How to Fix Your Oven When the Oven Racks are Too Small

This is one of the biggest appliance repair mysteries on the internet. Why, oh why, do some ovens seem to come with racks that are about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch too small for the tracks on the oven walls? People who bake notice that their racks don’t sit right and that baked items come out uneven. Those who often rearrange their oven racks will notice because the racks don’t sit correctly when they are moved. And if the distance is too great,  your racks are at risk of falling if the oven is bumped while you are cooking. This situation seems like a serious manufacturer flaw. It is, sort of, but not for the reasons you might think.

Today, we’re here to explain why this crazy oven-rack phenomenon occurs and what you can do to fix your oven without buying new racks or a whole new oven. 

Why Oven Racks Are Too Small or Uneven

We all know what happens when an inexpensive cookie sheet goes into a very hot oven. It twists and warms. All sorts of metal objects that were not really made for high-heat oven use will warp when exposed to an oven’s temperatures. But did you know that the oven body can warp as well? When the metal case of your oven body is heated up, it can bow outward. Like an inflating square balloon.

So it’s not exactly that your oven was made too large for the oven racks, or the racks too small for the oven. It’s really that the oven can change sizes when it heats up. Is this a bit of manufacturer oversight? Absolutely. But it’s also not the end of the world. Now that you know why your oven racks don’t fit into the oven correctly anymore, we can get down to fixing it. 

Get New, Slightly Larger, Oven Racks

The first and least DIY option is to simply replace your oven racks with racks that are 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch wider than your current racks. If you’re in a hurry and money is no object, this is a reasonable option to adapt to the new wider shape of the inside of your oven. There are oven racks available from all shapes and sizes, and you can even get them custom made from a welding shop if that’s your jam.

Of course, if you’re on our website, chances are that you’re looking for a more DIY and more cost-friendly alternative to simply buying new racks and replacing the old ones. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. 

Welding ‘Extender” Rods On Each Side of the Racks

If you are a welder or you don’t mind working with a welder for your DIY repair, the next option is to have narrow, supportive rods welded to each outside edge of your oven racks so that they fit in neatly. A professional welder will ensure that your oven rack extenders are even so that your cooking and baking will also be even. This is a very handy, permanent, and easy to use option. More to the point, it will be easy to pull oven racks in and out of the oven now. Especially if your welder recommends and uses a gliding metal finish. You will, of course, want to consider the color, texture, and composition of the extender rods you weld to your current oven racks. Too rough a finish and they will not glide, too shiny a finish and they will look strange. But if you choose just right, there’s a good chance that guest-chefs in your kitchen won’t even realize that your oven racks have been altered. 

The Handy Office Binder Clips Solution

A few very clever users on the internet discovered a trick that is worthy of the handiest appliance repair technician: Office binder clips. The triangular heavy-duty clips that hold large sheaves of paper together also happen to be an excellent way to quickly and securely add some depth to your oven racks. They are even sold in handy size notations so you can grab a 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch pack of binder clips to serve your purposes. The key is to lamp four to six of the clips to each side of your oven rack, arms facing inward. The triangular pieces will hold so tightly to the rack and extend just far enough to add that extra depth. This secures your oven racks on the tracks provided by your oven, even though the oven walls have swelled outward in response to the heat. And because the binder clips are all metal, they will survive in the oven just fine.

We highly suggest that you grab two or three sizes of binder clip when you’re first experimenting to make sure you have the right size. After all, when an oven warps beyond the manufacturer’s intentions, exact numbers are no longer at play. Also, make sure you get high-quality binder clips, the kind that are nearly impossible to squeeze open. This way, you know for sure that they’ll hold even when you’re baking pies, casseroles, or the Thanksgiving Turkey.

—It can be frustrating when appliances don’t do exactly what they say they’ll do “on the package.” Fortunately, in this case, the slight flexing of the oven has a surprisingly easy fix. For a temporary solution, try the binder clips and you’ll find that your cooking plans won’t have to be postponed. For a longer-term or easy-glide solution, you’ll want nice smooth extender rails added to your oven racks. And for the too-busy-to-DIY solution, just order some slightly wider oven racks off the internet and be done with it.

For all performance-based repairs needed for your oven, you can count on your local appliance repair team. Contact us for a consultation. we’re all too glad to give you the answer to this one because, quite frankly, we can’t fix this one with a screwdriver or a voltage tester. But we can give you guidance on what options are available.

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