Turned on our 2 year old stove (Whirlpool Gold) and heard fizzing noises, then smelled electrical burning. Went downstairs and shut off the breaker (40 amp). That was the only way to get it to stop "fizzing". (6 gauge wire by the way). The range is 240 volt electric 3 wire hooked up to a 40 amp breaker (6 gauge wire). When I took the back panel off the stove I saw exactly where the problem occurred. The black wire was burned, the terminal block was melted, and the inside of the back metal panel that I removed was pitch black in the spot that was facing that area before removal. I removed the stove top and inspected all wires and other electronic components. No problems at all.
So my questions are:
This is a fairly "common" issue, that typically occurs due to high resistance at the terminal. The high resistance can be caused by corrosion, or a loose connection. The high resistance causes heating, which causes higher resistance, which leads to more heating. Eventually the insulation on the wire starts to melt, and/or burn. Usually the heat will transfer through the terminal block, and into the smaller wiring in the stove. When the heat becomes too much, the smaller appliance wiring will fail and open the circuit.
In most cases this is not a super dangerous event, as the wiring is contained within the stove. However, there is a chance that this can lead to a fire in the house, especially if the cover is not properly installed.
Corrosion is more commonly a problem if the wiring is aluminium, though can still be a problem with copper wiring. Because stoves/cooktops/ranges draw large amounts of current, there is typically some heating of the wiring during operation. The constant heating and cooling cycles of the wiring can lead to corrosion, and/or hardening of the wiring over time. This corrosion and/or hardening increases the resistance of the wiring, which cause the heating to be worse.
Occasional inspection of the terminal block and wiring, can prevent the corrosion/hardening from getting too bad. If you notice any discoloration or corrosion, have the cord replaced. There are also conductive pastes available, that can be applied to the wiring and terminals to help prevent corrosion. While this should always be used with aluminium wiring, it may also be applied to copper wiring.
This can be caused initially by not tightening the terminals to the proper torque (usually specified by the manufacturer), or over time by heating/cooling cycles. Loose or bad connections can cause arcing and/or higher resistance. As discussed before, high resistance leads to heat.
Make sure all terminals are tightened to the manufacturers specifications. It's also a good idea to tighten the terminals after a few hours of operation. As stated before, occasional inspection can also prevent this situation.
The heating was localized to the stove\cooktop\range, so the thermal protection in the breaker would not trip. Since stoves\cooktops\ranges draw large amounts of current during normal operation, the current during the event likely didn't go high enough to cause heating in the breaker to trigger the thermal protection. It could also be that the breaker is faulty, so it should be inspected.
The stove may be salvageable, though you'll want to thoroughly inspect all the wiring to insure it is not damaged. Replace any damaged wiring with equivalent parts (cooking appliances use high heat resistant wiring).
If the stove is still under warranty, you'll want to contact the manufacturer to discuss your options.