Why do stainless steel threads become jammed on element terminals?

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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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Why do stainless steel threads become jammed on element terminals?

We use stainless steel element terminal bolts. Stainless steel bolts have weaker threads than plated bolts but resist corrosion much better (which is more important in high temperature environments with corrosive fumes).

On a new kiln the factory tightens the nuts on the bolts for a good connection. It is hard to cross thread on a new kiln bolt easily as a cross threaded nut will not turn on the bolt more than 1/2 a turn or so.

There is a fine line on the element connections between tight enough and over tight. It is possible to break bolts when replacing the elements even ones that are relatively new. Part of this can be attributed to the relative lack of strength in stainless steel.

Heat, vibration and element stress can wear the thread on the bolt.

Generally it is easy to replace a bolt.

We suggest changing all the stainless steel terminal hardware when changing elements.

Additional Actions to Take

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. 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: