HV capacitor after making the measurement:

  - If it is around this range, the magnetron is probably fine.

  - If it is very low or 0, magnetron is bad or HV is not working.  Note that
    a shorted as well as open magnetron also results in no current.  If the
    magnetron is shorted, it bypasses all current to ground.  If the magnetron
    is open, the HV capacitor charges up and then there is no more current
    through the HV diode (but there will be an initial transient).

  - If it is much too high (whether fuse blows or not), capacitor is shorted.

  7.4) Testing the high voltage components

WARNING: First, with power disconnected, discharge the high voltage capacitor.
See the section "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor".

Assuming the oven passes the above test for interlocks and door alignment, the
triac (if used) may be defective.  There could also be a wire shorting to the
chassis.  However, the most likely problems are in the microwave generator. 

An ohmmeter can be safely used to quickly determine if the capacitor, HV diode,
or magnetron are a dead short (as well as for an open magnetron filament).

Use an ohmmeter to test the diode and capacitor.  While connected in circuit,
the resistance in at least one direction should be several M ohms.  (Try it in
both directions, use the higher reading).  Test the magnetron from the filament
to chassis - it should be high in at least one direction.  Test the filament
for continuity - the resistance of a good filament is close to 0 (less than 1

Where the capacitor and diode are combined into one unit, it should be possible
to test each component individually and replace only the one that is found to
be defective if the entire assembly is excessively expensive or not available.

These may be considered to fail/no conclusion tests - they can definitively
identify parts that are bad but will not guarantee that they are good.  Parts
may test ok with no voltage applied but then fail once operated in-circuit.
Connections may open up when they heat up.  The magnetron may short out when
full voltage is applied.

Don't overlook the wiring as no heat or erratic operation can result from
simple bad connections!

An alternative way of determining if the problem is in the control circuits
(triac, relay, wiring) or microwave generator (HV transformer, HV capacitor,
HV diode, magnetron, wiring, etc.) is to connect the HV transformer primary
directly to a line cord and plug.  Tape the removed wire lugs to prevent

Plug the transformer cord into a switched outlet strip which includes a fuse
or circuit breaker.

Put a cup of water into the oven cavity to act as a load.

* Power the oven via its line cord.  Initiate a cook cycle.  It should go
  through the normal cycle (of course no heat) without blowing the fuse or any
  unusual sounds.  If there is a problem in this case, something in the
  controller or its wiring is shorted.

* Now, initiate a 1 minute cook cycle on HIGH and with the oven running,
  switch on the HV transformer.

  - If the transformer or other HV components are faulty, the outlet strip
    fuse will blow or circuit breaker will trip.  Or, if a lamp is plugged
    into the outlet strip at the same time, it will likely dim significantly
    due to the heavy load before the fuse or breaker cuts out.

  - If the problem is with the triac or its drive, the oven will now heat
    normally.  When the cook cycle is near its end, switch off the outlet
    strip.  Check the water's temperature.

More complete information on testing and replacing the individual components
is provided in the next few sections.

  7.5) Testing the high voltage diode

WARNING: First, with power disconnected, discharge the high voltage capacitor.
See the section "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor".

The HV diode can fail shorted (most likely) or open.  It is not likely for
there to be anything in between as so much heat would result that the diode
would not remain that way for long.

* A shorted HV diode will likely result in a loud hum from the HV transformer
  when a cook cycle is initiated.  The main fuse will probably not blow.

* An open HV diode will result in AC instead of DC across the magnetron with a
  peak negative value (the only one that matters) about 1/2 of what it should
  be.  The result will likely be little or no detectable heat but no other

The resistance measured across the leads of the HV diode should be greater
than 10 M ohm in at least one direction when disconnected from the circuit.
However, the HV diode is composed of multiple silicon diodes in series to
get the voltage rating.  Its forward voltage drop will therefore be too great
(6 V or more) for a DMM to produce a definitive answer as to whether it
actually works as a rectifier.

The HV diode can be tested with a DC power supply (even a wall adapter of
at least 12 or 15 V output), series resistor (to limit current), and your
multimeter.  This will determine proper behavior, at least at low voltages.

The following is the schematic of a simple HV diode tester:

                 240 ohms, 1 W
       + o-----------/\/\---------+------------o +
                                __|__ HV       Good: 6 to 10 V
     15 VDC                     _\_/_ diode    Shorted: 0 to 2 V
                                  |            Open or reversed: 15 V
       - o------------------------+------------o -

The voltage drop in the forward direction should be at least 6 V with a few
mA of current but may be somewhat higher (8 V or more) with a few hundred mA.
If your DMM or VOM has a resistance scale operated off a battery of at least
6 V, you may get a reading in one direction (but only one) without the need
for an external power supply.

Or, assume for now that the diode is good if it is not shorted - which is

  7.6) Replacing the HV diode

WARNING: First, with power disconnected, discharge the high voltage capacitor.
See the section "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor".

Most HV diodes have press fit (Fast-On) or ring lugs so replacement is very
straightforward.  Discharge the high voltage capacitor.  Make sure you get
the polarity correct if your replacement can be installed either way.  Putting
the diode in backwards will result in positive instead of negative high
voltage and, needless to say, no heat, but no other symptoms either.

Note: the lugs on your new HV diode may just be crimped onto the wire leads
and not welded or soldered.  If this is the case, take care not to stress them
excessively which might result in bad connections now or in the future.  It
may be a good idea to solder the lugs to the wires as well (though this may be

Where the diode is part of the capacitor assembly, it should be possible to
just replace the diode leaving the old one unconnected (at one end).  This
will probably be much much cheaper than replacing the entire assembly.

  7.7) HV diode ratings

Most replacement microwave oven diodes are rated 12 to 15 KV PRV at .5 A.  A
PRV of around 8 KV is actually required even for a small oven.  Here is why:
Until the magnetron heats up and starts conducting in its forward direction,
what you have is a half wave rectifier/filter formed by the HV transformer
secondary, the HV diode, and the HV capacitor.  The reverse voltage across the
HV diode will be equal to: 2 * 1.414 * (VRMS of the HV transformer).  This can
easily be 6 or 7 KV or more!  Once the magnetron start conducting, the reverse
voltage goes down somewhat.

HV diodes rated at .5 A are adequate for most domestic microwave ovens.  For
example, the largest of these will have a nameplate rating of around 1,800 W
power line input and a HV transformer secondary of 2,500 VAC.  While there are
some losses in the HV transformer, and some power is used by the magnetron
filament, controller, motors, and light, this still leaves, perhaps, 1,600 W
into the HV generator.  However, due to the design of the half wave doubler
circuit, not all the power flows through the HV diode (as would be the case
with a regular power supply.  Thus, even though calculations using Ohms law
(I = P/V = 1,600/2,500 or .64 A) would suggest that .5 A is not enough, closer
to 1/2 of the total current actually flows through the HV diode.

To be doubly sure that your new HV diode is happy, run the oven on full power
(high) for 10 minutes with two quarts of water as a load (or a roast).  Unplug
the oven (while your spouse prepares the veggies), quickly DISCHARGE THE HV
CAPACITOR, and then check the HV diode for overheating.  It might be warm but
should not be too hot to touch.  Unless you have the largest oven on earth,
this test is probably not needed.

  7.8) Testing the high voltage capacitor

WARNING: First, with power disconnected, discharge the high voltage capacitor.
See the section "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor".

* A shorted HV capacitor will blow the fuse instantly.

* An open HV capacitor will result in no heat but no other symptoms.

(The following assumes no internal rectifier or other circuitry except of
a bleeder resistor.  Adjust procedures accordingly if your oven is different.)

The resistance measured across the terminals of the high voltage capacitor
should be very high - several M ohms for bleeder resistor.  If it is less
than 1 M ohms, the capacitor is definitely shorted.  Yes, if you measure
0.00 ohms across the terminals (and they are not bussed together on the
case), then the capacitor is positively, without a shadow of a doubt, bad!

A high resistance does not prove that the capacitor is actually functional,
just not shorted with no voltage across it.  If you have a capacitance meter,
check it for proper value (should be printed on the case).  Even this does
not prove that it will not short when full voltage is applied.  Substitution
is the only sure test beyond this.

  7.9) Replacing the high voltage capacitor

WARNING: First, with power disconnected, discharge the high voltage capacitor.
See the section "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor".

Make a diagram of the precise wiring as multiple connections are often made to
the capacitor terminals.  The capacitor is usually mounted with a clamp which
is easily loosened.  Sometimes, the capacitor is jammed into a location that
requires moving some other components to extract it.

Replace in reverse order.  Tighten the clamp securely but not so much as to
distort the case.

Where the capacitor assembly also includes the HV diode, it is possible to
just replace the capacitor if space permits leaving the old one unconnected
(at one end).  However, the cost of a generic replacement diode is small
(around $3) so replacing both at the same time is usually best.  However,
you don't need to use the exact combined part - which may be very expensive
or difficult to obtain.  Just make sure the ratings of the capacitor and
diode are correct (use a generic replacement microwave oven HV diode and a
microwave HV capacitor with a uF rating within 10% or so of the old one and
at least equal working voltage).

  7.10) Testing the magnetron

WARNING: First, with power disconnected, discharge the high voltage capacitor.
See the section "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor".

* A magnetron with an open filament will result in no heat but no other
  symptoms.  The bad connection may be internal (in which case the magnetron
  will need to be replaced) or external at the filament terminals (which may
  be repairable).

* A magnetron with with a short between the filament/cathode and anode will
  likely result in a loud hum from the HV transformer and/or magnetron when
  the cook cycle is initiated but the main fuse will probably not blow.

* A magnetron with other faults may result in a variety of symptoms including
  erratic or low output power or intermittent operation.  See the section:
  "Comprehensive list of magnetron failure modes".

There is no totally definitive way to determine if a magnetron is good without
actually powering it under operating conditions but the following tests will
catch most problems:

* Magnetron filament.  The resistance should be infinite from the filament
  connections to the case and a fraction of an ohm between the filament
  terminals with the wiring disconnected from the magnetron.

  While measuring resistance from filament chassis, gently tap the magnetron
  to determine if there is an intermittent short.  However, such problems may
  only show up once the filament heats up and parts expand.

  It may be possible to determine if the magnetron filament is actually
  working by connecting just the filament connections to a low voltage
  high current supply on a Variac (e.g., a microwave oven transformer but just
  the filament connections).  The ceramic insulators are translucent and should
  show a glow with a working filament.  The one at the antenna may be visible
  if the magnetron is removed from the oven or with a dental mirror looking
  into the waveguide.  WARNING: Make sure you ONLY have the filament connected!

* Evidence of arcing (visible blackening around ventilation holes in base or
  burnt odor) usually indicates a bad magnetron.

* Melting or other damage to the antenna cover ('bull-nose' or 'bullet') may
  be the result of arcing due to problems in the oven cavity or waveguide
  (perhaps operating with nothing in the oven) or a defective magnetron.

  (This part is only visible with the magnetron removed from the oven).  If
  a problem elsewhere has been corrected, the damaged antenna cover can be
  pulled off and replaced from a magnetron that died of other causes - try
  your local appliance repair shop.  (The shape doesn't matter as long as
  it fits tightly - there are several diameters, however.)  Your magnetron
  may still be good.

Most common magnetron failure modes:

* Filament could be shorted to case - check with ohmmeter.  Anything less than
  infinity means the tube is bad though it could be charring due to arcing
  outside the vacuum in the box with the filament connections.  Tap the tube
  while measuring to check for intermittents.

* Filament could be shorted to itself - tough to test since it is such a low
  resistance to start.  Compare with good magnetron.  (Yeh, right.  If you had
  one, this wouldn't be an issue!)  Tap the tube while measuring to check for
  intermittents.  This fault isn't really likely.

* Filament could be open - check with ohmmeter.  Tap the tube while measuring
  to check for intermittents.  However, loose filament connectors (Fast-Ons)
  are more likely than a broken filament.  Therefore, check directly at the
  magnetron terminals with both lugs pulled off.

* Magnetron could be gassy (or up to air) and arcover internally once power is
  applied.  The filament could expand, shift position, and short once heated.
  There is no easy way to test for these possibilities other than substituting
  a known good magnetron.

* Internal or external arcing resulting in physical damage.  External arcing
  could be at the antenna or inside the filament box.  Internal arcing will
  not leave any visible evidence but the damage will result in the magnetron
  failing totally or running with reduced output.

* Overheating might result from a broken or cracked magnet (reduced magentic
  field) or other internal problems.  While there may be some output power,
  the thermal protector will shut down the oven prematurely.

  7.11) Comprehensive list of magnetron failure modes

(Portions from: John Gallawa (mtek@pen.net)).

Here is a list of typical magnetron failure modes. The percentage of each type
of failure varies. Currently, internal shorts and loose filament connectors
are probably at the top of the list. An internal plate-cathode short may only
manifest itself under the stress of high voltage during operation.

1.  Shorts. (a) Internal plate-cathode/filament short or (b) Internal arcing.

    Symptoms: No heat, loud hum when entering cook cycle, possible blown HV
    fuse (but will not likely blow the main fuse).

    In ovens equipped with fuses that monitor the high voltage system, such
    as some commercial Sharp models and most commercial and domestic Amana
    models, the high voltage fuse would probably blow. But, rarely will a
    shorted magnetron cause the main line fuse to blow. (I suppose the
    transformer absorbs most of the current surge.) In fact, with reference
    to the other symptoms below, there are almost no failures where the
    magnetron causes the line fuse to blow.
2.  Loose filament connectors (these may be repairable).  There will often
    also be visual symptoms at the magnetron:  Signs of overheating, such as
    discoloration; and evidence of carbon tracks or pits on magnetron terminals
    when the connectors are removed.  An intermittent filament (internal) is
    also possible (but not repairable).

    Symptoms: No heat or erratic heat.

    The slip-on connectors can loosen, overheat, build up resistance and
    eventually loose contact. If the the magnetron terminal(s) have not been
    burned too severely, the connection(s) can usually be repaired. We prefer
    cleaning up the terminal, then soldering the filament wires directly to
    the terminal.

    Note: when discharging HV capacitor, since there is no load, it may end
    up being charged to a much higher voltage than is normal.  Be prepared
    for a larger spark if you use a screwdriver to discharge it!
3.  Open filament.

    Symptoms: No heat.

    See note about HV capacitor in (2) above.
4.  In the older glass-dome models, the vacuum envelope can rupture.

    Symptoms: No heat, loud buzz due to arcing when entering cook cycle,
    possible blown HV fuse.
    See comments about fuses in (1) above.

5.  Filament breakdown. Usually occurs after a few minutes of normal operation,
    possible blown HV fuse.

    Symptoms: No heat, loud hum once it occurs.

    See comments about fuses in (1) above.

6.  Low output. Occurs as cathode emission decreases from long use.

    Symptoms: Reduced cooking power.

7.  Moding. Occurs when magnetron oscillates in one or more undesirable
    Symptoms: (a) Reduced or no cooking power, (b) RF interference.  However,
    some food products (with high water content) may cook normally, whereas
    the result with other foods is very unsatisfactory.  RF interference is
    possible but usually only occurs if there is actual structural damage to
    either the magnetron, its RF gasket or waveguide flange, or its RF
    (feed-through) capacitors. 

8.  Off frequency. Physical characteristics can change and cause magnetron to
    oscillate at frequencies slightly higher or lower than 2.45 GHz.
    Same as (7a) above.
9.  RF leakage. Structural failure can cause leakage from magnetron housing.

    Symptoms: Microwave leakage into electronics bay, erratic control panel
    behavior. It can be very frustrating because the symptoms disappear when
    the oven's outer cover is removed. With the cover in place, the escaping
    RF energy is confined, and eventually builds up around the control panel
    circuitry causing unusual symptoms. 
10. Insulation breakdown of the internal leads or at magnetron insulators
    or antenna terminal.

    Symptoms: Arcing, burning smell from magnetron, loud hum, no heat.

11. Cracked magnet(s).

    Symptoms: Reduced or no cooking power, magnetron overheating, occasional
    'snapping' sound. 

  7.12) Where to obtain replacement magnetrons

Depending on the age of your oven the magnetron may still be under warranty.
Check the original paperwork that came with the oven - either the users
manual or a separate warranty document.  Contact the manufacturer if specific
instructions on how to file claims are not provided.  Full coverage on the
magnetron of several years is common.  If you have not sent in the warranty
registration card (right, who actually does this?!), a copy of the sales
receipt or other proof of date of purchase may be required.

Both original and generic replacement magnetrons are available.  Going direct
to the oven manufacturer will guarantee a compatible magnetron but is by far
the most expensive option.  For a typical oven, one without the gold-plated
trim :-), such a replacement may be more than half the cost of a similar
new oven.  In some cases (like Sears), you may need to convince their service
department that you are qualified to be poking around inside one of *their*
appliances before they will consider selling one to you (too many lawyers).

In some cases, original magnetrons may also be available from parts suppliers
like MCM Electronics - at somewhat less rediculous prices.  They will be
identified as 'original' or 'genuine' along with the manufacturer and their
part number.

Generic replacement magnetrons are available for the majority of microwave
ovens.  These will almost certainly be much less expensive than original
parts.  Essentially, there is only one type 'tube' (at least for any similar
power range).  The differences are mostly mechanical.  However, quality may
vary.  In some cases, the generic variety may actually be better than the
original.  See the section: "Comments on replacement magnetron quality" for
some recommendations.

  7.13) Comments on replacement magnetron quality

(From John Gallawa (mtek@pen.net)).

In my experience, mags purchased from after-market suppliers may or may
not be OEM parts (there are not that many manufacturers of magnetrons in
the world). Here's the interesting thing, though: In many cases, these
after-market tubes are actually higher in quality than the original
tube, as in the case of the OEM Sanyo magnetrons, which tend to fail
prematurely. Of course, the opposite can also be true, depending on the
after-market supplier. Some manufacturers, such as Toshiba and Hitachi,
produce both high and low end magnetrons. They sell these under a
variety of specialty names, as well as under manufacturer brand names. I
have seen the low-end tubes in many brand-new microwave ovens.

When buying magnetrons from other than the manufacturer, I have found it
best to go to a supplier who specializes in microwave oven parts (i.e.
AMI, Global Micro-parts, QB products). These sales people are usually
more knowledgeable about the magnetrons they sell, and they can help you
with proper choice and application. 

  7.14) Replacing the magnetron

WARNING: First, with power disconnected, discharge the high voltage capacitor.
See the section "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor".

When you receive the replacement, compare it with the original.  It is critical
that the replacement magnetron be mechanically identical: this means that the
mounting configuration (studs or holes and their location), waveguide seating
surface, and the orientation of the filament connections and cooling fins are
the same.  The studs may be removable so that the same assembly can be used
with or without them.  The cooling fins are particularly important as there
must be adequate airflow from the fan for removal of the substantial waste
heat - up to half of the input power to the magnetron ends up as heat.  The
shape of the antenna terminal - cone, bull nose, or square - doesn't matter.

Magnetron replacement is generally straightforward but other assemblies like
the cooling fan may need to be removed to gain access.  Make careful notes
of both the wiring and mechanical relationships.  Usually, the magnetron is
fastened to the waveguide with 4 nuts on studs.  When removing it from its
mounting, do not lose the RF gasket - a metal mesh ring which seals the
connection against microwave leakage.  Reuse it unless your replacement
magnetron comes with a new one.  Transfer any thermal protector to the new
unit.  Replace other components in reverse order and then reattach the
filament and HV wires.

Although the magnetron is a vacuum tube, there is probably no glass in yours
(unless it is quite old) so it isn't really very fragile.  However, a sharp
blow or fall (during shipping as well if not properly packed) could shatter
the filament.  Do keep it (the magnets) away from your diskettes unless you
want them bulk erased!

As for the old one, see the section: "The magnets in dead magnetrons" :-).

  7.15) Testing the high voltage transformer

WARNING: First, with power disconnected, discharge the high voltage capacitor.
See the section "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor".

* A shorted winding or short between a winding and the core/chassis in the HV
  transformer may result in a blown fuse, loud hum, overheating, audible
  arcing, a burnt aroma, or simply no heat.

* An open winding will likely result in no heat but no other symptoms.

Disconnect terminals as required to make the following tests:

* The resistances of the primary should be .1 to .5 ohms (.2 ohms typical).

* The resistance of the filament winding will likely be so low as not to be
  detectable with your multimeter.  The only measurement easily made would
  be that there is no short to the chassis.

* Typical resistance readings for the transformer HV secondary are in the 25
  to 150 ohms range (depending on the power rating of the oven) from HV
  connection to chassis.  A typical midsize might be 65 ohms.  An open would
  be an obvious failure.  However, based on the way these are wound, a
  winding-to-winding short would not cause enough of a resistance change to
  be detected with an ohmmeter unless you could compare with an identical
  model transformer from the same lot number.

Testing the high voltage transformer more fully is difficult without fancy
equipment.  Only major short circuits can be identified in the transformer
with an ohmmeter since the nominal resistance of the windings is unknown.
However, open windings (not very likely) can be located and other faults
can be identified by the process of elimination.

Note: in the discussion below, it is assumed that the fuse is blowing due to
a possible short in the HV transformer.  Alternatively, there may be a loud
hum as the HV transformer struggles due to a fault in the HV transformer or
a shorted HV diode, magnetron, or a short in the HV wiring.  Also note that
depending on the severity of the fault, the fuse may not actually blow (at
least not immediately) but there will likely be a loud hum when the HV
transformer is powered.

* Disconnect the primary of the HV transformer and initiate a cook cycle.  If
  the fuse still blows, you have a problem elsewhere such as a defective
  interlock or shorted wire.

* Assuming the fuse does not blow, unplug the oven and reconnect the primary
  of the HV transformer.

* If the other components - HV diode, HV capacitor, magnetron - test out,
  remove the high voltage and filament connections to the transformer, power
  up the oven, and initiate a cook cycle.  If the fuse does not blow, the
  transformer is likely good and there are still problems in the high voltage
  components.  Possibly something is failing only when full voltage is applied.

* If the fuse still blows, then the problem is likely with the triac (if used),
  a shorted wire, or shorted transformer.

* If the fuse does not blow with the secondary isolated, reconnect only the
  magnetron filament (not the HV) to the transformer and power it up again.
  If the fuse now blows, then it is possible that the magnetron filament is

* If your oven uses a triac, remove and bypass it.  Now, if the fuse still
  blows when the oven is plugged in (door closed to enable the interlocks),
  the problem is likely with the transformer.

Unplug the oven, discharge the HV capacitor.

* Check for damaged wires that may be shorting to the chassis.  Repair or
  replace these as necessary.

  7.16) Replacing the high voltage transformer

WARNING: First, with power disconnected, discharge the high voltage capacitor.
See the section "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor".

Replacement of a HV transformer is straightforward but other assemblies may be
using the transformer bolts for their mounting and/or may block your way.

Label the wires before pulling off the Fast-Ons if there is any doubt as to
where they go.

If the replacement transformer is not mechanically identical, you may need
to use some creativity in anchoring it and any structures that are attached
to its frame.  However, the transformer must be secure - don't just sit it
in place.

Try not to drop either the old or new transformer on your foot!

  7.17) Testing and repairing the wiring and connections

WARNING: First, with power disconnected, discharge the high voltage capacitor.
See the section "Safe discharging of the high voltage capacitor".

Inspect the wiring - especially between the magnetron, HV transformer, and
other components of the high voltage circuits for signs of arcing and excessive
heating or burning.  Arcing may be the result of the wire scraping against a
sharp sheet metal edge due to poor placement and or vibration.  A bit of
electrical tape may be all that is needed.

Since the magnetron filament in particular uses high current, any resistance
at the press (Fast-On) connections will result in heating, weakening of the
lug, more heating, and eventual failure or erratic operation.  Try to pull off
each of the lugs.  They should not be loose - you should have to work at
removing them.  However, note that some lugs are of the locking variety and
require that you push a little tab to release them.

Check for loose, burnt, or deteriorated lugs in the filament circuit (not just
the magnetron).  If you find evidence of this:

* Remove the lugs and clean the terminals with fine sandpaper or a file.  If
  they are not too badly deteriorated, they will still work even if they are
  somewhat ugly.

* If the lugs and their wire connections appear to be in good condition but
  come off their terminals easily, try squeezing them a little tighter with a
  pair of pliers and reinstall.  Otherwise, cut off the old ones and replace

* If any connections between the lug and the wire or HV diode are at all loose,
  solder it with a high wattage soldering iron or soldering gun.

* Alternatively, use a drill to make a hole in each terminal, and then fasten
  the (tinned) wire directly (or better yet) a new ring lug to the terminal
  with a machine screw, nut, and lockwasher.  Soldering is also possible.

  These approaches will work as long as there is enough metal remaining for a
  solid connection and may permit you to salvage a magnetron or HV transformer
  that would otherwise need to be replaced.

Also check for bad solder connections between the terminals on the high voltage
transformer and the enameled wire used for its windings.  If you find anything
suspect, scrape away the enamel and surface corrosion and resolder with a high
wattage soldering iron or soldering gun.

  7.18) Testing thermal protectors and thermal fuses

There may be two types of devices present in your oven:

* Thermal protectors are thermostats that open a set of high current contacts
  at a preset temperature.  They should reset when they cool off.  However,
  like a relay or switch, the contacts sometimes deteriorate.

* Thermal fuses will open at a preset temperature but do not reset.  They blow
  and need to be replaced.

At room temperature, both types should read as a dead short with an ohmmeter
(disconnect one terminal as there may be low resistance components or wiring
which may confuse your readings).  If the resistance is more than a small
fraction of an ohm, the device is bad.  Replacements are somewhat readily
available.  You must match both the temperature and current ratings.

If you suspect a bad thermal protector in the HV transformer primary, clip a
100 W light bulb or AC voltmeter across it and operate the oven.  If the
thermal protector is functioning properly, there should never be any voltage
across it unless there is actual overheating.  If the bulb lights up or
the meter indicates approximately line voltage - and there is no sign of
overheating - the thermal protector is defective and will need to be replaced.

An overheating condition would generally be obvious as the mounting surface
on which the thermal protector is located would be scorching hot when it
tripped - too hot to touch (but discharge the HV capacitor first - a burn from
the heat will be nothing compared to the potential shock!).

Replacement of a thermal protector is very straightforward as it is almost
always screwed in place with push-on lug terminals.  The new thermal fuse will
probably come with lugs attached.

  7.19) Testing and replacing the triac

A triac may fail in a variety of ways:

* A shorted triac would result in the oven coming on as soon as the door is
  closed or the power being stuck on high no matter what the touchpad setting.

* An open triac or one that didn't respond to the gate would result in no heat
  and possibly other things like the fan and turntable not working as well.

* A triac that didn't turn off would result in the parts of the oven continuing
  to run even after the timer counted to zero.

* A triac where one half was shorted would result in a blown fuse due to it
  acting as a rectifier pumping DC through the HV transformer.

* A triac where one half doesn't properly turn off would result in the main
  fuse blowing when the cook cycle completed.

Nearly all triac failures will be shorts.  Thus, measuring across the
MT1 and MT2 terminals of the triac (the power connections) should read
as a high resistance with a multimeter.  A few ohms means a bad triac.

As noted above, triacs can fail in other - possibly peculiar ways - so
substitution or bypassing may be necessary to rule out all possibilities.

Replacement is very straightforward - just don't get the wires mixed up.

  7.20) Testing and replacing the power relay

A defective relay can result in a variety of symptoms:

* A relay with its contacts welded (stuck) closed would result in the oven
  coming on as soon as the door is closed or the power being stuck on high
  no matter what the touchpad setting.

* A relay that doesn't close (due to defective contacts or a bad coil) would
  result in no heat and possibly other things like the fan and turntable not
  working as well.

If the relay is totally inoperative, test for voltage to the coil.  If the
voltage is correct, the relay may have an open coil.  If the voltage is low
or zero, the coil may be shorted or the driving circuit may be defective.
If the relay makes a normal switching sound but does not correctly control
its output connections, the contacts may be corroded, dirty, worn, welded
closed, binding, or there may be other mechanical problems.

Remove the relay from the circuit (if possible) and measure the coil
resistance.  Compare your reading with the marked or specified value
and/or compare with a known working relay of the same type.  An open
coil is obviously defective but sometimes the break is right at the
terminal connections and can be repaired easily.  If you can gain access
by removing the cover, a visual examination will confirm this.  If the
resistance is too low, some of the windings are probably shorted.  This
will result in overheating as well as no or erratic operation.  Replacement
will be required.

The resistance of closed contacts on a relay that is in good condition
should be very low - probably below the measurable limits on a typical
multimeter - a few milliohms.  If you measure significant or erratic
resistance for the closed contacts as the relay is switched or if very
gentle tapping results in erratic resistance changes, the contacts are
probably dirty, corroded, or worn.  If you can get at the contacts, the
use of contact cleaner first and a piece of paper pulled back and forth
through the closed contacts may help. Superfine sandpaper may be used as
a last resort but this is only a short term fix.  The relay will most likely
need to be replaced if as in this case the contacts are switching any
substantial power.

Chapter 8) Items of Interest

  8.1) Microwave leakage meters

A routine test for radiation leakage should be done before returning an oven
you have worked on especially if the door or magnetron/waveguide were disturbed
during the repair process.  Use it around the door seem and ventilation holes
in the cabinet.  An inexpensive meter is better than nothing but will not be
as sensitive and will not allow you to quantify the amount of any leakage.

If you work on microwave ovens, such a meter is a *must* for personal safety
reasons as well as minimizing the risk of liability after returning them to
your customers.

These should be available wherever you buy quality test instruments.  They
are usually made by the same companies that manufacture other service
equipment.  Prices and capabilities vary widely.  MCM Electronics sells an
inexpensive unit suitable for quick checks on a go/no-go basis for $6.99
and an FDA approved unit (including calibration), for $388.

Note: you should also perform an electrical leakage test to assure that all
case parts are securely connected to the Ground of the AC plug.

  8.2) Comments on microwave leakage meters

(From Barry Collins (bcollins@mindspring.com)).

I found an old manual for a Narda 8100B Electromagnetic Leakage Monitor.  (I
used to work for a manufacturer of Microwave ovens.)  While I don't personally
recall ever having damaged a probe while checking for leakage, I do know that
it is possible to do so and did happen on rare occasions.

The Narda manual states that their probes use an antenna/thermocouples design.
Holaday (sp?) makes another line of detectors and those may use a thermistor

I have confirmed that by removing the styrofoam cone from the end of a Holaday
uW leakage detector's probe and then bringing its tip near a heat source (40W
bulb) caused the meter to have a significant deflection.  Thus, the cones are
not only used as spacers.  They prevent radiant heat sources from affecting
the meter reading, as well.

The Holaday probes that I used had 8 diodes in the tip that formed an array.

Newer designs (Holaday) claim to be more or less immune to damage resulting
from placing them into high energy fields.  I do know that the older Narda
equipment was prone to such damage.

There is a section in the Narda manual that details how to select the proper
probe to measure "unknown" leakage levels.  In a nutshell, one should start
with the highest power rated probe and work toward the lowest power rated
probe (three listed in all).  The goal is to have a meter deflection of more
than 10% of it's scale while not going off scale for sake of accuracy.  While
it didn't specifically mention damage to the probes, there were overtones
throughout the text that implied such (watch needle, listen for alarm, stop
and replace probe, etc...).

The three probes were listed as (high/low range for each):

     Probe          Range
     8120A    0.2 mW to   2.0 mW/square cm
     8121A    2.0 mW to  20.0 mW/square cm
     8122A   20.0 mW to 200.0 mW/square cm

This is from memory, but I believe that the maximum leakages we were allowed
by the governmental agency were:

    * Less than 2.0 mw/square cm off of our assembly line
    * Less than 3.0 mw/square cm leaving the warehouse
    * Less than 5.0 mw/square cm in consumers home

As you no doubt know, with a hole cut in the oven (in reference to those who
want to modify one - see the section: "Microwave ovens for non-standard applications" --- sam), the density can easily reach several times these
numbers, especially on the newer 1,000 watt plus models.  Damage would occur
where one intentionally held the lower power rated probe in the strong field
until the thermocouple (or thermistor?) overheated.

  8.3) Simple microwave leak detectors

Since these do not really provide an absolute measurement, their utility is
somewhat limited.  All microwave ovens leak to some extent.  Determining by
how much is why you pay the big bucks for a real leakage meter!

WARNING: These are no substitute for a properly calibrated commercial unit!

(From: Leon Heller (leon@lfheller.demon.co.uk)).

A very simple design I saw somewhere (Electronics World, probably) consisted
of a half-wave dipole with a Shottky diode detector between the two elements.
I think one measured the voltage across the diode via a resistor and capacitor
smoothing arrangement using a 50 uA meter. You can buy these detectors quite

(From: Ren Tescher (ren@rap.ucar.edu)).

I saw an article about it in Modern Electronics in the early eighties.  It is
simply a Schottky Barrier Diode (SBD) and an LED wired together.  The leads of
the SBD are left intact and straight and act as a 1/4 wavelength dipole.  

Here's the circuit:

                             |     |

The LED is soldered close to SBD using as short of leads as possible (being
careful not to ruin either part with too much heat).  (Note that the diodes
are connected anode to cathode, not cathode to cathode.)

I then taped/glued it 1 1/2 and perpendicular from the end of a popsicle stick
(this gives it a 'standoff' distance).

Put a large container of water (>=2 cups) in the microwave and run it on HIGH
for 2 minutes.  While it is running, slowly sweep the tester around the door
seal, hinges and door latch.  You may have to dim the lights to see if the LED
lights up.

Any leaking uwaves will be picked up by the dipole 'antenna', the SBD will
rectify the waves, and when sufficient rectified voltage has built up, the LED
will light up.

I built 10 of these at home and then compared them to the commercial tester we
had at work.  The commercial tester had three ranges and the most sensitive
range was divided into 3 color bands, red, yellow, green.  The home-built
testers all 'fired' at some point in the 'yellow' range.  I attribute the
variances within the yellow (caution) range to individual characteristics of
the diodes - they all came from the bargain bin at Radio shacks....

A solid glow would indicate excessive leakage, especially if the tester still
glows if it is pulled beyond the 1-1/2 inch standoff distance to 3 inches.
Typically the LED just flickers, around the hinge/latch areas.  (US law allows
increased leakage as the oven ages).

You may notice that no radiation leaks through the viewing window, contrary to
the old wives tale of not looking through the window while it's cooking.  (The
screen really is a very good microwave shield --- sam).

Small leaks may be remedied by adjusting or cleaning the door and hinges
and/or by distance (square law= doubling the distance quarters the power).
Large leaks - trash the oven.

(From: James P. Meyer (jimbob@acpub.duke.edu)).

Get a small neon bulb.  The NE-2 size is a good one.  Use some resistors to
make a voltage divider for 115 VAC to feed the bulb.  Adjust the voltage
across the bulb so that it's just barely glowing.  Make the divider network
resistance large enough to limit the current through the bulb to just a couple
of mA.  Put the bulb on the end of a line cord and plug.  INSULATE everything

Adding this onto a neon circuit tester is one option and will provide an
insulated housing as well.

Plug the whole thing into an AC outlet.  Wave the bulb around the door gaskets 
and if it gets brighter when the oven is turned on, then you have located a
leak.  The bulb detector can be very sensitive.  You may even be able to use
it to find wires behind drywall in your house.

  8.4) How safe is a repaired microwave oven?

So you fixed up Aunt Minnie's Radarange or picked up a microwave at a yard
sale or scavenged one off the curb.  The only problem you could find was a
blown fuse, truly horrible mess of decayed burnt-on food, or a thriving
community of cockroaches inside.  How safe is it to use (assuming you evicted
the cockroaches)?

As long as there is no serious damage to the door (a 6 inch hole would quality
as serious damage) and the door fits square, it should be properly sealed.  As
long as the waveguide is tightly mounted and undamaged, there should be no
leakage from there.  Make sure the metal cover has all its fingers engaged
around the front (though with a properly installed magnetron, there should be
minimal microwave leakage into the electronics bay).

An inexpensive leakage tester - around $8 - will not be as sensitive or
accurate as the $500 variety by may provide some peace of mind.  However, as
noted below, they may indicate dangerous leakage even when your oven is within
acceptable limits.

The most important considerations are the door and door seal.

(From Barry Collins (bcollins@mindspring.com)).

Those inexpensive hand held meters (from Radio Shack, etc..) can give very
inaccurate readings. While they definitely serve a purpose, they have caused a
more than a few people to unnecessarily fear microwave ovens over the years.
Also, I just changed jobs from working for a company that made gas ranges.  CO
detectors caused similar panic among users of the appliances.  I'd highly
recommend anyone with gas heat or appliances to purchase a quality CO
detector, but not one of those inexpensive type that go off whenever there is
a thermal inversion of smog a city.

  8.5) Efficiency of microwave ovens

The efficiency of an electric heating element is 100% - period.  However, using
an electric stove to heat 1 cup of tea may result in much wasted energy as the
element and pot must be heated as well and there are losses due to convection
and conduction to the surrounding environment.  Furthermore, you won't heat
just *1 cup* of tea but more likely 2 or 3 just to be sure you have enough!

A microwave oven is not likely to be more than 60% efficient - possibly as low
as 50 percent or even less.  While the magnetron tube itself may have an
efficiency rating of 75%, there are losses in the high voltage transformer,
cooling fans, and turntable motor (if used).  The light bulb and controller
also use small amounts of power.   These all add up to a significant overhead.
In addition, the waveform applied to the magnetron by the half wave doubler
circuit is not ideal for maximum efficiency.

However, you are not heating the surrounding countryside as the microwaves only
affects what you are cooking and not the container or oven cavity itself and
you are more likely to only load the amount of food you expect to be eating.
For a single cup of tea, the microwave oven may use 1/10th the energy of a
typical electric cooktop element to bring it to a boil!

Therefore, it makes sense to use a microwave oven for small short tasks where
the losses of an electric or gas oven or cooktop would dominate.  However,
gastronomic preferences aside, a conventional oven is better suited for that
20 pound turkey - even if you could distort its anatomy enough to fit the
typical mid-size microwave!

  8.6) Microwave oven design and cost reduction

(From Barry Collins (bcollins@mindspring.com)).

Microwave oven design is a black art.  What one hopes for is to deliver all
the power from the magnetron into the food and not have a high SWR reflect
back into the magnetron and burn it out.  Size, shape, placement of food items
affect the SWR.  The microwaves are designed for the most part to work
optimally with an average load.  Models equipped with turn-table models
compensate for this by breaking up the SWR as the food revolves.  My oven has
a stirrer fan design and has been working for going on 18 years now without
the first hint of a problem (maybe a little less power).  I personally know
that it had one of the lowest SWRs available at the time.  Not to mention it
has an older design, non-cost reduced, cooler running, more efficient
magnetron (that cost $13.00 instead of $9.45).  The thing that I found
disturbing about microwave oven design was the trends to go with hotter an
hotter insulation classes on the components used in them.  The original
transformers were class H while the newer ones are now class N.  This was all
done in the name of cost reduction to remain competitive.  The windings AWG
got smaller and the temperature rise went up accordingly.  The magnetrons were
cost reduced in a similar fashion.  Size was reduced and the number of fins
were reduced.  Their temperature went up while their efficiency went down.
But then the cost went from $300 to $149 while life went from 10 years-plus to
5 years or less and they became disposable items.  That's one area, I'd
almost hesitate to hope the Government would have mandated an efficiency.

  8.7) Problems with running a microwave oven with metal inside or totally empty

Metal in microwave ovens may or may not be a problem depending on the specific
situation.  Sharp edges and points create strong field gradients which tend to
spark, arc, or create other fireworks.  With some food in the oven to absorb
the power, this is probably not likely to damage the oven.  You will note that
some ovens come with metal fixtures in addition to the oven walls themselves
(e.g., Sharp convection/microwave combo).

Having absolutely nothing in the oven chamber or just metal is the potentially
more likely damaging situation for the magnetron as you are dumping several
hundred W to over a KW of power into a reflective cavity with no load.  In the
worst case, you could end up with a meltdown inside the waveguide requiring
replacement of various expensive components including the magnetron.

  8.8) More on metal in the microwave

(From: Don Klipstein (don@Misty.com)).

Mainly, you need exposed water or food to absorb the microwaves.  Otherwise,
they just reflect around the oven and get back to the magnetron tube.  This
may be bad for the tube, and in an unpredictable manner.

It is even not too good to run a microwave empty.  The walls of the main
cooking chamber are metal.

In the event the microwave runs empty OK, adding metal objects change the
microwave reflection pattern and might possibly unfavorably change things.

If you have exposed food or water, the tube should not mind some stray metal
too much.  If the added metal does not interfere with microwaves mainly
getting from the tube to the target food or water and being absorbed, the
magnetron should be OK.

Even if the tube does not mind, there is another concern.  Metal objects close
to other metal objects or to the walls of the cooking chamber may arc to these.
Any arcing is generally not a good thing.  If you add metal objects in a manner
safe for the tube, try to keep these at lease a half inch (a bit over a cm.)
from the walls to avoid arcing.  Safe distances are uncertain and are usually
less if the metal objects are small and a large amount of food or water is

If any metal object has major contact with a microwave absorbing food target
and such target is still heavily exposed, you should be OK.  Examples would
be wrapping foil around the wingtips of a whole chicken or whole turkey, or
a bottle of liquid (on its side) with a metal lid with liquid contacting much
of the lid.  This is usually OK.  Just avoid unrelated problems due to major
temperature change of anything in contact with a non-heat-rated glass

A plain glass bottle if ice-cold stuff might possibly break from thermal shock
when heated, but any metal lid on a bottle largely full of microwave-absorbing
stuff should not present a problem especially if the bottle is on its side so
that stuff is contacting or very nearly contacting much of the lid.

  8.9) Burnt smell from oven - after incident

"My daughter tried to heat up one of those 'soup in a box' containers and it
 burned - actually charred. I wasn't home at the time, so I don't know if it
 was neglect or inappropriate use, but the lasting effect is that there is a
 strong odor, similar to that which you smell after a fire that I cannot seem
 to get rid of.  What do you recommend.  I have a Sharp Convection/Microwave,
 that even after the incident described still performs well."

Start by cleaning the interior of the oven thoroughly with mild detergent and
water.  You may have to do this several times to get all of the sticky film
left behind.  However,  the odor may persist since the smoke can penetrate
to places you cannot access for cleaning.  With a combination convection and
microwave oven especially, there are many passages where the air would normally
circulate in convection mode which will be coated even if the oven was used in
microwave mode.  However, I would expect that the smell will decrease and
eventually go away.  Most likely, nothing in the oven has actually sustained
any damage.

  8.10) Microwave ovens and grounded dedicated circuits

A microwave oven should be used only on a properly wired 3 wire grounded
circuit.  Check with a circuit tester to make sure your 3 prong outlet is
correctly wired.  Many are not.  Install one if it is not grounded.  There
is a very important safety reason for this requirement: the return for the
high voltage is through the chassis.  While unlikely, it is theoretically
possible for the entire high voltage to appear on the metal case should
certain internal connections come loose.  With a properly grounded outlet,
this will at most blow a fuse.  However, with the case floating, a shocking
(or worse) situation could develop - especially considering that microwave
ovens are usually situated near grounded appliances like ranges and normal
ovens and wet areas like kitchen sinks.

A dedicated circuit is desirable since microwave ovens are significant users
of power.  Only about 50 to 60% of the electricity used by a microwave oven
actually gets turned into microwaves.  The rest is wasted as heat. Therefore,
a 700 W oven will actually use up to 1400 W of power - nearly an entire 15 Amp
circuit.  Convection ovens have heating elements which are similar energy hogs.
At least, do not put your refrigerator on the same circuit!

  8.11) Microwave ovens and GFCIs

A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protects people from shocks should a
situation develop where an accessible part of an appliance should short to a
live wire.  Touching this may result in a shock or worse.  A GFCI detects any
difference between the currents in the Hot and Neutral wires and shuts off the
power should this difference exceed a few mA.

A GFCI is not needed with a properly grounded microwave oven as any such fault
will blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker.  In most cases, it will not hurt
to have a GFCI as well.  However, with some combinations of oven design and
your particular wiring, due to the highly inductive nature of the high voltage
transformer, nuisance tripping of the GFCI may occur when you attempt to cook
anything - or at random times.  However, this usually does not indicate any
problem.  Plug the oven into a properly grounded circuit not on a GFCI.

  8.12) Can a microwave oven be built into (or hung under) a cabinet?

Assuming it is a regular microwave and not a convection/microwave combo, the
major issues are:

* Providing adequate air flow through its ventilation grill which is usually
  located in the rear.

  (A convection/microwave can get quite hot and have ventilation in other
  places.  In this case I would suggest contacting the manufacturer of the
  oven for specific requirements.)

* Providing adequate structural support so the microwave doesn't end up in the
  soup :-(.  These are HEAVY appliances - cabinetry and/or drywall may not
  be up to the task.  Models designed as over-the-range or combined microwave
  and exhaust fan units mount via a massive plate fastened securely into the
  wall structure (screwed directly to the studs, not just the sheetrock!).

* Local building codes may specify when and if this approach can be used.  So,
  before doing any demolition, check with your friendly township inspector!

There are special (likely highly overpriced) models available for this type of

To use a normal microwave, my recommendation would be to build a shelf rather
than a totally sealed, enclosed, conformal cabinet.  It can have sides and a
top as long as you leave a couple of inches all around.  This will result in
a microwave oven that is much more easily serviced should the need arise and
replaced in the future with a model that is not quite identical.

Just make sure it is securely supported - the microwave weighs quite a bit and
must endure a fair amount of abuse from heavy casseroles and the inevitable
door yanking/slamming!

  8.13) Taking a microwave oven oversees (or vice versa)

Microwave ovens are high power appliances.  Low cost transformers or
international voltage adapters will not work.  You will need a heavy and
expensive step down or step up transformer which will likely cost as much
as a new microwave oven.  Sell the oven before you leave and buy a new one
at your destination.

Furthermore, for microwave ovens in particular, line frequency may make a
difference.  Due to the way the high voltage power supply works in a microwave
oven, the HV capacitor is in series with the magnetron and thus its impedance,
which depends on line frequency, affects output power.

High voltage transformer core saturation may also be a problem.  Even with no
load, these may run hot even at the correct line frequency of 60 Hz.  So going
to 50 Hz would make it worse - perhaps terminally - though this is not likely.

* Going from 50 Hz to 60 Hz at the same line voltage may slightly increase
  output cooking power (and heating of the magnetron).  The line voltage
  could be reduced by a small amount to compensate.

* Going from 60 Hz to 50 Hz may slightly decrease output power and possibly
  increase heating of the HV transformer due to core losses.  Using a slightly
  lower line voltage will reduce the heating but will further decrease the
  cooking power.

The digital clock and timer will likely run slow or fast if the line frequency
changes as they usually use the power line for reference.  Of course, this may
partially make up for your change in output power! :-)

  8.14) Microwave oven test-mode

(From Mark Paladino (paladino@frontiernet.net)).

Some microwave ovens have a self-test feature. This self-test is usually 
accessed by pressing a couple of keys on the touch pad. You can usually test 
things like keys, switches controller etc. Check the manual for any 
self-test info. Some microwaves have this information tucked in a pocket 
or hidden somewhere behind panels.

  8.15) High frequency inverter type HV power supplies

While the vast majority of microwave ovens - perhaps every single one you will
ever see - use minor variations on the tried and trusted half wave doubler
circuit, a few models have been designed using solid state high frequency
inverters - in many ways similar to the deflection/HV flyback power supply of
a TV or monitor.

A typical circuit (from a Sharp microwave oven) uses full wave rectified
but mostly unfiltered pulsating DC as the power to a large ferrite inverter
transformer which sort of looks like a flyback on steroids.  This means that
the microwave output is pulsing at both 60 Hz and the frequency of the

        Bridge Rectifier         Inverter Transformer            Magnetron
  H o----+---|>|------+--------+-------+ |:| +--------------------------+
        ~|            |+      _|_ Drive )|:|( Filament 1T #18           |
         +---|<|---+  |       ---   25T )|:| +--------------+------+    |
 115 VAC           |  |        |    #12 )|:|   HV Cap       |    +-|----|-+
         +---|>|---|--+        +-------+ |:| +-------||-----+    | |_  _| |
         |         |           |         |:|(    .018 uF    |    |   \/   |
  N o----+---|<|---+   Drive |/ C        |:|(    2,400 V  __|__  |   ___  |
        ~          |-    o---|   Chopper |:|( HV          _\_/_  +----|:--+
 (Interlocks and   |         |\ E        |:|( 250T          | HV      |'-->
  fuses/protectors |           |         |:|( #26   Sense   | diode   | uWaves
  not shown)       +-----------+         |:| +--+---/\/\----+---------+
                                             o  |    1.2   _|_
 (Except for filament, # turns estimated)       o H1        -  Chassis Ground

The chopper transistor is marked: Mitsubishi, QM50HJ-H, 01AA2.  It is a LARGE
NPN type on a LARGE heatsink :-).

Note the similarity between the normal half wave doubler circuit and this
output configuration!  Base drive to the chopper transistor is provided
by some relatively complex control circuitry using two additional sets of
windings on the inverter transformer (not shown) for feedback and other
functions in addition to current monitoring via the 'Sense' resistor in the
transformer return.

It is not known whether power levels in this over were set by the normal
long cycle pulse width modulation or by control over a much shorter time
scale.  However, since the filament of the magnetron is powered from the same
transformer as the HV - just as in a 'normal' microwave oven, this may not be
very effective.

Compared to the simplicity of the common half wave doubler, it isn't at all
surprising why these never caught on (what is diagramed above includes perhaps
1/10th the actual number of components in a typical inverter module).  Except
for obvious problems like a tired fuse, component level troubleshooting and
repair would be too time consuming.  Furthermore, as with a switchmode power
supply (which is what these really are) there could be multiple faults which
would result in immediate failure or long term reliability problems if all
bad parts were not located.  Schematics are not likely available either.  And,
a replacement module would likely cost as much as a new oven!

This is simply a situation where a high tech solution was doomed from the
start.  The high frequency inverter approach would not seem to provide any
important benefits in terms of functionality or efficiency yet created many
more possibly opportunities for failure.  The one major advantage - reduced
weight - is irrelevant in a microwave oven.  Perhaps, this was yet another
situation where the Marketing department needed something new and improved!

  8.16) Dangerous (or useful) parts in a dead microwave oven?

A microwave oven with its power cord cut or removed AND its high voltage
capacitor safely discharged is an inanimate object.  There are no particularly
hazardous parts inside.  Of course, heavy transformers can smash your feet
and sharp sheet metal can cut flesh.  And, the magnets in the magnetron may
erase your diskettes or mess up the colors on your TV.

Some may feel there is nothing of interest inside a microwave oven.  I would
counter that anything unfamiliar can be of immense educational value to
children of all ages.  With appropriate supervision, an investigation of
the inside of a deceased microwave oven can be very interesting.

However, before you cannibalize your old oven, consider that many of the parts
are interchangeable and may be useful should your *new* oven ever need repair!

For the hobbiest, there are, in fact, some useful devices inside:

* Motors - cooling fan and turntable (if used).  These usually operate on
  115 VAC but some may use low voltage DC.  They can easily be adapted to
  other uses.

* Controller and touchpad - digital timer, relay and/or triac control of the
  AC power.  See the section: "Using the control panel from defunct microwave oven as an electronic timer".

* Interlock switches - 3 or more high current microswitches.

* Heavy duty power cord, fuse holder, thermal protector, other miscellaneous

* High voltage components (VERY DANGEROUS if powered) - HV transformer (1,500
  to 2,500 VRMS, .5 A), HV rectifier (12,000 PRV, .5 A), and HV capacitor
  (approximately 1 uF, up to 2,500 VAC, perhaps 3,000 V peak).

* Magnetron - there are some nifty powerful magnets as part of the assembly.
  Take appropriate precautions to protect your credit cards, diskettes, and
  mechanical wristwatches.  See the section: "The magnets in dead magnetrons".

DOUBLE WARNING:  Do not even think about powering the magnetron once you have
removed any parts or altered anything mechanical in the oven.  Dangerous
microwave leakage is possible.

  8.17) The magnets in dead magnetrons

The dead magnetron you just replaced is fairly harmless.  There is no residual
radiation but it does contains a pair of powerful ferrite ring magnets.  These
can be removed without extensive disassembly and make really nice toys but
should be handled with care.  Not only can they pinch flesh (yes, they are that
powerful) but they will suck all the bits right off your tapes, diskettes, and
credit cards.  If you do want to save the magnets:

* Disassemble the magnetron assembly as follows:

  - Remove the top portion of the magnetron - it is either fastened with screws
    or some metal tabs which are easily bent out of the way.

  - Remove the cover over the box where the filament connections are located.
    This usually requires peeling off the sheet metal around the edges.

  - Cut the thick copper connections to the filament near the tube itself.
    (The thick copper coils are RFI chokes and prevent any microwave energy
    from escaping via the filament circuit.)

  - Spread the frame apart just a bit and lift out the tube with heat sink
    fins.  CAUTION: the sheet metal fins may be sharp!

  - The magnets can now be pulled off.  They may need cleaning :-(.

  - The magnetron tube itself can be disassembled by grinding off the welds
    around the edges of the large cylinder or cutting around it outer edge
    near one end with a hack saw but it takes quite a bit of curiosity to make
    this a worthwhile exercise.  There is a slight chance that the coating on
    the filament is poisonous so don't take chances.  You don't need to get
    inside to remove the magnets.
* Keep the magnets a safe distance away from any magnetic media including what
  might be in your back pocket, mechanical wrist watches, and color computer
  monitors and TVs.

* Paint the magnets with plastic enamel or coat them with the stuff used on
  tool handles to reduce their tendency to chip.  The chips are as magnetic as
  the overall magnet.  The ferrite is basically a ceramic and fragile.
  Smack them too hard and they will shatter.

* Take care not to get your skin between the magnets when you bring them
  together since the attractive force when nearly touching is substantial.

* Store the magnets in a box packed in the center of another box with at least
  4 inches on all sides.  Clearly mark: powerful magnets with appropriate

Having said that, these magnets can be used to demonstrate many fascinating
principles of magnetism.  Have fun but be careful.

Also see the section: "Magnetron construction - modern microwave oven".

  8.18) Using the control panel from defunct microwave oven as an electronic timer

It is usually possible to remove just the touchpad and controller board
to use as a stand-alone timer with a switched output.  Be careful when
disconnecting the touchpanel as the printed flex cable is fragile.  With
many models, the touchpanel (membrane touchpad) needs to be peeled off of
the front plastic panel or the entire assembly can be removed intact.

The output will control a 10-15 A AC load using its built in relay or triac
(though these may be mounted separately in the oven).  Note that power on a
microwave oven is regulated by slow pulse width modulation - order of a 30
second cycle if this matters.  If it uses a triac, the triac is NOT phase
angle controlled - just switched on or off.

  8.19) Precise control of microwave oven power

For heating a casserole, the 10 to 30 second cycle time typically used for
microwave oven pulse width heat control is fine.  However, for other purposes,
this results in unsatisfactory results.  This question was posed by someone
who wanted to modify the circuitry to their microwave oven to provide
continuous control and a constant heating rate.

Just cycling faster (without any other modifications is not the answer).  One
problem is that the filament of the magnetron is turned on and off as well.
This would result in a very non-linear relationship between on-time and power
as the cycle became shorter and shorter.

It should be possible to put a Variac (variable autotransformer) on the input
to the high voltage transformer - between the controller and HV primary.  The
power to the filament will still be affected but there will be a range over
which continuous control will be possible.  However, there will be a lag as
the filament heats and cools.  Also, running for an extended period of time at
reduced filament temperature may eventually damage the cathode coating.  I do
not know if this is likely.

Where manual control is all that is needed, this approach may be the adequate.

If the filament were put on its own transformer (with appropriate insulation
ratings), then instantaneous control of power should be possible using a Variac
on the HV transformer primary or a phase control scheme using a triac - a high
power light dimmer or motor speed control might even work.  Alternatively, a
triac or solid state relay can be turned on and off at the peaks of the AC
(to minimize inrush) similar to the pulse width modulation that is normally
used for the oven - but at a much higher frequency.  This could easily be
computer controlled with feedback from a temperature sensor.

In any case, you want everything else - including cooling fans - to be on the
full line voltage not affected by any power control scheme or timer.

  8.20) Has technology gone too far?

Don't you just hate it when your kitchen appliances have the highest IQ in
the household?  What more could you want?  Maybe, a microwave with a robot
arm to retrieve the food from your fridge or freezer!

(From: Dave Marulli (marulli@rdcs.kodak.com)).

We bought a Sharp unit with the Interactive Display feature.

There is a list of common items that you might Defrost, Cook, or Reheat.
You pick one of those tasks, choose a number from the list, enter the
'quantity', hit start and it picks the time and power level. There is
even an 'on-line' help feature.  A typical session goes like this:

    Button Pressed                        Screen Output
   ----------------                 ------------------------------
      CompuCook                      Enter Food Category
          1                          Baked Potato, Enter Quantity
          4                          Press Start

Unit turns on and starts cooking. If the little word HELP lights
up, you press the HELP button and it gives you little hints like, 

For things like CompuDefrost, you tell it what you are defrosting,
how many pounds, and hit start. It will turn on for a while, then
beep at you and tell you to break the pieces apart, cover the edges,
etc. You do as you are told, close the door hit start and it continues
until it's time for you to do some thing else.

Same idea for CompuReHeat: Tell it how many slices of pizza or bowls
of pasta you want to reheat, and it sets itself up and takes off.

It even has the obligatory POPCORN button!

Another neat feature is that you can hold the start button on without
setting any time and it will stay on for as long as you hold the button.
This is great for melting cheese, softening butter or chocolate, etc.

But, does it run Lotus??? :-) --- sam.

(From: Steve Dropkin (sdropkin@isd.net)).

The one we bought has an LCD screen that's maybe three inches square, takes
you step-by-step through anything the oven can do, and includes 600 recipes
(!).  While that sounds like overkill, the attraction for me was that the
menu-driven interface actually seemed simpler and more inviting than the
ovens with timing buttons and 24 others marked "popcorn," "baked potato,"
"hot dog," "frozen dinner," "beverage," "sandwich," "waffles," etc. They
looked just way too busy. (Same argument I have against a lot of mainstream
HiFi equipment these days. I just want to listen to the music, not
reengineer the sound source ...)

(From: Andrew Webber (webbers@magma.ca)).

Our microwave has a button for popcorn.  As far as I can tell, all it does is
automatically set 5 minutes.  The manual says to monitor the popcorn anyway
since it varies based on bag size, etc.  So on principal I choose 5 minutes on
high and stop it at 1:45 (why not set for 3:15? because the one time I tried it
the popcorn was burnt!).  I can choose 5 minutes with two presses (QUICK, 5)
and popcorn with two presses (POPCORN, START).

But that popcorn button sure is a good selling point! :)

  8.21) Microwave ovens for non-standard applications

Occasionally, people ask questions about the use of a microwave oven to
do things other than heating food.  In general, these have to be taken on
a case-by-case basis.  Obviously, softening sticks of Dynamite is probably
not to be recommended!  (There actually is a reason for this - a microwave
can develop hot spots - heating is not as uniform as with normal ovens.  Do
your dynamite softening in a normal oven).

Special kilns that will fit inside a microwave oven are apparently available
to achieve really high temperatures.  They consist of a ceramic (expanded
alumina or something similar) insulating cylinder lined with a microwave
susceptor - possibly a ferrite material.  Temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees
C (yellow-white heat) are possible after a few minutes on high.

If any modifications are made to the oven that would compromise the integrity
of the door seals or provide other places where microwave radiation could 
escape, then special tests MUST be done to assure the safety of the users
of the equipment.  The following is one such case in point:

"My Dad and I are using a microwave oven to heat oak strips by passing them
 through the microwave field of a 1000W oven. We cut out squares (4"x 4") in
 the glass front and metal back of the oven to allow these strips to pass
 through the field. I am concerned about potential microwave leakage of a
 harmful nature."

Geez!!!  You guys are out of your collective mind.  Sorry, having said that
I feel much better :-(.

My first recommendation (though this is too weak a term) would to not do this.

My second (and up to N where N is a very large number) recommendation would
be not to do this.

However, if you insist, use a good conductive sheet metal such as copper or
aluminum  to reduce the size of the opening as close to the material as
possible.  The wood stock will tend to reduce leakage while it is in place
but the opening will leak like crazy when there is nothing in the hole.  The
sheet metal must be in electrical contact with the mesh in the door and the
metal back.  The smaller the opening, the less will be the leakage.  Also,
make sure there is always a load in the oven (a cup of water, for example) to
keep the magnetron happy.

Next, borrow an accurate microwave leakage detector.  A large appliance repair
shop or electronics store may rent you one if you are persistent enough.  Use
this to identify the safe limits front and back.  Label these and don't go
closer while the oven is in operation.  The operators may have to remain
further away or some additional shields may needed if these distances are not
satisfactory.  The leakage detector or microwave field strength meter should
come with information on acceptable power limits.  It is something like 2 mW
per square cm a foot or so from the oven - check it out.  However, there is
no assurance that even this limit is safe.

CAUTION (In addition to the loony nature of this entire project!): Since the
leakage you encounter may be orders of magnitude greater than what is typical
of even a misaligned microwave oven, start with the probe at a distance of a
few feet and slowly move it closer while watching the meter or readout.  Don't
set it next the opening as you hit START!  This will prevent the possibility
of damage to the expensive leakage tester (which could be costly) and exposure
risk to you as well.

The only known confirmed danger from microwave radiation is from internal
heating effects.  The eye is particularly sensitive to this and it doesn't
take much of an increase in temperature to denature the tissue of the central
nervous system (i.e., scramble your brain).  The human body does not have an
adequate warning system since nerve endings sensitive to heat are somewhat
sparse.  Thus, while the dangers may be overstated, it doesn't make sense to
take chances.

What is wrong with radiant heat???

(From Barry Collins (bcollins@mindspring.com)).

You did the right thing to discourage people from breaching the integrity of a
microwave oven, because there are so many factors involved that one has to
assume personal (or property) injury (or damage) may result from such actions.

I personally don't feel uncomfortable with what the person was doing, provided
they had taken reasonable precautions (too numerous to list).  Power does fall
off with the square of the distance and microwaves, barring any reflective
surface, are very directional by nature.  Just don't stand in front of the
source.  (I met one of the Japanese engineers who had unintentionally placed
his head in a test oven that was working.  He reported warmth, but no lasting
damage, aside from the resulting joke.)  Field density and exposure time is a
large factor.  One tends to remove one's hand when one senses heat.  I think
the story goes that this was how the heating affect was originally discovered.

The number one precaution I've always held near and dear to me is to protect
one's eyes.  The Narda manual has multiple warning in it about this.  The
aqueous membranes of the eyes are perfect absorption material for stray
microwaves.  This can happen much faster than with fleshy parts of the body
and don't heal anywhere near the way a flesh injury does.  It is this that you
might want to point out in your FAQ's.

  8.22) Short course on Amana

(From: Charles Godard (cgodard@iamerica.net)).

Everything depends on "Air Flow".  If the stirrer does not turn, you will
always get a "Hot! spot" on the left bottom of the door.  In addition the
stirrer bearing will sometimes arc and may melt at the spots where it arcs.

If your blower is running up to speed, remove the cover and replace the foam
gasket material.  This forces air over the stirrer when the cover is replaced.
If stirrer still does not turn, remove the grease shield and check the stirrer
for burns that are causing it to stick.  If this is ok or you correct it and
stirrer still does not turn, then replace the grease shield with a later model
that looks almost the same as the original, but has one small modification
which you will see when you compare the two.

Never let one go out of the shop unless the stirrer is turning.  It will soon
be back unless all they do is heat coffee.  Next time it may be a cavity or
magnetron overload that has opened due to the stirrer not turning.

It's good work on a quality product.  I wish I had a hundred restaurant
customers using them.  The older Amana's power stays near 1500 watts forever.
Retail customers are junking them because of $100 - to $125 repair bills.
What a waste!

Chapter 9) Service Information

  9.1) Advanced troubleshooting

If the solutions to your problems have not been covered in this document,
you still have some options other than surrendering your microwave to the
local service center or the dumpster.

Unlike most other types of consumer electronic equipment, a service manual
is rarely required.  A sufficiently detailed schematic is nearly always
pasted to the inside of the cover and includes all power components,
interlocks, fuses, protectors, and wiring.  This is entirely sufficient
to deal with any problems in the microwave generator.  No adjustments or
alignment should even be required so detailed procedures for these are not

However, when tackling electronic faults in the controller, a service manual
with schematics will prove essential.  Whether these are available depends
on the manufacturer.  For legal reasons, some manufacturers are reluctant
to sell service information or replacement parts for microwave ovens.  They
are concerned with litigation should an unqualified person be injured or

  9.2) Suggested Reference

I know of at least one book dealing specifically with microwave oven repair.
It is very complete and includes many actual repair case histories.  There
is a good chance that your specific problem is covered.

1. Microwave Oven Repair, 2nd Edition
   Homer L. Davidson
   TAB Books, a division of McGraw Hill, Inc., 1991
   Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17294-0850
   ISBN 0-8306-6457-2 (hard), ISBN 0-8306-3457-6 (pbk.)

This may be available at your public library (621.83 or 683.83 if your
library is numbered that way) or from a technical bookstore. 

  9.3) Cost of repair parts

Assuming you have located one or more bad components, the question is
whether an oven that is a few years old is worth fixing.  Typical parts cost
for generic replacements:

    * HV diode: $2-5 (except for the bolt-on variety which can range up
      to $50.  It should be possible to replace these with the $2 variety
      with wire leads);

    * Power fuse: $.40.

    * HV Capacitor: $10-20.

    * Magnetron: $30-100.  Common generic replacements are $30-40.

    * Overtemperature thermostat (thermal protector): $4.50.

    * Interlock Switch: $2.50.

    * Triac: $12.00 (unless original replacement in which case you will
      need to take out a mortgage - try the generic variety).

Parts suppliers like MCM Electronics can provide these components to fit
the vast majority of microwave ovens.

Touchpads and controller parts like the microprocessor chip are usually only
available from the manufacturer of the oven.  Prices are high - a touchpad
may cost $30 or more.

Sensors and other manufacturer specific parts will be expensive.

While the HV transformers are fairly standard, they are not readily available
from the common replacement parts sources.  However, they do not fail that
often, either.

Here is one place that seems to stock some: AMI Parts, Eagle Grove, IA.  Voice
phone: 1-800-522-1264.  However, they won't be cheap - expect to pay $50 or
more!!!  In addition, MCM Electronics now lists at least one Goldstar model

With the prices of microwave ovens dropping almost as fast as PCs, a few year
old oven may not be worth fixing if the problem is a bad magnetron or touchpad.
However, except for a slight decrease in power output as the oven is used over
the years and the magnetron ages, there is little to go bad or deteriorate.
Therefore, you can expect a repaired oven to behave just about like new.

  9.4) Interchangeability of components

The question may arise: If I cannot obtain an exact replacement or if I
have another microwave oven carcass gathering dust, can I substitute a
part that is not a precise match?  Sometimes, this is simply desired to
confirm a diagnosis and avoid the risk of ordering an expensive replacement
and/or having to wait until it arrives.

For safety related items, the answer is generally NO - an exact replacement
part is needed to maintain the specifications within acceptable limits with
respect to line isolation, radiation emission, and to minimize fire hazards.
For microwave ovens such parts include the power fuses, interlock switches,
and anything else that could potentially lead to microwave radiation leakage -
like a magnetron which did not fit the waveguide properly.

Fortunately, while an exact match may be required, it doesn't have to
be from the original manufacturer - most parts are interchangeable.
Thus the organs from that carcass may be able to provide renewed vitality
to your ailing microwave.

Here are some guidelines:

1.  Fuses - exact same current rating and at least equal voltage rating.
    This will probably be a ceramic 1-1/4" x 1/4" 15 or 20 A 250 V fast
    blow type.  For the repair, use an exact replacement.  For testing
    only, a similar type may be used.

2.  Thermal protectors - same temperature and maximum current rating.  You
    must be able to mount it securely and flush against the same surface as
    the old one.

3.  Interlock switches - must have the same terminal configuration and
    at least equal current rating.  Of course, a secure fit is very
    important as well for it to perform its safety function.  Many of
    these are interchangeable.

4.  HV capacitor - similar (within 5%) and at least equal working voltage.
    Note that the working voltage rating of these capacitors is not consistent
    with the way capacitors in other electronic equipment are specified and
    is usually the RMS voltage of the AC input from the HV transformer.  There-
    fore, it is not possible to substitute something from your junkbox unless
    it is from a microwave oven.  In addition, this is one situation where
    higher capacity (uF) is not better.  The power output is related to
    capacitance.  Thus, the value should be matched fairly closely or else
    other parts may be overloaded.  However, a smaller one can be used for

5.  HV diode - most of these have similar electrical ratings so a substitution
    is possible if you can make it fit physically.  This would be particularly
    desirable where your oven has one of those chassis mount $50 dollar
    varieties - it may be acceptable to use a $2.75 generic replacement.

6.  Relays and triacs - substitutes will generally work as long as their
    specifications meet or exceed those of the original.  Creative mounting
    may be required.  

7.  Magnetrons - a large number of microwave ovens use the same basic
    type but the mounting arrangement - holes vs. studs, orientation of
    the cooling fins, etc., differ.  You can safely substitute a not
    exact match for testing purposes IF you can make it fit the waveguide
    securely without gaps.  However, if the cooling fins end up being on
    the wrong side, it will heat up very quickly - 50% of the input power
    goes to heat - and will not be suitable as a permanent replacement.

8.  HV transformer - same (within 5%) voltage and at least equal current
    rating.  Mounting should not be a problem but don't just leave it
    loose - you could end up with a disaster.

9.  Fans and motors - speed/power and direction must match and mounting must be
    possible.  Speed isn't so critical for a turntable but for a magnetron
    cooling fan, inadequate air flow will result in overheating and shutdown
    or failure.  Common shaded pole type motors may be interchangeable with
    other appliances or if a mounting arrangement can be cobbled together.

10. Mica waveguide cover - cut to match.

11. Turntable and mode mixer components - if they fit, use them.

12. Light bulb - similar ratings and base.

13, Temperature sensors, thermistors, etc. - depends on the particular

14. Mechanical timers - compatible switching and mounting arrangement.

15. Cordsets - must be 3 wire heavy duty grounded type.  Make sure the
    replacement has at least as high a current rating as the original.
    Observe the color code!

16. Controller and touchpad - small parts like resistors, diodes, capacitors,
    and so forth can often be substituted.  Forget about the controller
    ICs or display.  The touchpad is likely to be custom both electrically
    and physically as well unless you have a similar model microwave to

  9.5) Can I substitute a slightly different HV capacitor for a blown one?

It is not always possible or convenient to obtain an exact replacement
high voltage capacitor.  What will the effects be of using one that is
a slightly different value?

First, the voltage rating must be at least equat to that of the original.
It can be higher but never never lower or you will probably be replacing
it again in the very near future.

Now for the uF rating:

Unlike a conventional power supply filter capacitor, the capacitor in a
microwave is in a voltage doubler and effectively in series with the
load (magnetron).  Therefore, its value **does** have an impact on output
power.  A larger capacitor will slightly increase the output power - as
well as heat dissipation in the magnetron.  Too small a capacitor and
the doubler will not produce full output.

As an example, the impedance of a 1 uF capacitor at 60 Hz is about 2.5 K ohms.
The cap is in effect in series with the magnetron.  A 1 KW magnetron running
on just over 3 KV RMS is about 10 K ohms.  These are really really rough

Thus the power difference is not a straight percent for percent change - I
estimate that it is about a 1:4 change - increase the capacitor's uF rating
by 10 percent and the power will go up by 2.5% (assuming the relationship
is linear right around the nominal value).  I have not confirmed this, however.

Therefore, I would say that using a capacitor with up to a 10-15% difference
(either way) in uF rating is probably acceptable but a closer match is better.

  9.6) Obtaining replacement parts for microwave ovens

For general electronic components like resistors and capacitors, most
electronics distributors will have a sufficient variety at reasonable
cost.  Even Radio Shack can be considered in a pinch.

However, places like Digikey, Allied, and Newark do not have the specialized
parts like magnetrons, HV capacitors and diodes, interlock switches, thermal
protectors, etc., needed for microwave oven repair.

Your local appliance distributor or repair parts outlet may be able to obtain
an exact replacement or something that is an ecceptable substitute.  However,
the cost will be higher than for generic parts from the places listed below
if they carry what you need.

Going direct to the manufacturer is a possibility but expect to pay more than
might be charged for generic replacement parts by an independent company.
Also, some places like Sears, may refuse to sell you anything microwave oven
related due to safety concerns - unless they are convinced you are a certified
repair technician, whatever that might mean.  Their prices are inflated as

Another alternative is to determine who actually made your oven.  This is
obvious with name brands like Panasonic and Sharp.  However, Sears doesn't
manufacture their own appliances, but an inspection inside may reveal the
actual manufacturer.  Then, go direct to the horse's mouth.  Many companies
will be happy to sell service parts but availability may be a problem on
older ovens.  I had to give up on a Sharp microwave/convection oven that
was 15 years old because specialized replacement parts were no longer
available from Sharp.

  9.7) Sources for replacement microwave oven parts

The following are good sources for consumer electronics replacement parts
including common microwave oven parts:

* MCM Electronics                  (VCR parts, Japanese semiconductors,
  U.S. Voice: 1-800-543-4330.       tools, test equipment, audio, consumer
  U.S. Fax: 1-513-434-6959.         electronics including microwave oven parts
                                    and electric range elements, etc.)
  Web: http://www.mcmelectronics.com/

* Dalbani                          (Excellent Japanese semiconductor source,
  U.S. Voice: 1-800-325-2264.       VCR parts, other consumer electronics,
  U.S. Fax: 1-305-594-6588.         car stereo, CATV).
  Int. Voice: 1-305-716-0947.
  Int. Fax: 1-305-716-9719.
  Web: http://www.dalbani.com/

* Premium Parts                    (Very complete VCR parts, some tools,
  U.S. Voice: 1-800-558-9572.       adapter cables, other replacement parts.)
  U.S. Fax: 1-800-887-2727.
  Web: http://www.premiumparts.com/

The following suppliers have web sites with on-line catalogs and list a very
extensive selection of microwave oven parts.  There is a chance that they may
not want to sell to the general public.  I suppose this may be due to several
factors including the potential liability issues, complaints/attempts to return
parts when a repair doesn't work, and the small quantities involved.  However,
it is definitely worth checking as the public web sites implie a desire to deal
with the entire Internet community.

* Global/MPI/All Appliance Parts   (Their web site includes a very extensive
  Phone: 1-800-325-8488             selection of microwave oven parts.  For
  http://www.allapplianceparts.com  example, nearly 50 different magnetrons are
                                    listed along with little photos of each!)

* AMI (Appliance Maintenance)      (Distributor of major appliance replacement
  International                     parts.  Extensive on-line catalog of
  U.S. Phone: 1-800-522-1264        microwave oven parts with web pages for
  U.S. Fax: 1-800-442-3601          other major appliance parts under
  Int. Phone: 1-515-448-5311        construction.  On-line parts lookup and
  Int. Fax: 1-515-448-3601          ordering.)
  email: microwav@netins.net

Here is another one:

* Electronix, Corporation          (Magnetrons, interlock switches, lamps, http://www.electronix.com/        glass trays, diodes, thermal fuses,
  (also: Techweb, $6/month)         couplers, latches, rivets, stirrers, fans,
                                    waveguides, more...)

The following company will definitely not sell you anything but should be able
to provide the name of a local appliance parts distributor.

* QB Products                      (Master distributor, they sell only to
  Phone: 1-800-323-6856             appliance and electronics parts
                                    distributors like Marcone, Tritronics,
                                    Johnstone, etc.  You can call them to
                                    find the nearest distributor.)

Written by Samuel M. Goldwasser. | [mailto]. The most recent version is available on the WWW server http://www.repairfaq.org/ [Copyright] [Disclaimer]