How to Repair a Dryer

a clothes dryer with the back panel removed and hands using tools

Clothes dryers are a modern convenience most of us have come to rely on, so when they stop working, we want to get repairs underway fast.

Step 1 - Identify the Problem

This is the most challenging step in dryer repair. The problem could stem from any number of parts, so narrow the possibilities with some investigative work.

Step 2 - Check Power Cord

If your dryer is providing inconsistent power or won’t start at all, thoroughly check the power cord to make sure it's plugged firmly into the wall and isn't damaged. Turn off the circuit to the dryer at the main circuit panel and then turn it back on to see if that solves the problem.

Step 3 - Test the Timer

The timer is often responsible for a moody dryer. With use, the timer knob itself, or the mechanism behind it can fail, causing your dryer to run endlessly or refuse to start. Wiggle the timer, try different settings, and push/pull it a few times to see if there's a short in the system.

Step 4 - Check the Door Switch

Another common issue is a faulty or blocked door sensor. This mechanism tells the machine that the door is closed. If it's malfunctioning, or just obstructed by some stray lint, the machine thinks the door is open and won’t run. Test the door switch by manually pushing on it while attempting to run the machine. Pull the door switch and test for continuity with a multimeter to establish whether it's working correctly.

an open clothes dryer with a load of laundry and lint in the door

Step 5 - Dismantle the Machine

Tearing apart a dryer is not difficult, but it does require attention to detail. Typically there are small screws inside the door that release the top of the dryer and more screws inside the top. With the top off, you can remove the front, but watch out for wires that connect it to the electrical components.

It’s easiest to dismantle the machine when it is laying on it’s back, but be sure to place it on wooden blocks so the exhaust flange for the dryer hose doesn’t get crushed. This will provide access to the drum, motor, heating element, rollers, and more.

You may not need to remove the front and top parts of the dryer, though. Before you try that, you can remove the back panel instead to access the fuse and thermostats—common culprits in a malfunctioning dryer.

Step 6 - Test the Components

With the back of the machine off, grab a multimeter to help identify the problem. Put the probes on either side of the main thermostat and look for a reading or listen for a beep, depending on your multimeter model. Next, test the secondary thermostat. Finally, test the fuse. If the multimeter fails to register at any of these points, you’ve identified the problem. Replace the faulty part and you should be back in business.

a man looking into a clothes dryer

Step 7 - Dig Deeper

If everything checks out up to this point, your issue could be deeper in the system. Check for lint build up inside the casing, drum, and engine components. Blow out all dust and make sure there isn’t any foreign material inside the machine that could cause issues.

Grab your multimeter again and check continuity. Unplug the large red wire on the timer. Connect one probe to the unplugged unit and the other to red wire on the heating element terminal. A functioning system should read about 15 ohms. If it does then you know the heating element, high-limit thermostat, operating thermostat, and thermo cut-off fuse are all functioning. If you don't get a solid read, test one element at a time to find the culprit.

Step 7 - Motor Issues

If your electrical components all check out, the problem may be with the motor itself. Depending on your dryer model, it may or may not be worth the money and effort to repair or replace a faulty dryer engine. Since the motor runs both the fan and drum, it your drum is not rotating, this could be the problem. If it is, you may need to replace the dryer.