Rancilio Silvia pre-2013 boiler heating element replacement without new boiler assembly

Equipment doesn't work? Troubleshooting? If you're handy, members can help.

#1: Post by bond007 »

I have a Silvia I bought secondhand years ago for $200. One day the GFI breaker in the kitchen popped. After taking it apart and troubleshooting, I found the boiler heating element to be the culprit.

This is the style of boiler I have:

Being handy and having a garage full of tools (due to having a driveway full of sports cars), I was able to remove and drill out the heating element

I goofed and ordered a 220V Rancilio heating element

It fits and did not leak but does not heat up not enough to produce steam.

I also managed to find two other problems while operating the machine without the covers:
  1. v1 steam valve leaked
  2. leak at the Ulka pump 90-degree output to the stainless braided line
I ordered a v3 steam wand assembly (yay! $$$ justified for upgrades) along with some other bits that needed replacement. I found the heating element with the right dimensions but 110V. The issue is that the new heating element does not seal at the top from one of the holes that are sealed by an o-ring on the inside of the boiler and secured by the nuts (not an issue with the Rancilio 220V heating element, because of a wider flange at the top of its heating element.

110V heating element that fits but doesn't have a wider flange at the top where the o-rings are

Rancilio 220V heating element has a "cup" for the o-ring and is slightly wider

The threads on both heating elements are the same OD and threading. The nuts on the Rancilio heating element have a larger OD. I tried swapping them but that didn't solve the issue. Clearly, it is the "cup" and slightly larger diameter of the Rancilio that are taking up the slack in my drill press machining "precision".

Potential options I have identified to solve this:
1. [Hard] TIG weld/braze the offending hole(s) and re-drill the hole slightly smaller, where it might seal properly with the correct voltage heating element
2. [Easy and cheap] Different seal/o-ring (any suggestions?)
3. [Easy but more expensive] A different heating element that is 110V that has the wider flange and will seal correctly

Given that I am $200 into this unit, I'm not looking to spend another $250 for a new boiler/heating element given how close I am to having a replacement boiler heating element for a fraction of the updated/replacement one...

What have folks done for that Ulka pump 90-degree outlet leak? There are Rancilio part numbers for the potential offenders but I haven't found a supplier that stocks the replacement fitting.


#2: Post by djdriver »

I have brought five or six Silvia's back to life, and I have never found a replacement pre-2006 120 V heating element that works for my needs. I have had success fixing shorted heating elements with this resource as a guide: https://www.orphanespresso.com/Olympia- ... 620-1.html

That being said, in cases were the element was not salvageable I have always needed to bite the bullet and buy a new boiler assembly, as I am not comfortable welding a boiler that needs to stand up to pressurization... perhaps you are.

Regarding the pump leak: is it on the pump side of the 90° attachment? I would recommend buying the Ulka EX5 pump with brass ends instead of plastic. That plus Teflon tape should get you squared away.

bond007 (original poster)

#3: Post by bond007 (original poster) »

Well, it's too late for that fix and I want to say that the resistance across my coil was open, so that fix would not have saved it. It is probably good to reference that fix in as many places as possible in case someone else sees a faulty heating element repair and will follow that troubleshooting guide before trying what I did to repair the boiler/heating element.

I am thinking washers with the same ID as the heating element threads but a larger OD might do the trick, given there are extra threads exposed when tightening the heating element nuts. I might need a different type of O-ring/seal.

I'll probably remove the 90 and apply Teflon tape and see if that fixes it. $25 for a pump is not as bad as I thought it would have been but Teflon tape is free.

bond007 (original poster)

#4: Post by bond007 (original poster) »

Turns out the fix was simple (at least for now). The new 110V heating element had crappy black o-rings. I took everything apart and saw that one was severed. Swapped the o-rings (better and thicker ones supplied with the Rancilio 220V) and no more leaks at full pressure/temperature. Teflon tape fixed the Ulka leak. Free > $25.

Instead of a new boiler assembly, I modified the old one and got an upgraded heating element/steam wand assembly.

New problem:
I have full steam output about 1 minute from turning the machine on (with the boiler full of water) from dead cold. :D


#5: Post by cirill3x »

Which heating element did you end up buying?

I'm looking to buy one just to have it as a backup since my current heating element is the same as your old one and I don't want to have the machine down if for long if it blows up :P

User avatar

#6: Post by stefano65 »

We had a customers some years back that was buying old Silvias, restore them
and he found the Heating element to retrofit as the post person says,
as soon as I came up with his last name and look him up in our system
I will be able to find the heating element that was installed,
Stefano Cremonesi
Stefano's Espresso Care
Repairs & sales from Oregon.

User avatar

#7: Post by stefano65 »

Found it
is the Isomac one,
and since quite less expensive he then moved to the Saeco one,
900W instead of 1000W but apparently not notable of a difference for this application to be noted as not issue.
I'm not sure If I can post direct links to the parts since we are a vendor, but we can be contacted of course from our site.

PS I also found another one that is exactly as the pictured one from the post maker guy,
1000W copper coil complete with nuts and 0-rings.
Stefano Cremonesi
Stefano's Espresso Care
Repairs & sales from Oregon.


#8: Post by cirill3x »

Thank you so much Stefano, I will PM you to get the specific model, although I think I already found it with your hint :wink:

User avatar

#9: Post by Emoto »

What about copper crush washers instead of o-rings?

Team HB

#10: Post by JRising »

Try it, let us know. So long as it is nearly the full size of the o-ring cup, it should deform in the same way as the o-ring and form a seal above the "cup" before the element flange touched the boiler... However, o-rings might be cheaper.