The washer and dryer are two appliances that are easily taken for granted. While they’re working, they are rarely given a second thought, but when one breaks down, the impact on your life can be surprising. Consider what life would be like without your clothes dryer. Suddenly, your home is filled with cold, wet clothes hanging on hangers, especially if you don't live in a climate where outdoor drying is a viable option. After days of drying, the clothes are stiff, wrinkled and they still smell like the salmon you made for dinner yesterday.
Besides the inconvenience of hanging clothes, a dryer that doesn’t heat can also sap your spirits. For some, venturing to the dryer only to find a wet mess inside is almost as depressing as a long-time friend declaring the friendship over. (Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea.)
Diagnose the Problem
When a gas dryer tumbles but doesn’t dry, it may have one of the following problems:
- Restricted airflow
- Bad thermostat
- Bad timer motor
- Bad temperature selector switch
- Bad centrifugal switch
- Bad safety fuse
- Bad flame sensor
- Bad gas valve coils
- Bad gas jet
- Bad igniter
While that appears to be a laundry list of potential problems, the cause is most commonly attributed to restricted airflow, a bad thermostat or a bad igniter.
Fixing a Gas Dryer’s Air Flow
If you can feel a little bit of heat in your gas dryer but the clothes are taking forever to dry or not drying at all, poor airflow may be the problem. However, even more than an inconvenience, poor airflow through a gas dryer can be a potential safety hazard. It is critical that you routinely check the airflow on your dryer to prevent it from becoming a fire hazard.
With the dryer running, go outside and put your hand over the exhaust vent. If the air coming out of the vent is weak, check the vent for a lint clog. If you clean the vent and the flow is still weak, check the lint trap on the inside of the dryer. The lint trap should be cleaned after each and every load. Once you clean the lint trap, look behind the dryer to make sure the exhaust hose is connected to the outside vent, and look for any kinks in the hose that may be obstructing the flow of the exhaust.
Testing the Thermostat on a Gas Dryer
Gas dryers have a number of thermostats that regulate the temperature inside the chamber. They are usually small, silver discs that can sometimes be grouped together. Depending on the model of your dryer, they can be located under the lint trap, on the blower housing or inside the vent line. Always unplug your dryer before testing the thermostats.
Once you find the thermostats, check the wire terminals for any broken wires or corrosion. Next, remove the wires and set your multi-tester to read ohms (X1 on most testers). Touch one probe to each terminal post. At room temperature, the thermostat should offer a reading of zero Ω. If you get a reading of infinity, the thermostat is bad.
Testing the Igniter on a Gas Dryer
Most gas dryers have one of two types of igniters: a spark-type or a glow-type. The best way to test the igniter is to watch it in action. Remove the access panel on the front of the dryer. Set the dryer to run at the highest temperature setting and start the machine. While watching the burner assembly, look for the spark or glow of the igniter. If you have the spark-type and it doesn’t work, it will probably have to be serviced by a professional repairman. If it is the glow-type igniter, you can perform a test using your multi-tester.
Remove the two wires from the igniter and check all of the connectors for corrosion. If all appears in good shape, set the multi-tester to read ohms (X1) and touch one probe to each terminal. If you get a reading of either zero Ω or infinity, the igniter is bad. A good igniter will have a reading of anywhere between 50 and 600 ohms.
Dave Donovan is a freelance copywriter living in Atco, N.J. An electrician for 15 years, an injury forced him to pursue his true passion - writing.