How to fix E-5 or Err 5

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  • The Knowledgebase is organized into a series of questions and answers having to do mostly with technical troubleshooting and understanding of kilns.
  • Although we write this for our own kilns many of these articles apply to other makes - although L&L takes no responsibility for that.
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  • Actions are specific actions for you to take during the troubleshooting or repair process.
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How to fix E-5 or Err 5

Possible Reasons for E-5

E- 5 errors read as "Err5" on controls manufactured before 2006

  1. Loading may be uneven- try putting two elements between the bottom two shelves and add more mass to the upper areas in the kiln
  2. Loading may be too close to the thermocouples.
  3. Element(s) out- broken inside the kiln, look for damage or perform a paper test .
  4. Element(s) out- a wire bringing power is burned off.
  5. Element(s) out- the center relay is out. The kiln section's temp may noticeably lag behind at med/ high temperatures. Top or bottom relay failure usually gives an E- d
  6. Thermocouples reading unevenly (from age or loading unevenly or too close to thermocouple).
  7. Different style thermocouples used in same kiln.
  8. Possibly there is an issue with thermocouple readings- like a
    thermocouple may be about to fail or have a poor connection somewhere
    (typically temp will jump all over the place with a poor connection/
    nearly failed thermocouple).
  9. Lid/ Hinge out of adjustment- lid opens a bit in the front when hot.
  10. Press 1,2,3 while firing and see if you see temperature readings jumping around.
  11. Do a paper test to see if all the elements can come on (tiny piece
    of paper on each element and watch them while you run a Fast Glaze for a
    few minutes)

Additional Actions to Take

  1. Unplug kiln.
  2. Remove or hinge open the control box.
  3. Remove the Thermocouple Lead Wire from the Thermocouple.
  4. Unscrew the Thermocouple from the kiln.
  5. Remove Thermocouple.
  6. Install a new Thermocouple and screw in place.
  7. Replace Thermocouple Lead Wire and tighten. Be sure to get red matched to the MINUS (Negative) sign and the Yellow matched to the PLUS (Positive) sign.

See this video:

Running a paper test is a great way to troubleshoot your kiln. With just some scraps of paper and 5 minutes you can determine if you have any elements or relays that need replacing.

Despite it's usefulness, the paper test cannot compare to the information that you can get from a multimeter. It will only point you in the direction of a problem, not pinpoint it.

The Paper Test

  1. Start by folding up small strips of paper. You will need one paper per element in the kiln that you want to test.
  2. Turn off the kiln and unplug it (or at least shut it off at the circuit breaker/fused disconnect).
  3. Insert the paper scraps in between the coils of each element. It does not matter where along the element.
  4. Plug-in and turn on the kiln.
  5. Program for Fast Glaze to any cone (or turn manual switches on high).
  6. With the lid open, watch the paper scraps for smoking. (Do NOT reach into the kiln while it is on. Contact with the elements could cause electrocution and/or burns).
  7. After approximately 2 minutes, the paper should start to smoke. Wait another minute or so to give them all a chance to burn.
  8. Turn off the kiln and unplug it (or at least shut it off at the circuit breaker/fused disconnect).
  9. Use pliers, tweezers, etc. to remove the paper from the elements as they will still be very hot. Make sure to note which pieces burned and which, if any, did not.
  10. Vacuum or simply blow out any remaining ashes in the element holders.

Conclusions

Once you have your results, you can start to draw some conclusions. We will look at one section at a time. These are some potential results and causes. Keep in mind you might have any combination of these issues.

If the paper is not burnt in one element in a ring:

  1. The element is burnt out/broken and needs to be replaced.
  2. Your elements are wired incorrectly at the element terminal block.

If the paper is not burnt in all (2 or 3) elements in a ring:

  1. All elements in the ring are burnt out/broken and need replacing.
  2. Your relay for that section is burnt out and not working.
  3. One (or more) of the power wires to that ring is burnt or disconnected.
  4. Your controller is not sending the proper output to the relay. Test the controller.

Resistance and Error 1

  • The most common cause of kiln slowdown, E-1 messages, and failure to reach temperature is element wear. As your elements age they generally increase in electrical resistance.
  • When resistance, measured in Ohms, increases, both Watts and Amperes (amount of power) will decrease, assuming Voltage remains constant. If you don't have enough power, your kiln will fire slowly and might not even reach the desired temperature.

What does this mean?

  • Using resistance, we can tell exactly how much power your kiln has lost over the course of your element's life.
  • For example on an e23T that uses 240V, a brand new kiln section would read about 14.5 ohms. If you measured this same kiln section after many cone 6 firings and the reading was 16.5 Ohms, you would know that this section of elements has lost approximately 14% of it's power (16.5/14.5=1.138, or close to 14%).
  • A very general rule of thumb is that most people will typically begin to notice some slowdown once you've lost more than 10% of your power.
  • It will certainly vary based on the kiln you have, your voltage, as the types of firing you do. People only doing low fire work will continue to get by on lower power than those needing to go to higher temperatures (cone 6).

EASY-FIRE, DURA-FIRE, EQUAD-PRO, LIBERTY-BELLE, DOLL, SCHOOL MASTER

In these series' of kilns a piggy-backed control panel covers up the element terminals.

  1. Turn the power to the kiln completely OFF and unplug it if possible. If it is direct wired, then you should at least turn off all power at the disconnect switch or circuit breaker.
  2. Open the outermost control panel by unscrewing it either from the element cover box in the case of Easy-Fire, eQuad Pro, School Master and Liberty Belle kilns or from the kiln body in the case of Doll kilns.
  3. Once you open up that control panel you will see the element power wire terminal strip. See the picture. It will have numbered wires coming from the element terminal blocks and wires connecting to the power relays. There are two wires per kiln section/ring, so numbers 1 & 2 are for the top section, 3 & 4 for the middle, and 5 & 6 for the bottom section on a three ring kiln.
  4. Set your multimeter to Ohms (Omega symbol Ω) and using your testing leads, place one in between the two tabs/terminals w/ #1 wires connected. There is a small circular divot that the lead fits into (see picture). Put the other lead on terminal #2 and make note of the reading. Repeat the process for 3 & 4 and then for 5 & 6. Remember that each pair of wires represents one section.
  5. Compare your readings to those on the wiring diagram in your instruction manual. Keep in mind that the ohms on the wiring diagram are per ELEMENT while your reading will be per SECTION. See above for more info on understanding the readings.

CHECKING RESISTANCE ON AN EASY-FIRE KILN

JUPITER, DAVINCI

In these series' of kilns, the control panel is separated from the kiln body and the element terminals are connected to the controls via external jumper cords or plugs.

  1. Turn the power to the kiln completely OFF and unplug it if possible. If it is direct wired, then you should at least turn off all power at the disconnect switch or circuit breaker.
  2. Unplug the first jumper cord from the control panel.
  3. Set your multimeter to Ohms (Omega symbol Ω) and using your testing leads, place one lead on each of the "hot" prongs. They will be the flat ones.
  4. Make note of the reading and move on to the next one.
  5. Compare your readings to those on the wiring diagram in your instruction manual. Keep in mind that the ohms on the wiring diagram are per ELEMENT while your reading will be per SECTION. See above for more info on understanding the readings.

CHECKING RESISTANCE ON AJUPITER OR DAVINCI KILN

See this tutorial on how to use a multimeter.

Ohms Per ELEMENT VS Ohms per SECTION (or Circuit).

  • How you figure out the section ohms depends on whether the elements are wired in Parallel or Series.
  • Most kilns are wired in Parallel except for JD230V and most 18" kilns like the e18T.
  • For a parallel kiln you take the per element ohms listed on your wiring diagram and divide by the number of elements per section.

Example #1 (2 Elements in Parallel): e23T 240V 1 Phase: Elements are 28.9 Ohms each. Divide by two because they are in parallel and you will get a reading of 14.5 Ohms per section.

    Parallel element connection for a kiln with two elements

    Example #2 (2 Elements in Series): e18S 240V 1 Phase: Elements are 9.6 Ohms each. Multiply by two because they are in series and you will get a reading of 19.2 Ohms per section.

    Series element connection for a kiln with two elements

    Example #3 (3 Elements in Parallel): JD2927 240V 1 Phase: Elements are 36.5 Ohms each. Divide by three because they are in parallel and you will get a reading of 12.3 Ohms per section.

    Parallel element connection for a kiln with three elements

    Example #4(3 Elements in Series): Doll DLH11-DBX 240V 1 Phase: Elements are 6.6 Ohms each. Multiply by three because they are in series and you will get a reading of 19.8 Ohms per section.

    Series element connection for a kiln with three elements

  1. Empty the kiln.
  2. Turn kiln on using a fast program such as FAST GLAZE (USr3) until elements are red.
  3. Open the door carefully and check if each of the elements are glowing with approximately the same brightness.
  4. This is an approximate method. The best thing to do is check the ohms on each element or circuit.

CAUTION: The power does not turn off when the lid is opened. Do NOT put your hand inside the kiln while it is on.

  • Power relays are one of the most important components in your kiln. They execute the will of the computer controller, giving power to the elements only when requested. These power relays are also mechanical switches which will wear out over time. Worn out relays can be the cause of slow or incomplete firings, error codes (E-1, E-d), etc. Other more obvious signs of relay failure are if a zone is lagging behind in temperature considerably or if you notice an entire ring of elements not heating/glowing. 
  • The surest way to test your relays is by using a multimeter to check input, output, and signal voltage. If you do not have access to a multimeter you can run a paper test, which will give you some indication of whether or not you have a relay out.

Process

  1. One way to check the relays (or bad elements) is to check the temperatures of each zone by pressing "1", "2" and "3" in sequence and recording the temperatures of each thermocouple at intervals over the length of the firing. If one zone is consistently firing at a lower temperature then you probably have either burned out elements or a bad relay.
  2. If the relay does not make a soft clicking noise when the kiln is turned on try turning the kiln off and on and then restarting the program.
  3. Remove panel.
  4. Set your multi-meter the approximately 24 volts AC. Check the voltage coming into the coil of the Power Relay. You can tell which wires these are because they will be the small wires coming from the control. This test will tell you if you are getting power to the relay coil which actuates the relay. Unless the relay is actuated by the control you will get no output from the power side of the relay.
  5. With panel plugged in and firing check output from Power Relay with your digital multi-meter. The meter should be set to the next highest voltage above 240 volts AC. Output should be approximately the rated voltage of the kiln when it is supposed to be calling for power to the elements.

CAUTION: LIVE ELECTRICITY IS INVOLVED WITH SOME OF THESE TESTS. This test should only be done by an experienced person familiar with electricity.

  1. Carefully examine thermocouple tip. This is the exposed welded joint at the end of the thermocouple that is not covered up by the ceramic tube.
  2. To do this you will have to remove the thermocouple from its protection tube (if it is a kiln that has one of our protection tubes). You can do this with the kiln disconnected from power.
  3. Look for corrosion - especially if it severe. These thermocouple tips will oxidize and otherwise corrode over time. That is normal. There is some point, however, at which the corrosion affects the ability of the tip to work (thermocouples work by generating a small voltage at the tip caused by two different metals reacting to each other).
  4. Corroded thermocouple tip

  5. Make sure the two wires are securely joined. One of the things that can cause an intermittent problem is a bad weld. If the two wires touch each other (even if they are not welded) they may work temporarily. However, if the weld is not secure then the wires could separate when the kiln heats up and cause an intermittent failure.
  6. If the thermocouple tip looks healthy then test the control board.

  1. Plug Peepholes in the kiln to prevent drafts.