Um, Why Did My Frigidaire Microwave Randomly Catch Fire?

Though not advertised as a feature, Matt recently learned that if you turn off a Frigidaire microwave and leave the house, it might spontaneously combust. A service tech blamed a short-circuiting switch for the blaze, which thankfully didn’t cause any serious property damage.

Matt writes:

I came home from work to find my house filled with smoke and a smell of burnt plastic. It took me a few minutes to locate the source, but it ended up being the microwave. My Frigidaire FMV158FMB above-stove 1000W unit had caught fire. There is a hole through the clock/display panel where it appears flames shot out, melting surrounding plastic and going up the front of the unit. Luckily, no damage other than a thin film of smoke that looks like it will wipe off of the paint on the cabinets above.

I last used the unit yesterday evening. The house was fine when I left back for work over lunch (2:30 PM), so there is a 4 hour window when it could have occurred.

Manufacturer is closed, so I have not had a chance to contact them. I plan on doing that tomorrow. If they won’t help, I have a home warranty so it should only cost $65 (my deductible) to have it replaced.

Just wanted to both alert you (and consumers) of this risk and also seek advice as to how to proceed to make sure this is handled properly, as it appears to be a faulty unit since it happened on its own. I am very lucky there was not more damage or total loss of house had the fire spread.

Matt later sent us an update.

The manufacturer would not do much with it being out of warranty. It sounds like had there been property damage they would have cared but since the house itself didn’t catch fire, they offered a rebate toward a new one (I would have had to pay a significant amount). Instead, my home warranty company, 2-10, handled it amazingly and I now have a nice GE unit for only the $65 service fee.

The service tech who came out to confirm the microwave was beyond repair showed me the switch that shorted inside behind the panel. He provided anecdotal stories of others having this switch fail but only the unit would light up, just failed to actually microwave things. No fires in those cases.

Also, he said it shorted and overheated inside, but thinks it smoldered as opposed to there being full flames. My outlet tripping cut the power and saved the unit from catching fire.