How to Tell If a Heating Element Is Bad?

Written by mary lougee
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How to Tell If a Heating Element Is Bad?
Water heaters contain one or two heating elements. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Many appliances use heating elements to warm areas, surfaces or items. Heating elements are major components in coffee makers, stoves and ovens and hot water heaters. A heating element directs electrical current from one terminal through the metal conductor to the other terminal in a continuous flow when the appliance is on. A heating element with infinite resistance does not allow the current to flow. It will not heat up properly, and you will need to fix or replace it.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Multimeter tester

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  1. 1

    Unplug the appliance from the electrical socket, or turn the circuit breaker to the area off.

  2. 2

    Remove any panels from the appliance with a screwdriver to access to both ends of the heating element. Lay the access panels and screws aside.

  3. 3

    Turn the multimeter dial to "RX1" to test the resistance in the element. Turn the multimeter to the "On" position. Place one multimeter probe on one end of the heating element and the other probe on the other end.

  4. 4

    Read the tester reading on either a digital screen or a screen with a needle. A high resistance number shows that the element is working. A reading of infinite resistance shows that the heating element is faulty and likely has an internal break in the wires.

Tips and warnings

  • A heating element can also be tested by using a continuity tester in the same manner. This type of tester illuminates a light if the heating element is working and does not illuminate if it is faulty.
  • The correct resistance for each type of operating heating element varies greatly.

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