Fixing Our Microwave Oven on the Road

Fixing Our Microwave Oven on the Road

If you spend time following families that travel, you'll notice there is always one common thread. Stuff breaks ... A LOT. It makes sense when you think about it: your home is hurling down the highway at 65 mph basically causing a mini (or sometimes not so mini) earthquake inside. Something is bound to break.

When we installed appliances inside our bus, we were more concerned with functionality and efficiency than with how long they might last being jostled around inside an RV. All three of our air conditioners, our refrigerator, our induction cooktop, our water pump, our ice maker, and our microwave/oven are all residential units that are not designed at all for being fit into an RV. Needless to say, we did expect some problems. I can't even count the number of times I was told by "HVAC experts" that our mini-split air conditioner "will maybe last 2 months tops going down the road". Fortunately, our mini-split AC is going on year seven with only one minor repair (failed Schrader valve for about $0.59). Our microwave oven on the other hand did not fair so well.

Catia was all set to bake some brownies and preheat the oven, but to her dismay, the "Start" button wouldn't work. Upon further testing, we discovered that the "2" button wasn't functioning either while all the other buttons seemed to be fine. After some online research, we learned that our GE Café model CEB1599SJSS microwave was susceptible to ribbon cable disconnection which could lead to the precise issues we were encountering.

We opened up the microwave and located the ribbon cable we had read about online. We disconnected it, cleaned the contacts, and reconnected it. After putting the microwave back together and held our breath while we did a short test. NOPE - we had exactly the same behavior as before.

A little more research revealed that sometimes the membrane in the touchpad goes bad. The fix is not a trivial one. We watched a youtube video where one was taken apart and repaired with electrical conducting paint which was painstakingly masked and applied between the layers. It was HOURS of work and no real guarantee it would work or go back together correctly.

The microwave still worked fine. If we pressed the "add 30 seconds" button, the microwave would fire right up and work as expected. So we knew the problem was very likely just the membrane on the keypad. Unfortunately, you cannot just buy the keypad alone - you have to purchase the entire control panel. We found the part online for around $200 and after a little more digging, we found one on sale for $150. We use the microwave and oven quite a bit, and we wondered if we might not be better off buying a new one. The microwave we originally bought is now discontinued, and the newer model seemed to have similar specifications. Unfortunately, it also has a similar price tag of over $900. In that light, $150 for the fix sounds just fine.

We placed an order for the parts we needed and were pleased to receive them two days later at our campground in Vermont, where, fortunately, package delivery was accepted. The installation of the new control panel was a simple process, and we were delighted to have a fully functioning microwave and oven once again. Although we did have to throw away that original brownie mix.

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Supplies and Tools We Used

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