The effect of a constant electric field E on the low-temperature Johnson noise of a metallic resistor is calculated by nonequilibrium diagrammatic perturbation theory. The expansion, in powers of E2, is shown to diverge, and the divergence is associated with accumulating Joule heat. An insight into how to treat a steady state properly when there is heating is provided by the Boltzmann equation. A vertex function that corresponds to a steady-state solution of this equation is identified. With this vertex function it is possible to evaluate not only one-particle operators, for which the Boltzmann equation is sufficient, but also troublesome contributions to the current fluctuations and other two-body observables for which a many-body approach is required. The calculated corrections to the current correlations agree qualitatively, but not quantitatively, with simple phenomenological agruments. In particular, it is not possible to describe the leading effects of the electric field solely in terms of a variable local temperature. The model calculation illustrates and sheds some light on several problems that only appear when nonlinear deviations from thermal equilibrium must be considered: the complicated effects to which heat generation leads, the identification and treatment of these effects in perturbation theory, and the difficulties these effects pose for hypothetical generalizations of the fluctuation dissipation theorem. Some possible connections between the calculation and 1f noise are also briefly explored. In particular, recent experiments that may confirm the conclusion of this calculation, that systems in which there is only impurity scattering do not exhibit 1f noise, are noted. © 1979 The American Physical Society.