I made a mistake too...I broke the cardinal rule! 'Identify the source, then verify it dead' with your meter! I didn't do that. I had my meter out, and I checked things, but didn't verify the incoming hot leads! I thought the 'TOP' of the contactor was wired to the hot leads.....it wasn't!
So, now I've got 500 volts AC, coming into the bottom...and I thought the power was off in the panel! Well, it turns out, I had a guardian angel that day, watching over me. I reached in and touched a screw that I was unhooking, and felt a little tingle in my hand...hmmm, was that a shock, I wondered? I grabbed my meter and started testing everything for power. To my horror, I realized there was 500 volts coming into the bottom of the contactor, HOT!
The reason I only felt a tingle is the lucky part....
The line I touched had live power on it, but it was feeding through the bad heating element (the reason I was there) first, then to me! This reduced the power I got substantially. I hardly felt it! Had I touched any other wire, I would have gotten nailed!
It was a bad mistake, one I won't make again! I have been reawakened! Lucky day for me!! Thank you, angels....Craig