When you’re heating up some leftovers, you want to make sure they’re delicious.
But what if your microwave stops cooking?
And what if it’s suddenly so hot that you can’t touch it?
This article explains why your microwave stopped and why it’s so hot.
Do microwaves overheat?
Yes. Microwaves heat up food quickly using a magnetron, but they also produce a lot of heat themselves. If a microwave is dirty, poorly ventilated (by clogs or a faulty fan), old, or used improperly, then certain components inside your microwave can fail to work properly. This could end up causing your microwave to overheat.
How can I troubleshoot a microwave that is overheating?
Feeling for the heat
The simplest approach to checking to see if your microwave is overheating is to place your hand on the side of the microwave that’s behind the control panel.
You can also do this within the chamber of the microwave as well.
There are many components behind the control panel such as the magnetron and the capacitors that could produce a lot of heat if they are malfunctioning or faulty.
Feel for anything that is too hot to leave your hand on long.
Take caution with this method because if it’s too hot, it could burn your hand. In most cases, it shouldn’t be hot enough to burn your hand since there is a wall of metal or plastic between you and the electrical components on the inside.
Check the power cord
The power cord supplies electricity to the microwave.
Check the installation of your electrical cord. If any part of the insulation has been cut away or otherwise damaged, do not use the cord until you have replaced it.
Also, look at the casing around your electrical cord and make sure there are no cracks in it. If there are any cracks in the casing, replace them as well.
If the cord is damaged, it can cause the microwave to overheat.
Check the fan
If you’ve ever turned on your microwave and noticed that there’s no fan noise, then this can be an issue that can cause overheating.
Start by unplugging your microwave and removing the control panel from the microwave. Look for the fan inside and give it a little spin to see if there are any obstructions.
Trace any wired connections from your fan back to the origin. These fans are usually connected to a relay. The relay controls whether or not the fan turns on or off.
It’s recommended to give this relay a few taps to set the insides back in place and open it back up.
Reassemble your microwave, plug it back in and turn it back on to see if the fan runs.
Check the diode
The diode in a microwave converts alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC).
You can use a Multimeter to test and measure the voltage drop across a diode when it is forward-biased.
Unplug your microwave, open up the control panel, and remove the cover over the electrical components.
Be sure to wait about 24 hours or more after unplugging your microwave so that it will discharge any electricity that is still left inside.
Turn your multimeter to diode test mode and connect the test leads to the diode and once again in the reverse order. Record the measurement displays.
If the forward diode displays of voltage drop from 0.5 to 0.8 volts, then it’s ok.
A bad diode reading will read the same in both directions.
If the diode is not working properly, it can cause the microwave to overheat. In the party
Check the magnetron
In order to test the magnetron, once again you’re going to look for an open circuit using a multimeter.
You need to disassemble your microwave and remove the magnetron assembly completely from the circuit board.
Set the multimeter to the continuity setting. Grab the black and red probe and touch each one to both ends of the plug to hear a beep. If you hear one, that’s good.
To test to see if there are any open circuits outside of the plug, which is a bad thing, touch one end of the probe to the plug and the other end to the body of the magnetron. If you don’t hear any noise, then it’s good.
If you do hear a beep, then it means that you have a short with your magnetron.
If the magnetron is damaged, it can cause the microwave to overheat.
How can I prevent my microwave from overheating?
To prevent your microwave from overheating, you should avoid using it for extended periods of time and make sure that there is adequate ventilation.
Another way to help prevent your microwave from overheating is to keep it clean. Grease and dirt can build up on the vents and cause the unit to overheat. Be sure to wipe down the inside and outside of your microwave regularly with a damp cloth.
Finally, be mindful of how you use your microwave. Don’t overload it or cook food for longer than necessary. These things can cause the unit to work harder than it needs to and lead to overheating.
What to do when a microwave is overheating
If your microwave does overheat, you should unplug it immediately. Just cuts off any power source that can further or potentially cause your microwave to produce more heat.
Wait about 10 to 15 minutes for your microwave to cool down.
Test your microwave again by turning it on and seeing if there is any overheating involved. If there is, then you may need to look into hiring a technician to come to look at your microwave.
Why do microwaves overheat?
Microwaves use a lot of voltage
Microwaves use a lot of voltage, and if any of the components inside of the microwave begin to malfunction, the energy can be distributed to the wrong places.
Any of these components can end up producing a substantial amount of heat which will in turn release itself outside of the microwave.
Microwave vent clogging up
That is also why microwaves have vents. The vents are used to release the heat by allowing the hot air to move out of the electrical components that produce it.
Once every 4 to 6 months, check your microwave vent for any blockage from dust and debris.
The microwave has no space
That’s another reason why your microwave needs to be in a place that is well-ventilated and not stuffed up inside a closed space.
Wherever you install or place your microwave, be considerate about where your ventilation cutouts are on your microwave. Be sure not to place your microwave anywhere that could block the vents.
Microwave fans are faulty
One other thing you have to consider is that microwaves have built internal fans that run constantly while the magnetron is on. If this fan is malfunctioning or not working at all, then that could be another reason why your microwave is overheating.
The microwave is staying on when it should be off
If your microwave is staying on after you open the door, it could be a sign that the door switch is broken.
If the latch is somehow stuck in the on position then it could be possible that when you open your door the microwave will continue to run.
Not only can this cause overheating but it can also expose you to microwave radiation.
This can be a very dangerous situation and it’s recommended that you immediately fix this issue.
Using your microwave too much
You should use your microwave only when you need to heat something up quickly. If you use it too often, it can cause the appliance to overheat.
Most microwaves can run for up to 60 minutes at a time. In fact, there may even be a hard stop preventing you from putting in a timer for 60 minutes.
Even at 30 minutes, it may seem a bit excessive. Give your microwave and your magnetron at least 5 minutes to rest in between every 30-minute cooking session. This can help increase the lifespan of your microwave.
Your food is making a lot of steam
Some foods that we cook in microwaves contain a lot of water. And this water eventually turns into steam, lots of it.
Steam is produced when water reaches a temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are microwaving foods that you know will produce a lot of steam, then turn on your over-the-range vent hood. You can also open the windows and doors of your house to let the steam dissipate.
The magnetron is overheating
Your magnetron creates the microwave needed to cook your food in a microwave.
Most of the energy comes into this device and is converted into microwave energy.
If there is any failure to convert electricity into microwave energy, then most likely the electricity will instead be converted into heat which can produce the overheating effect.
What are the most common problems with microwaves?
- The most common problem with microwaves is that they overheat. If your microwave is overheating, it is likely due to a faulty heating element.
- Sometimes, you’ll also find that the door seal becomes loose and allows heat to escape. This can be caused by wear and tear, or by cleaning the door seal with a harsh cleaner.
- Another common issue is that the microwave doesn’t turn on, even when the power button is pressed. This could be due to a faulty power cord or switch.
- Finally, some people find that their microwave doesn’t cook food evenly. This could be due to an uneven distribution of microwaves inside the oven cavity, or because the turntable isn’t working properly.
How can I extend the life of my microwave?
Your microwave works by shooting microwaves into your food to heat it up.
Clean your microwave every 4 to 6 months
These microwaves are produced by a magnetron, which can get old, or overheat and break if it becomes too dirty.
To clean your microwave and keep it in good working order, start by wiping down the interior and exterior with a damp cloth.
You can also remove stubborn stains with a mixture of vinegar and water.
Unclog your microwave vents
Be sure to clean the ventilation slots on the back or bottom of the microwave, as these can become clogged with grease and dust.
Replacing the air filter
The air filter in your microwave helps to keep the magnetron cool by circulating air through it.
If your air filter is dirty, it won’t be able to do its job properly and the magnetron could overheat.
Some microwaves have an indicator light that lets you know when it’s time to replace the air filter – typically every three months or so.
Venting the microwave
If you use your microwave frequently, there’s a chance that moisture can build up inside of it.
This moisture can cause rusting or other damage to the interior components of your microwave.
To prevent this from happening, store your microwave where it isn’t too cramped up. Make sure that there’s plenty of room on all four sides of your microwave so that the air can vent out into a larger space
If you are microwaving something that ends up producing a lot of steam or smoke, be sure to vent your microwave by opening the door and allowing the air to circulate.
How hot is too hot for the microwave when overheating?
There are many electrical components in your microwave but the one component that does all the heavy lifting is considered the magnetron.
When the magnetron is running, the temperature of the magnetron itself shouldn’t be much higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
This can occur if there’s poor ventilation or if the fan has failed to work.
Do microwaves shut off when overheated?
Yes, microwaves can shut off automatically when overheating. Modern-day microwaves do have a shut-off mechanism through a relay.
They work by a thermal cut-out switch which is normally activated as a safety feature when it is introduced to extreme heat from high voltage parts such as the magnetron.
Can a microwave catch on fire?
A microwave can overheat and catch fire, but it’s not too likely.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “the majority of microwave fires occur while food is being microwaved.”
This means that your microwave is most likely to catch fire if you leave it unattended while it’s running. You should always be in the same room as your microwave when you’re using it.
If you accidentally leave a dish in your microwave for too long, or if some other mishap occurs that causes your food to burn and smoke, don’t try to open the door of your microwave until the smoke clears.
If you can see that there’s no more smoke coming out of it, then feel free to open up and check on the situation.
If there is still smoke coming out of the machine when you open it up, turn off the power at its source—the main circuit breaker—and call for help.
How long does it take a microwave to cool down?
If your microwave is working properly and all the components are doing what they should, then the wait time for a microwave to cool down shouldn’t be too long at all.
There are many systems in place inside your microwave to make sure that it cools down quickly including the fan. It’s the main source of getting rid of all the heat from your microwave.
Waiting for your microwave to cool down merely takes about 1 to 2 minutes at the most. However, this doesn’t mean that you should wait one or two minutes after every microwave session.
If you have something else to cook right away, you can put it in and start running it again immediately after taking out the first meal.
How often should I replace my microwave?
The average lifespan of a microwave is about 9 years. If yours is approaching that age, or if it’s already over it, then it might be time to start thinking about replacing it.
If your microwave is starting to show signs of wear and tear, or if it’s not working as well as it used to, then it might be time for a replacement. Some signs that your microwave may need to be replaced include:
- It takes longer to heat food than it used to.
- The door doesn’t seal properly, letting heat escape.
- The keypad doesn’t work properly.
- The turntable doesn’t rotate smoothly.
Are there any recalls on microwaves?
If your microwave is recalled, you should stop using it immediately and unplug it from the power source. You should then contact the manufacturer for further instructions.
There’s a website from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission that monitors nearly every product produced and distributed in America.
This site will report any recalls that occur with your devices.
You can find the website here.
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