Thursday, January 21, 2010

Because someone had to do it

The baking element of my oven burned a hole through itself (never had that happen before) and since we live on home cooked meals, no oven is a terrible thing in this house. I couldn’t even use the stove top because every time I plugged the stove back in, the oven element started glowing and sparking again. Even after I unplugged the wires that should have gone to the oven (see post below)

I don’t know the actual dimensions of our sad little microwave, but it will hold a coffee cup and that’s about it. If you put a dinner plate in there it will not turn, and turning is what a microwave is meant to do, right? It also has just two settings, on or off. Heating up a cup of water for tea takes 7 minutes if you’re lucky, so even if we had the money to run out and buy enough microwavable dinners to feed the 6 of us for the time it would take for the replacement part to show up, we wouldn’t have any way to cook those expensive cardboard meals.

So what does a family eat when there’s no way to cook and the pantry is full of things like flour, eggs, raw veggies, and raw meat? Why you survive on cold ham sandwiches and microwaved hot dogs of course.

I get giddy when we occasionally buy a loaf of bread instead of me baking it. We just so happened to have 4 loaves of store bought bread (.74 a loaf so why not?), and two bags of hotdog buns (.48 each), so, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (we don’t buy cereal) we lived on ham and cheese sandwiches or hot dogs for 4 days. I tried to eat a hot dog, really I did, but, although I’m really not a picky eater, there are just some foods I can’t force down. Hot dogs being one of them. If they’re grilled I can handle one, but nuked and oozing smelly water?... no.

Luckily the replacement part arrived early, and while the kids dreamed of eating real food again, I did the dirty job of fixing the oven. They were all convinced I was going to blow us up in the process. They’re such nice children.

Ok, so for anyone who has to replace their baking element, and can’t afford a repair man, I have written a helpful repair guide.

How to change your ovens baking element……my way.

First you will need the following supplies:
Lots and lots of paper towels
Bandanna or face mask
Crescent wrench
Replacement element
Oven cleaner
Electrical tape, or some other tape that won’t leave any stickiness behind.
Band-Aids and Neosporin

Make sure your oven is unplugged. You can tell it is because it isn’t trying to burn your house down.

Cover your nose and mouth with the bandanna or face mask. Make sure that all asthmatics are out of the house. They may still be cowering in the bushes from when you went a little crazy with the fire extinguisher in the first place. Open the oven and estimate how many wet paper towels it will take to clean up the 3 inches of powder residue that the fire extinguisher left behind. Take this number and multiply by 4. This is the number of paper towels you will actually use. Might as well get them wet and waiting for you so you don’t have to pull them off the roll with icky fingers.

Remove the oven door. Clean up all the fire extinguisher residue, making sure to wipe out all nooks, crannies, and corners very well. Once the majority of the mess is gone you will be able to remove your face mask and use the crescent wrench to loosen the two bolts in the back that are holding the element in place. You will need to stick your entire upper body inside the oven in order to reach them. This is why you cleaned up the residue first. It would not be good if you climbed out of the oven looking like a yeti. While you’re in there trying to get these bolts to turn, your voice will be muffled somewhat so don’t worry, the kids won’t hear you swearing like a sailor when the wrench slips and you cut your knuckles on the sharp bits.

Take a moment to stop the bleeding.

Remove the bolts and put them somewhere you will remember where they are. Dive back in. Stop what you're doing and fight the cat for the bolts that he is now pawing all around the kitchen. Place said bolts in a zip lock bag and zip it closed. Dare the cat to lose them now, then dive back in.

Now that the bolts are removed, gently slide the element towards you. They say you should have about 5 inches of wire follow you out into your workspace. I had less then two to work with. This is where you get your tape ready. Pull off several 4 inch pieces before gently pulling one wire off your element. Be sure to hold on to that wire so it doesn’t suck itself back into the abyss that is the inside panel of your oven. Carefully tape the end of the wire with tape to protect it, then tape the wire somewhere to the inside of the oven so it doesn’t slip back inside when you let go of it. Do the same thing to the other wire. Marvel at the mess that is your old element before throwing it away.

Wash your hands and make a pot of coffee.

You might as well clean your oven while you’re doing all this. After all, when will you have the opportunity to clean it without having to fight that stupid piece of metal again? Use an oven cleaner that doesn’t require your oven to be functional. I used a slightly abrasive stove top cleaner that just wipes off with, yes more wet paper towels. It’s like soft soap only more gentle. Scrub scrub scrub, then wipe clean.

Take a break. Your coffee should be ready by now. Enjoy it while you look up chiropractors in your neighborhood. You will need one after all of this is over and your back will thank you.

By the time you’ve enjoyed half a pot of coffee your oven should have dried out some. Go back and check. Are there any white spots of cleaner left? Of course there are. More wet paper towels and the rest of the coffee are in order. Also, ask if they can move you up on the list at the chiropractors office because your knees have just given out.

After you are sure that all the cleaner has been removed, take one wire at a time, untape it, and shove it onto the end of the new element. Do the same with the other side, again being careful not to lose the wire into the back of the oven. Push the wires back into the abyss, fight the cat for the zip lock bag containing the bolts, and screw those back in place.

Reattach the wires in the panel that should have allowed you to use your stove top, making sure you have remembered which ones go on which side. Reattach your oven door.

Plug your oven in, touch it to make sure you aren’t going to shock the crap out of anyone, then turn on your oven and marvel at the fresh new glowing element. Quickly chase your asthmatic child (how did she get back in the house?) out of the room as the new element burns off the oil it was covered with. Use this time to bandage up our knuckles.

Once it’s safe, call the family into the kitchen to do the dance of joy. You will once again have real food to eat. Quickly make a huge spaghetti dinner, and while everyone is marveling at your handyman skills and digesting, make a batch of cookies.

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