What Happens When the Magnetron Goes Out on a Microwave?

When the magnetron goes out on a microwave, the microwave stops producing microwaves and cannot heat or cook food. The magnetron is the device that generates the electromagnetic waves that are used to heat food in a microwave oven. Without it, the microwave is essentially useless. In this article, we will explain what a magnetron is, how it works, how to tell if it is faulty, and what to do if it needs to be replaced.

What is a Magnetron?

A magnetron is a type of vacuum tube that uses a heated filament and a magnet to produce a swirling field of electrons, which resonate with channels in the anode to create a stream of microwaves. A microwave oven has a cavity magnetron inside of it that fires electrons at high speed in a magnetic field that pass over cavities quickly. This generates microwaves that are channeled into the microwave oven. These microwaves excite water molecules in food creating heat which cooks food quickly.

The magnetron was invented in the 1920s and was initially used for radar systems during World War II. It was later adapted for microwave ovens in the 1940s by Percy Spencer, an engineer at Raytheon, who accidentally discovered that microwaves could melt chocolate. Since then, microwave ovens have become a common household appliance that can heat and cook food in a matter of minutes.

How Does a Magnetron Work?

A magnetron consists of a cathode, an anode, and a magnet. The cathode is a metal rod that is heated by an electric current to emit electrons. The anode is a metal block with holes or slots called cavities that surround the cathode. The magnet is placed around the anode and creates a magnetic field that is parallel to the axis of the cathode.

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When the microwave oven is turned on, the cathode emits a stream of electrons that are accelerated by the electric potential between the cathode and the anode. However, the magnetic field deflects the electrons and makes them spiral around the cathode. As the electrons pass by the cavities, they induce an electric field in them that causes them to resonate at a specific frequency. This frequency depends on the physical dimensions of the cavities and is usually in the microwave range, between 300 MHz and 300 GHz.

The resonating cavities act as antennas that emit microwaves from the anode. The microwaves are then guided by a metal tube called a waveguide to the cooking chamber of the microwave oven, where they interact with the food. The microwaves cause the water molecules in the food to vibrate and generate heat by friction. This heat is transferred to the rest of the food and cooks it evenly.

How to Tell if the Magnetron is Faulty?

The magnetron is one of the most important and expensive components of a microwave oven. It can last for several years, but it can also fail due to various reasons, such as overheating, power surges, wear and tear, or manufacturing defects.

Some of the common signs that indicate that the magnetron is faulty are:

  • The microwave does not heat or cook food at all, or it takes longer than usual to do so.
  • The microwave makes loud or unusual noises, such as buzzing, humming, or clicking.
  • The microwave emits sparks, smoke, or a burning smell.
  • The microwave trips the circuit breaker or blows a fuse when turned on.
  • The microwave displays an error code or a warning message on the screen.
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If you notice any of these symptoms, you should stop using the microwave immediately and unplug it from the power source. Do not attempt to repair the magnetron yourself, as it can be dangerous and void the warranty. You should contact a professional technician or the manufacturer to diagnose the problem and replace the magnetron if needed.

How to Replace the Magnetron?

Replacing the magnetron is not a simple or cheap task. It requires special tools, skills, and safety precautions. The magnetron can store a high voltage charge even when the microwave is unplugged, which can cause electric shocks or burns. The magnetron can also emit harmful radiation if it is damaged or improperly installed. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you hire a qualified technician or service center to replace the magnetron for you.

The cost of replacing the magnetron can vary depending on the model, brand, and availability of the part. It can range from $100 to $300, including the labor and the part. Sometimes, it may be more economical to buy a new microwave oven than to replace the magnetron, especially if the microwave is old, outdated, or has other issues. You should compare the cost and benefits of both options before making a decision.

Conclusion

The magnetron is the heart of a microwave oven, as it generates the microwaves that heat and cook food. When the magnetron goes out on a microwave, the microwave becomes useless and cannot function properly. The magnetron can fail due to various reasons, such as overheating, power surges, wear and tear, or manufacturing defects. Some of the signs that indicate that the magnetron is faulty are lack of heating, loud noises, sparks, smoke, or error codes. Replacing the magnetron is not a DIY job, as it involves high voltage, radiation, and technical expertise. It is advisable to contact a professional technician or the manufacturer to replace the magnetron if needed. The cost of replacing the magnetron can vary depending on the model, brand, and availability of the part. Sometimes, it may be cheaper to buy a new microwave oven than to replace the magnetron, depending on the age and condition of the microwave.