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Repairing Overhead Warmers

Repairing Overhead WarmersOverhead warmers are fairly simple devices.  They are typically used to keep food that is ready to be served warm before it goes out on the server’s tray.  Overhead warmers have three main parts:

1. Element
2. On/off switch
3. Infinite Control

Warmers come in different voltages such as 120V, 208V, and 240V, and they are made in different lengths.  Always remember that it’s crucial to have the correct voltage on the unit, because severe damage can happen when the unit is introduced to the wrong voltage.  There are two types of elements in most overhead warmers.

1. Cal-rod (metal) type
2. Quartz glass type.

These elements vary in wattage and length.  When replacing an element, it is helpful to provide the following information to ensure you get the correct element.

1. Overall length of the warmer
2. Model Number
3. Serial number
4. Voltage

This information can be found on the name tag that is attached to the warmer.

There are two ways to determine if an element is bad:

1. Visual Inspection. On the Cal-rod element, inspect the outside for burn marks.  On the quartz element, inspect the filament or wire coil inside the glass tube.  If it is separated in any way, it is burnt out.Repairing Overhead Warmers

2. Continuity Testing. A continuity tester can determine if an element is defective.  Remember to disconnect the power! For either element (cal-rod or quartz), first remove at least one wire connection or remove the element if it is a socket type.  If you have a Multi-Tester set your tester in the continuity position and touch the leads to the element.  If there is no digital read out on the display the element is no good.  If you’re using a lighted tester and the light does not light up, then the element is not good.  In either case, the element needs to be replaced.  The element is still good if you get a digital read out or the lights does light up.

Repairing Overhead WarmersOn/Off Switch

To test the on/off switch, disconnect at least one wire from the switch and perform a continuity test with the switch in the on position.  If you do not get a reading, then you need to replace the on/off switch.

Infinite Control

To test the infinite control, there are multiple wire connections on the back of the control.  These wire connections are marked as follows:  L1 and L2 are the power wires coming in the warmer.  H1 and H2 are the connections for the element wires.  On units with a pilot light there may be a HP connection or a P connection, P meaning pilot light connection.  Repairing Overhead Warmers

Disconnect at least one wire from any of the H connections and perform a continuity test across the H prongs with the control in the on position.  If you did not get a reading or light it is time to replace the infinite control.  On an infinite control make sure to determine if it is a  screw mount or nut mount before purchasing a replacement.  Screw mount controls screw into the overhead warming unit; nut mount controls bolt onto the unit.

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When It Comes To Equipment Repair, Be Prepared

In Kevin Loving’s last post he talked about how keeping a basic tool kit handy in your restaurant will make your life as an operator or manager alot easier. It’s almost certain you will use at least one of these tools everyday on the job. I spent over 5 years on the phones selling replacement parts to restaurants and at least half the times I asked a manger to measure something they either didn’t have a tape measure or didn’t know where it was. So if you haven’t started building your tool kit, now is as great a time as ever. That being said, you should also keep in mind having the tools is only half the battle when it comes to restaurant equipment maintenance.

When It Comes To Equipment Repair, Be Prepared

Keep your burners lit!

Another conversation I had again and again with restaurant managers was the frantic Friday night call. I’m sure you know that call, many of you have probably made a few of them. That’s the phone call to your parts supplier at about 4:30 PM on a Friday night right before they are about to close. You’re in a panic, your fryer is down and weekends in your bar are the busiest times for you. Long story short, without a fryer you can’t serve all those wings and mozzarella sticks so you end up paying $80 in shipping to have a thermopile delivered on Saturday. Sure would have been a lot easier to have a spare thermopile in your office huh? By now you should see what I’m getting at. Maybe while you’re filling that tool box it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep some critical replacement parts on hand as well. Here’s some to consider:

  1. Thermostats – keep a spare on hand for all your cooking equipment from fryers to ovens. An infinite control for your countertop warmers would be handy as well, along with some replacement dials.
  2. Burner Valves – these should be a no brainer as they are inexpensive. You’ll find them in range tops, broilers and some griddles. You might as well have some extra knobs for these too so you don’t need to use pliers all weekend to turn on your range.
  3. Elements - you can find these all around your kitchen. Need a hint? Check your soup warmers, steam tables, cheesemelters and the heat strips on your line. If you have a dishwasher that uses a booster heater it’s critical to have a couple of extras on hand.
  4. High Limits – these are critical for your fryer, some warmers and your dishwasher’s booster heater. Have a coffee maker? There’s a little one in there too.
  5. Switches – there’s at least one on much of your equipment. Think convection ovens, steamers, coffee makers and warmers.
  6. Pilots – these comprise of  some pilot tubing and a pilot head. Some of these come together in a complete assembly. There are many different pilot assemblies so get the ones specific to your model. You can also keep some generic 18″ pilot assemblies on hand to use in a pinch.
  7. Ignitors – many times along with your pilot comes an ignitor. This is dependent on the type of equipment as the parts range from a push button spark ignitor to a flame sensor and ignition module.
  8. Gas Valves – there’s a variety of these as well. Depending on the equipment you can have a combination valve, a solenoid valve or any variety of safety valve.

You might need many of these or just a few. It depends on the size of your restaurant and how much equipment you have.  Don’t feel like you need to get every possible part there is either. To start, determine which of your equipment you really can’t live without and get the critical parts for those.

A perfect example is a national chain I dealt with for years.  They served biscuits with almost every breakfast, lunch and dinner they sold.  If their proofer went down nobody was having biscuits and that was a signature part of their meals. I’d say that the proofer was a critical part of their daily business wouldn’t you? I managed to convince quite a few of the area managers to keep an extra thermostat, power switch and a humidity switch on hand just in case. Believe me when I tell you they were very happy that they did.

So go ahead and compliment that set of tools with some common equipment replacement parts.  It’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about and you might just save yourself on some expedited shipping charges or an expensive weekend service call.  Next time I’ll go over some parts that are important to have around for fixing things other than kitchen equipment.

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