Why is my Microwave Not Turning Smoothly? (5 tips to fix microwave turntable)

Arguably, the microwave is one of the greatest inventions of the modern world. Its convenience is unrivaled; just about everybody has one nowadays; over 90% of the US owns a microwave oven!

Unfortunately, as with most appliances, their convenience is often compromised with nagging issues. One of these issues for microwaves is that the microwave doesn’t turn smoothly.

A microwave won’t turn smoothly if there are food particles or debris caught under the turntable, the turntable is improperly seated on the roller ring, there is a dirty or damaged roller guide, a damaged tray coupling, or a faulty turntable drive motor. In most case, you can get a microwave to turn smoothly by cleaning and reseating the turntable.

Read on to learn why microwaves rotate, the five potential causes preventing your microwave from turning smoothly, and tips and tricks to get your microwave back in working order.

Why do microwaves need to rotate?

So your microwave won’t spin. You’re probably wondering, “Well, is it really a big deal? Won’t the food get hot either way?”

Microwaves need to rotate to heat or reheat food adequately. Depending on how the waves interact in the microwave, there are cold spots and hot spots; by rotating your food, microwaves help correctly distribute heat to your food.

Microwaves work by releasing, guess what? Micro-waves!

These waves are absorbed by food, which turns your frozen lasagna into a gourmet dinner that would impress any lovely lady.

As a result of microwave cavities being small in size, the waves begin to interfere with each other. This creates what is known as a standing wave, which is weaker in comparison to the main wave, what is known as a parent wave.

The interactions between the standing wave and the parent wave, the primary wave, eventually create cold and hot spots.

Without a rotating microwave turntable, half of your dinner would still be frozen while the other half is scalding hot.

Beginning to understand the importance?

microwave not turning smoothly

Why the microwave may not rotate Smoothly (5 potential reasons and fixes)

Now that you understand your microwave must rotate to enjoy your leftovers or frozen dinner, let’s uncover the potential culprits behind your microwave malfunctions.

Here are 5 causes to fix your microwave not turning smoothly:

  • Food particles stuck under turntable roller ring
  • Turntable improperly seated on roller ring
  • Roller ring improperly situated on wheel track
  • Worn down tray coupling
  • Faulty turntable motor

Food particles may be caught under the turntable roller ring

We understand – sometimes things get a little messy. However, this can negatively affect your microwave.

Food particles from splattered food can build up under the turntable roller ring. When the buildup is substantial, it can restrict the movement of the turntable.

Microwaving foods like pasta or foods with skin (sausage, potatoes, etc.) can splatter or explode in the microwave. It’s easy to then forget to clean under the turntable.

Over time, as this happens repeatedly, food builds up under the turntable roller ring, ultimately obstructing the roller ring’s movement.

How to fix it

Carefully remove the turntable from the ring and inspect the microwave for leftover food debris.

Proceed to give the microwave a good clean with soapy water and a sponge to remove the food from the turntable track.

cleaning a microwave with a microfiber towel

Turntable improperly seated on roller ring

While microwaves aren’t super complicated, they are comprised of a few parts that must match up for proper functioning.

The microwave turntable sits on the roller ring; if it is not correctly seated on the ring, it is likely to wobble or get caught in the microwave cavity.

The microwave rotates by placing the turntable on wheels, known as the roller ring.

Sometimes, the turntable may be knocked from its alignment on the roller ring.

How to fix it

Remove the turntable from the roller ring, then reposition it to its functional position.

Having a care manual for your microwave is helpful if you need help reassembling it correctly.

For additional resources, Google and YouTube are your best friend.

diagram of internal microwave components including the turntable, roller ring, wheels, and tray coupling

Damaged or dirty roller guide

If you reposition the turntable and still experience issues, the next step is to check the roller ring or guide.

Microwave roller rings sit on a track, allowing the wheels to rotate the turntable in a perfect circle. If the wheels become misaligned, this can prevent the microwave from turning smoothly. Often, damaged or dirty wheels on the guide lead to misalignment.

As we work our way down the microwave’s build, we arrive at the track for the roller ring, also known as the roller guide.

Similar to the turntable, if the roller guide isn’t seated in the sunken grooves of the wheel track, how is the turntable supposed to turn?

News flash: it can’t.

Checking the individual wheels on the guide is the best thing to do in this scenario; it’s often damaged or dirty wheels that result in the roller guide running off track.

How to fix it

Remove the turntable from the microwave and remove the roller ring from the wheel track.

First, inspect the wheels on the roller ring for damage. The best way to do this is by spinning the wheels individually with your hand.

If you notice one of the wheels getting caught, it’s likely the culprit. You can then order a replacement roller ring to fix the issue.

If all the wheels appear in good condition, place them back into the wheel track, ensuring all the wheels are aligned with the grooves.

Damaged tray coupling

The tray coupling, or the turntable shaft, is the next step down from the roller ring.

If the tray coupling or shaft of the microwave is damaged, the turntable cannot sit directly on it. This leads to wobbling that can result in the turntable being obstructed by the microwave walls.

The tray coupling comprises multiple “prongs” that the microwave turntable plate fits onto.

The motor powers the coupling and is the piece that actually causes the rotation of the turntable. Without the tray coupling, the turntable would have no relation to the microwave motor.

The microwave turntable wobbles when the coupling or shaft is damaged or worn down. If this results in hitting the microwave walls, the turntable can get caught and stop rotating entirely.

How to fix it

Remove the turntable from the microwave. Inspect the tray coupler for cracks or wear and tear.

If the tray coupler has visible damage, the best option is to order a replacement.

If it appears okay, you can place everything back as it was. There is likely another issue, unfortunately.

guy throwing a hamburger into the microwave and slamming it close

Faulty turntable drive motor

So, you’ve tried everything: you checked for food, aligned the turntable and roller ring, and even inspected the tray coupler! The likely remaining problem can be found in the drive motor.

Over time, turntable drive motors endure lots of use and subsequently get worn down. As they get worn down, the microwave turntable no longer has anything powering it to rotate it.

Even if everything else in the microwave is clean and aligned, the drive motor powers the microwave.

When you put a cook time into your microwave, the motor runs for that allotted time to rotate and heat the food evenly.

Unfortunately, it can degrade to a defective state where it doesn’t rotate at all. Without anything powering the turntable, you’re out of luck.

How to fix it

Unplug your microwave first! It’s unsafe to attempt to fix electrical components with live wires.

Remove the turntable and roller from the microwave. Detach the bottom panel of the microwave for access to the turntable motor.

Remove the necessary screws to detach the motor from the microwave. With the motor disconnected, remove the electrical connectors from the motor.

Attach the connectors to your new motor and screw it back into the microwave. Reposition the panel, and you’re good to go.

Oh, and plug the microwave back in so the motor receives power!

Why is my microwave not rotating smoothly?

Your microwave is not rotating smoothly for one of the following reasons: there is food stuck under the turntable, the turntable isn’t correctly seated on the roller ring, the roller guide is damaged or dirty, the tray coupling has been worn down, the turntable motor is faulty.

What are the signs that a microwave is going bad?

Your microwave may be going bad if you see visible smoke and sparks, it always smells burnt, the food doesn’t correctly heat it, or it is visibly damaged.

Why is my microwave stuttering?

The microwave begins to stutter when the roller wheels get caught in the wheel track. To solve this issue, check the track for food particles and ensure the wheels on the roller guide are in good condition.

Is it OK if my microwave doesn’t rotate?

It’s OK if your microwave doesn’t rotate if you’re okay with having food that heats unevenly. A microwave that doesn’t turn smoothly will subject your food to cold and hot spots, resulting in uneven heating.

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