Thursday, January 31, 2013

Relay Replacement & Test Fire

Finally I got my relays in the mail. I decided to ask someone to help me replace the relays the first time and I was glad I did. There are a few tricks which I might not have know. First work slowly and be methodical. To locate the relays, first take out the four screws holding the controller onto the kiln. Next remove the wires going from the firing elements to the controller and the positive and negative wires. Then the plate with the insulation can be removed from the controller by removed two screws on either side of the box. The relay box can then be slipped up and off the kiln and placed on top of a towel on top of the kiln to more easily replace the relays. *Note when the kiln element wires are replaced they must be inserted in the same order and snugged completely up. Also on kilns the positive wire is red which is the opposite of most other electrical applications*.

My kiln has three relays, small black boxes with six wires attached to each one. Remove one screw from the front of the relay and loosen the other screw. Lift the old relay up. Get the new relay and place it in the same place you removed the old relay and screw the new relay down. Take one wire off at a time from the old relay and put it in the same position on the new relay.

 Methodically do this with all the wires. Take one off and place it in the same position on the new relay. Once you have the first relay replaced go on to the next two with the same method, taking only one wire off at a time and placing it on the new relay.

To check to be sure the wires are connected correctly you can test them with a digital hand held clamp meter. This meter measures current, volts, and resistance or ohms. You can use this meter to test the ohms on the wires going to the kiln elements which will let you know if your elements are nearing the end of their life.

With the kiln plugged in (BUT not turned on) place the clamp around each wire to test for current, volts, and ohms. Record the results on a piece of paper for each wire. If the ohms are 1.5 ohms above the factory specs your wires are nearing the end of their life. Mine showed my firing elements are close to their end but there is no need to replace them till the kiln quits functioning properly. To be safe I'll order firing elements and a thermocouple to keep in stock for when I need to replace them.

For more information about kiln repair, Skutt makes a more detailed manual, called a Skutt Service Training Manual which can be downloaded. At the beginning of the manual is a good explanation of electrical theory which explains volts, amps, and ohms much better than I can. I am doing a fast test fire to cone 07 (which was the lowest temp cone I had in stock). I wanted to fire yesterday but there was a storm coming through so I waited till this morning in case of lightening strikes. Hopefully all will go well and I'll be back to firing all the work that has piled up real soon. Thanks for reading and for all your comments.


  1. Good on you for your thorough explication of the process. Sounds like the relay replacement requires a little more precision than the simple heating element replacement operation I did on my totally manual little kiln last week. But easy easy and take your time was my mode of approach as yours. Good luck on the test firing, and smooth sailing into the future.

  2. Hi Christine, thanks, I may have to contact you to learn how to replace the elements when I need to.

  3. Great post! I don't know how we got along without the internet. It would take days to get information like the service manual you mentioned. You would have to call and order it through the mail.

  4. Thank you, I know I'm going to have to replace relays one of these days, it's a confort to know I can refer to your article. It sounds easy if you know what you're doing.

  5. Please feel free to contact me regarding replacing elements. Also did you see elsewhere at another pottery blog where someone commented about reserving their campsite on MDI in Maine and where you said you were considering a trip to Maine this upcoming summer that I live not far from Mount Desert Island and I'd love to meet you!!

  6. Knowing near to nothing about kilns, I am greatly impressed by your ability to work electric wiring, etc!

  7. Good Job, Linda!
    I have replaced relays, wiring harnesses, wires, and elements on my Skutt, and I agree with you, if you work carefully, and take pictures or make diagrams, it can be simple. Not easy, but simple.
    Just an advance warning on the elements:
    You MUST have these crimping pliers, or similar, to attach the barrel connectors to the elements :
    Klein Tools 1005 Crimping pliers, about $26 from Amazon. Link:

    Ordinary pliers will NOT work. Other crimping pliers may work as well, but they make a good job of it.

    Second, Skutt only gives you the exact number of barrel connectors you need for each element, no spares, so you MUST measure the element lengths carefully. If you find they are too short, you are out of luck, there is no way to lengthen them, so you must buy another element.
    If they are too long, you have to cut it shorter BEFORE you crimp on the barrel connector. Once you have crimped on the connector, if you have done a proper job, the only way to get it off is to cut the element, thus wasting a connector. Unless you order spare connectors, you are out of luck.
    But it can be done
    I guess you'll burn that bridge when you come to it!!

  8. Hi Linda
    White Rabbit :^) first of the month here already..
    I am greatly impressed by your repair efforts and what a great resource you have created here for others needing to do the same job!

  9. wow, this is complictated! glad you figured it out. hope I don't need to do that for a LONG while and then, I'll be calling skutt or consulting one of my friends.... good luck!

  10. Hi Michele, thanks, I know the internet is a wealth of information, exploration, and sharing and I am thankful for it.

    Hi Lori, thanks, the electrical wiring was intimidating but now I feel more confident with my kiln.

    Hi Christine, thanks, oh I'd love to visit your pottery when I come up there, hopefully the trip will materialize this year.

    Hi Trish, thanks, yay is right, I got mail yesterday, thanks so much.

  11. Hi Tina, thanks, well it helps to have an experienced person guiding me and service manuals to refer to.

    Hi Kevin, thanks, oh thank you so much for all this detailed information on the element changing tips. I really appreciate your taking the time to alert me to all the details. I will definitely refer back to this information when the time comes.

    Kevin, do you have a blog or website I'd love to visit you there.

    Hi Anna, thanks, white rabbit to you too, I forgot to make a note in today's post. The service manual link is for a Skutt, but the information I think can be applied to any kiln especially the electrical theory.

    Hi Amy, thanks, necessity is the mother of invention and with all the work piling up I just had to get my kiln working. It definitely helps to have an experienced hand to guide the first attempt at kiln repair. This is something that should be taught in schools and guilds.


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