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I need to replace the heating element on my whirlpool oven. The model number is AKZ451/IX/01 and the serial code is 858545115073. When looking for spares online, I see heating elements listed as compatible for the same model but different serial codes - often for the same code but ending -072 or -074 rather than -073. Will a heating element fit the same model but different serial code? Or do I need to find one that matches exactly?

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  • I would suggest contacting the sellers you've identified. Tell them your model/serial and ask them if their part(s) will fit your oven. If they have a good return policy, they won't want to pay return shipping for something they know won't fit right from the start.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 23, 2020 at 16:56

3 Answers 3

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Yes, it often matters. Manufacturers make design and parts changes through the life of a product and the heating element may come in multiple versions depending on which revision of the product you have. The serial number or code is what gets you the right part for your unit.

I'll add that they generally don't list the serials like this unless it does matter.

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  • If a retailer does not specify a serial code (i.e. only lists the part as fitting the model number), is it safe to assume it fits all versions of that model? Or is that too much to assume?
    – Ant
    Oct 23, 2020 at 14:07
  • Yes, that's a good assumption.
    – jwh20
    Oct 23, 2020 at 14:31
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I've worked on quite a few ovens over the years and yes, the serial code does matter. Take a heating element for example. One serial code might have spade connectors and another serial code might have screw terminals. the wattage and size/shape are the same but how they attach to the oven is quite different. If you have the experience you can modify one for the other but I wouldn't recommend it unless the original part just isn't manufactured anymore.

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A model # and serial # for an appliance is similar to a VIN for a car. The difference is that VINs are standardized, and appliance model #s and serial #s are not. But the concept is the same. Typically the numbers identify:

  • Type of product - e.g., oven, cooktop, dishwasher, refrigerator
  • Functional type - e.g., single vs. double oven, convection (or not), self-cleaning (or not)
  • Size - e.g., wall ovens in the US are typically multiples of 3" - 27", 30", etc.
  • Style - particularly color, which is generally white, black, stainless steel and some form of beige/bisque/off-white
  • Version - nominally "model year" (which is largely the case for cars, though Tesla, for example, often makes significant changes within a "model year"), but sometimes identifying a particular control panel/electronics, which includes both hardware & firmware and therefore needs to all match when it comes to replacement parts.

Typically, but it can vary a lot by product type, manufacturer, version, etc., major parts will not vary much over the life of a product. On the other hand, some parts may vary depending on size (e.g., metal frame/enclosure and doors will differ based on size of an oven), style (any external parts will be different depending on color - for a car analogy, when you see a car with a door different from the rest of the car it is usually because they got one from a junkyard to match the make/model/year but couldn't find one matching the color) and other factors.

Electronics tend to be very specific to particular versions but may or may not vary by size and won't vary by style. Things like heating elements may not change at all over the life of the model, but they might if there were safety issues - e.g., changing the type of connector to make it more reliable, in which case the new heating element might not be compatible with the old oven (or vice versa).

An interesting twist to all of this is private-label products. Unlike small products (e.g., portable consumer electronics) where many different manufacturers will make substantially the same product but with their own unique designs (e.g., all the different Android phones - compatible software but each with their own specific battery, case, etc.), there are relatively few manufacturers of major appliances. Most house brands for major department stores such as Sears are made for them by GE, Whirlpool and other companies.

For example, many Sears Kenmore appliances are (or at least used to be, I have not checked recently) made by Whirlpool. Whirlpool also makes Kitchenaid as a higher-end product line. While the external parts vary to give each product line (e.g., Kenmore, Whirlpool, Kitchenaid) a different look and some different features, many of the internal parts are the same. A typical example is clothes dryer belts - the same belt and related parts will work on a bunch of Kenmore & Whirlpool dryers, matching only by size and by broad product range (range of years and group of brands/models).

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