microwave with rotating tray
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Why does a microwave spin when it cooks? (What we found)

Whether you hate it or deny it, microwave ovens are super convenient. They can heat food like a frozen burrito in a matter of minutes.

Almost every single household in the country has a microwave. It’s become an essential kitchen appliance in our kitchen. You just need to set a timer and basically tell it when to stop cooking. It removes the stress and worry of forgetting to turn off the machine.

But have you ever wondered why your microwave spins when it cooks?

The answer is that inside the chamber of a microwave, there are static areas similar to standing columns of energy waves. These waves move so quickly that they collide head-on creating intense heat in the same area but not others. This point of contact is what is described as a standing column. A rotating plate was engineered in order to help rotate areas of the food to cook evenly under these wave areas.

Spinning the food you place inside will help evenly distribute the heat throughout the food. This will provide a quick hot meal.

However, it’s not a perfect solution. Rotation of the meal often heavily cooks the area closest to the center of the microwave. It’s still a better solution compared to letting it standstill within a microwave to only cook one area of the food.

What are micro-waves?

Microwaves are waves that can be found on the standard electromagnetic spectrum. It’s sandwiched between radio waves and infrared waves.

Essentially, microwaves have a frequency of approximately 2,450 megahertz. These waves have interesting properties at this level because they are attracted to water. Water tends to absorb these microwaves and almost immediately turns into heat and evaporates.

Another interesting point to add is that these waves seem uninterested in most plastics, glass, or ceramics. Thus, you often hear the microwave-safe label on most of these items.

However, microwaves are reflected violently by metal. So don’t place items like forks, spoons and aluminum, foil in your microwave. It will certainly create sparks and even cause an explosion.,

Why does a microwave need a rotating plate?

To better explain why a rotating plate is necessary, it’s best to understand exactly how microwaves cook food.

Within a typical microwave, there’s an object called a magnetron. This magnetron creates microwaves. The magnetron floods the microwave chamber with these microwaves. When a pair of microwaves of the save wavelength end up colliding, they exhibit heat. When a lot of these waves bounce off each other, it forms a new wave known as a standing wave.

With the sheer number of these occurrences happening all at once, the chamber of the microwave begins to contain fixed areas of standing waves.

By some chance, if your food is right there at the point of when the standing waves occur, then your food gets cooked specifically by these standing waves.

Engineers of the microwave have come up with a clever idea of continuously rotating the food using a plate, to give your food a better chance of this heating event occurring.

What are the signs that a microwave is going bad?

If you’re wondering if it’s time to replace that microwave, I’ve got a few tips for you. Electronic devices don’t last forever. When they get to a certain age, you might have to consider replacing them.

Generally speaking, if your rotating plate isn’t working, it doesn’t necessarily mean the microwave needs replacing. There are perhaps ways to fix this issue.

However, there are other signs you might be interested to know that could be a major issue.

A few of the reasons why you should be concerned about your microwave are listed below.

  • Smoke, sparks, and burning smell – This may end up being a serious issue. Do not continue using the microwave. Turn it off and unplug it. You should refrain from using it again out of the possible danger of fire or explosion. This is when you should consider buying a new one.
  • Food is not cooking – If the microwave doesn’t seem to be able to warm up or even boil water, then it might be time to get a new one. This issue oftentimes is due to age and by a certain age, even microwaves begin to have these issues.
  • Making loud sounds – Microwaves are often really quiet. But when start to heard loud grinding and rattling noises, something might be wrong. I’ve had this issue in the past. The sound could come from anywhere, even the rotating table. Check that first. There are a number of other issues like if you hear a loud buzzing noise, that could be the magnetron. A rattling noise might be the fan. There’s also a stirrer motor above the chamber.
  • The door doesn’t seal properly – This is a major issue because the door is the one thing stopping the radiation from getting to you. This type of radiation can cause serious harm to humans and animals. Repairing the door by replacing whatever parts are needed to fully and securely seal it.
  • The keypad doesn’t work – This is probably the most annoying and most frequent occurrence out of all the issues listed. When the keys no longer work, it almost seems comical. A perfectly good working microwave and no way to press for 1 minute, instead you have to punch in 60 seconds or even 2 minutes and wait to manually shut it off. This might not be a good reason for replacement, but repairing it isn’t out of the question
  • It’s over 10 years old – Microwaves last a long time. I have a 10-year-old microwave myself and it’s still doing great minus the 1 button. But if anything else were to fail on this machine, since it’s 10, I would strongly lean towards replacing it.

How do you fix a microwave spinner?

Bottom of the microwave and drive motor slot assembly
Bottom of the microwave and drive motor slot assembly
  1. Unplug your microwave.
  2. Remove the roller tray.
  3. Remove the roller guide.
  4. Remove the drive coupler.
  5. Flip the microwave over on its back to access the bottom of it.
  6. Remove all the bottom panel screws.
  7. Remove the wires from the drive motor.
  8. Replace the drive motor with a new one.
  9. Reassemble the bottom panel and screw it back on.
  10. Turn the microwave to standing up.
  11. Place the drive couplers, then roller guide, then roller tray back on.
  12. Test the microwave for spinning and heating.

Is it dangerous if your microwave doesn’t spin?

Generally speaking, no. Microwaves that no longer have functioning spinners or drive motors shouldn’t cause any harm directly to humans. The rotation of the food doesn’t benefit or defer the microwave itself in any way.

When microwave turntable is not rotating
When microwave turntable is not rotating

However, it’s specifically used to evenly cook food which should be checked carefully for uncooked areas of food. The reason for the spinning of a plate in the microwave is to make sure your food is cooked evenly throughout. If you happen to accidentally eat parts of food that were uncooked and cold, you might end up with some illnesses.

A spinning tray no longer working or malfunctioning is extremely common. More often than not, the owner would just use the microwave without worrying too much about the spinning. These people would usually put their food into the microwave at different angles and microwave it more than once.

Failure of the drive motor will not have much effect on the longevity or safety of the microwave itself. The microwave will work just fine for years to come.

How do some microwaves not spin?

Traditional microwaves have had an evolution at some point in its era. While the majority of all microwaves today are still using the usual turntable microwave, a new microwave was introduced.

It’s called the flatbed microwave. Flatbed microwaves don’t need the turntable to evenly cook food. In fact, flatbed microwave machines have a magnetron that rotates underneath the microwave and cooks the food evenly.

Are flatbed microwaves better than rotating microwaves?

If you are wondering if flatbed microwaves are better than turntable microwaves, you are right. Flatbed microwaves cook even more evenly, don’t require a turntable piece, they are often larger, and easy to clean compared to turntable ones.

So what do you get from buying a flatbed microwave? You get a more evenly spread of heat and cooking when using a flatbed microwave.

Having the magnetron and antenna itself rotate now creates more dynamic “moving” waves that bounce around the chambers of the microwave. The waves are ricocheting off each other at slightly different angles compared to the traditional turntable microwave. this ends up providing a lot of random and variability and where the microwave heats.

Furthermore, it eliminates the need for the food to rotate.

Studies and experiences with these types of microwaves have found to be much more beneficial and efficient compared to other microwaves. Allowing a thorough cook evenly distributed throughout the food. It simply helps prevent reheating of food due to non-cooked spots when using a turntable microwave.

A final benefit with flatbed microwaves is that due to not requiring a turntable, the chamber can be much larger to hold more things.

And since there’s really nothing moving inside these microwaves, You get the added benefit of easy-to-clean machines.