Why does my kiln stall or stop heating with lots of clicking (relays) and no error code?

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Why does my kiln stall or stop heating with lots of clicking (relays) and no error code?
  1. Start by pressing 1,2,3 (or 1,2 on a two ring kiln). Look for which thermocouple is lagging behind.
  2. Assuming there is one thermocouple lagging: In DaVinci and Jupiter kilns, just disconnect that thermocouple wire from the lagging thermocouple and see if it starts to climb again. In an Easy-Fire, shut the kiln off, allow it to cool, remove the wire between the lagging thermocouple and the thermocouple terminal strip, fire again. If that lets it fire, replace both the thermocouple wire(s) and the thermocouple in the bad circuit. If it still does not fire, either a bad relay or bad element/ element connection is to blame.
  3. If you press 1,2,3 and temperatures are even (still clicking/ no error code), check the LAG setting (pre '06 DynaTrols). It should be set to 25, AutoLag- AULG should be ON. On kilns built Jan '06 and later, stalling with even temps (still clicking/ no error code) is very rare. Press Review Seg and be sure the number that appears after 'STPT' is higher than all the thermocouple readings. If it is, you will need a multi-meter and tech help over the phone to diagnose. If it is not, replace the DynaTrol.

Other reasons the kiln may stall/ fire slow:

  1. Loading may be uneven- try putting two elements between the bottom two shelves
  2. Loading may be too close to the thermocouples
  3. Thermocouples reading unevenly (from age or loading unevenly or too close to thermocouple)
  4. Different style thermocouples used in same kiln
  5. Look for loose connection- check tightness on the 4 little screws on the thermocouple connection block and (easy-fire) on the thermocouple terminal strip.
  6. In Jupiter and DaVinci kilns, look for a burnt thermocouple wire. This is bad news- replace it (you should really replace all of them if tied together) right away
  7. DaVinci/ Handheld - Check Handheld 14-pin connector for poor connection- wiggle carefully while running, etc.
  8. Listen for a louder/ softer/ different sounding clicking coming from the control box. A relay with a lot of corrosion on it

Additional Actions to Take

Your 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.
Paper Test: http://hotkilns.com/run-paper-test & hotkilns.com/
Here we will go through the process of testing relays and contactors as well as what to make of any test results. 
  1. Another 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.

See this video:

  1. Unplug kiln.
  2. Remove the four #6 screws that hold the control in place from the front face of the control panel.
  3. Remove the control box and remove the insulation panel.
  4. Pull of the spade connectors from all the connection points on the back of the control. Loosen the screws that hold down the thermocouple wires and pull out the wires from under the screw heads. It is OK to remove the screws if this is easier for you. First not where all the wires go. These are all clearly marked with color coding on the Wiring Diagram.
  5. Pull old control out. Put new control in and screw in place with the #6 mounting screws. Replace wires on proper connectors.
  6. Be careful to get the Red or Yellow of the thermocouple wires to match the colors painted on the control board.
  7. Double check that the proper color coded wire goes to the proper terminal (Orange = OUT, Purple = AC1, Green = CT, Gray = AC2).

This video shows how to replace a DynaTrol on an Easy-Fire kiln. The same principles apply to any kiln with a DynaTrol or Genesis control.

Parts

  1. See this page for the part.

WARNING IF YOU HAVE A TYPE S THERMOCOUPLE: WHEN REPLACING A DYNATROL: CHECK THE CONFIGURATION OF THIS REPLACEMENT CONTROL TO MAKE SURE YOU DON’T MELT YOUR KILN! See this for more information.

This video shows how to remove a control panel on an Easy-Fire, School-Master or eQuadPro kiln for service.

  1. Unplug kiln.
  2. Remove the Control Box.
  3. Using a 3/8" nut driver or ratchet wrench or adjustable wrench, remove the nuts that hold the element end onto the Element Terminal Bolt. Note that the terminal bolt head is held in place by an inset shape on the underside of the ceramic terminal block and it will not turn much.
  4. Untwist the element end from around the Element Terminal Bolt. Straighten it out as much as possible.
  5. In most cases the element can be lifted out of the holder at this point. Sometimes, if the element has really disintegrated, you need to remove it in pieces with needle nose pliers.
  6. If element is hard to get out of the holders (because of growth of the element) you can try heating up the kiln slightly so as to heat up the element slightly to just the point where element is slightly pliable–don't let it get red. This will soften the wire. Then turn off the kiln and disconnect all power to the kiln. Using heat protecting gloves and a pair of needle nose pliers pull out the softened element.
  7. From the inside of the kiln, using needle nose pliers, grab the element as close to where it goes through the brick wall to Terminal Block. Pull the element end through the hole. Be careful not to enlarge the hole in firebrick. The brick is soft and will not take much abrasion.
  8. Be sure to check for failure points for evidence of contamination on the element and the element holder. If the element holder is contaminated it will cause rapid failure of the new element. Replace contaminated holders with the new ones.
  9. Using your multimeter check the resistance of the new element.
  10. Install the twisted ends of the elements through the holes in the wall of the kiln. Element ends should be straight at this point.
  11. Pull them up tight up to the wall of the kiln by pulling from outside the kiln.
  12. Lay the element into the groove. Note that the unfired element is going to have some springiness to it before it is fired for the first time. You may need to use a screwdriver to press the element into the holder. YOU DO NOT NEED PINS.
  13. FOR KILNS WITH NON-CERAMIC TERMINAL BLOCK OR ON RETROFITTED KILNS WHERE YOU HAVE ADDED A CERAMIC TERMINAL BLOCK BUT STILL NEED BUSHINGS: Be sure to replace the insulators and spacers over the element tails.
  14. Consulting your picture or labeling, wrap the appropriate element tails around the appropriate element connection bolt, clockwise, one around and cut off the excess tail.
  15. Install the elements and hardware: Place the wires from the jumper cord or connecting wires onto the appropriate bolts and tighten with stainless steel nuts.
  16. A washer goes under the first element.
  17. Twist the first element end CLOCKWISE around the Terminal Bolt.
  18. The next element gets twisted around the Terminal Bolt on top of the first element.
  19. Another washer goes over the Terminal Bolt.
  20. Place a nut on top and tighten it.
  21. Put another washer on.
  22. Put on the Ring Terminal of the Power Lead Wire.
  23. Put another washer on.
  24. Put another nut on and tighten it. How much the nut can be tightened is dependent on how tight the element connection bolt is on the element connection board. A tight connection is very important, but if you tighten too much and twist the element on the bolt too far you could break the element, the bolt, or the insulator.
  25. Reattach the ground wires and the element box if the kiln has them. DO NOT FORGET TO ATTACH GROUND WIRES. IF EACH KILN SECTION IS NOT GROUNDED THIS CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS.
  26. Test the resistance at the jumper cord's plug head or at the other end of the connecting wires.
  27. Reattach the control box, turn on the kiln and make sure all the elements come on.

See this tutorial on how to use a multimeter.

See this video:

  1. Unplug kiln.
  2. Remove the control box and the insulation panel.
  3. Remove the wires to the relay.
  4. Remove the nuts from the studs that hold the relay in place. Remove old relay and replace with new one.
  5. Visually inspect the wire connectors. Do they look corroded or "cooked"? Are the wires frayed? Any corrosion on the wire itself? If any of this is questionable you should replace the appropriate wires.
  6. Reconnect all wires. Visually inspect to make sure the spade connectors are down as far as they can go and feel to see that they are tight (a gentle tug should not remove one). If they are loose for some reason remove the wire and slightly squeeze the spade connector with pliers to tighten it.

IMPORTANT: The slip on wire connectors cannot be loose or corroded. If there is a bad connection then heat will be generated and the component that they slip onto (relay, terminal strip, etc) may overheat and fail. If you squeeze the slip on terminal to make it tighter–be sure to squeeze it evenly so that one side is not tight and the other loose. If there are any doubts about the integrity of the wire or the connector replace the whole wire or harness.

 

How to check a relay in an Easy-Fire Kilns

  1. Similar in any L&L automatic kiln.
  2. Follow proper electrical safety practices.

Parts

  1. See this page for the 12 Volt 30 Amp relay we use for most kilns.
  2. See this page for the 240 Volt 30 Amp relay we use as a control relay for 480 volt kilns.
  3. See this page for all contactors and relays.

 

How to change a relay in an Easy-Fire Kilns

  1. Be sure to keep the wires on in the right sequence when changing a power or control relay in an Easy-Fire, Easy-Fire XT, School-Master or eQuad-Pro Kiln.
  2. The configuration is similar in a Jupiter panel or as control relay in a DaVinci, Hercules, or Easy-Load panel.
  3. Make sure kiln is unplugged or locked out and tagged out at the circuit breaker or fused disconnect switch when doing this maintenance.

Parts

  1. See this page for the 12 Volt 30 Amp relay we use for most kilns.
  2. See this page for the 240 Volt 30 Amp relay we use as a control relay for 480 volt kilns.
  3. See this page for all contactors and relays.
  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:

INTRODUCTION TO RESISTANCE

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. According to Ohm's Law, when resistance, measured in Ohms, increases, both Watts and Amperes will decrease, assuming Voltage remains constant. Since Amps and Watts are the measures of current and power respectively, they can be thought of as the amount of juice that your kiln has to generate heat. Obviously if you don't have enough power, your kiln will fire slowly and might not even reach the desired temperature.

INTERPRETING RESULTS

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 several months of cone 6 firings let's say 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 a 14% increase). Again, an increase in resistance means decrease in power. 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+). As you can see, measuring your element Ohms is the best way to identify when elements need replacing.

Keep in mind that the ohms on the wiring diagram are per ELEMENT while your reading will be per SECTION. 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 and divide by the number of elements per section. Ex. e23T 240V 1 Phase is 28.9 Ω per element with two elements per ring = 14.5 Ω per section.   Ex. 2. JD2927 240V is 36.5 Ω per element w/ three elements per ring = 12.2 Ω per section. See this link for more info on Series vs. Parallel

Here we will show how to best measure your element resistance for two groups of L&L Kilns, into which most models fall.

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.

See this tutorial on how to use a multimeter.

  1. If uneven firing occurs persistently, vary methods of loading weight to match the firing characteristics of the kiln.
  2. If elements typically fire hot at the top of the kiln put more weight in the top to absorb that heat, and vice versa.
  3. Ensure that weight is put at posts under the bottom shelf. The bottom shelf should be at least 1/2" to 1" above the floor of the kiln.

TIP: The longer posts can be laid down on their sides to get a perfect amount of space under the bottom shelf.