Common Dryer Problems and Easy Ways to Fix Them
There comes a time in every person's life when the unexpected happens. You throw a load of wet clothes in the dryer, 20 minutes later it buzzes, and you return to find the clothes just as wet as they were when you left them. But wait—you're a tried and true do-it-yourselfer, so with some advice, you can fix your dryer.
Start by reading our article describing how a dryer works before tackling a problem head-on, and as always, unplug the dryer or turn the power off prior to starting any repairs.
For many of the problems you could be facing, finding a solution may require the use of a Volt-Ohm (VOM) reader, which can be picked up at most hardware stores. Access to most or all crucial parts will require removing various parts of the dryer, so be sure to keep track of which screws go where so when it's time to button everything up, you know what to do. And finally, as always, try to rule out the problems that are easiest to deal with, such as the dryer being too hot, before conducting extensive repairs.
Drum Spins But There Is no Heat
This could be the effect of a number of problems. Here are the most common things to check and repair to fix this.
Take the back panel on your machine off to gain access to the thermal fuse. Unplug the wires from the terminals and pull the fuse out to check for a break. If it is indeed broken, replace it with an identical fuse. You may need to take the broken fuse to a hardware store to make sure your replacement is correct if you can’t find out what fuse you’ll need for your model.
Bad Temperature Switch
Remove the knob on the temperature switch and open up your dryer’s control panel by either releasing the clips holding the cover in place or by unscrewing either the front or back covers. To test the temperature switch first, you’ll need to use that Volt-Ohm meter. Set it to RX1, remove the leads, and touch the probes to the switch's terminals. The reading should be zero or infinity. Now turn the switch and test again. Your reading should change from zero to infinity or infinity to zero. If not, the switch will need to be replaced. With the panel already open, swapping out the damaged part is as simple as disconnecting it and adding a new one. Make sure you know which temperature switch to buy for your dryer.
Remove the back panel to the dryer once again to get to the thermostat. To test its condition set the multimeter to RX1 again. Remove a lead from one of the two outside terminals and press the probes to the terminals. Your reading should be 0 or the thermostat isn’t working properly.
To change out a faulty part, disconnect the rest of the wires from the terminals and unfasten the screw holding it tight. Pull it out and slide an identical one back in. Secure it in place and reconnect the wires the same way they were originally set to get your dryer back to working condition.
Bad Heating Coils
You will access this part by removing the back panel as well. Conduct a test on the part with the VOM at RX by removing the leads from the coil and pressing the probes to the terminals. If the reading shows 0, the coil is bad and should be changed out. Remove any wires from the terminal attached to the heating element and simply unscrew it and slide it off. The new one should fit right in the space and be reattached the same way you took out the old one.
Getting to this part will require you to go into the control panel. Remove the timer knob first and then open the panel. Disconnect the leads from the motor and this time set your multimeter to RX100. Clip the probes onto the leads and check the meter. A reading of infinity indicates that the timer motor is shot. Just disconnect the bad timer fully from the terminals and replace it to eliminate this problem.
Motor Is Running But the Drum Isn't Spinning
Nine times out of 10, this issue is caused by a broken belt, but there are other places to look should that solution not do the trick.
For a broken belt, all you need to do is replace it with an identical belt. Line up the new belt with the markings on the drum from the old one. Then, just wind it around both the motor pulley and the idler pulley and it should be set.
Underneath the tumbler is a roller that it sits on. This may become too worn to work properly and may need replacing. Fortunately, switching it out is simple—just open the top of the dryer, unscrew the front panel, and take the tumbler out to gain access. Then, remove the retaining clip on the roller to slide it off and replace it with a working one.
Motor or Idler Problems
Open up the top of the dryer and remove the front panel again to get a look at your drive motor. Check the pulley configuration to ensure it’s still in working order. If the belts are just out of place, refit them correctly and you should be done.
If it’s the motor itself that’s having issues, removing it is a bit more complicated. Slide the belts off of the pulleys and take out the tumbler to get to the drive motor itself. Release the clamps holding it in place on both sides and then rotate the drive shaft to loosen the blower wheel. Open up the back to the dryer this time and unscrew and remove the air duct to get to the blower wheel, which you will then pull out. Now you should be able to finally slide the drive motor out completely to fit a new one in.
The Dryer Is Getting Too Hot
A dryer that is too hot is a very dangerous problem that should be checked immediately. Make sure you’ve let the appliance cool, however, before you try to find the source of the problem.
Check both the lint trap and the vent on the outside of the house. If either is clogged, there is a risk of carbon monoxide buildup in the house and, obviously, a risk of overheating. Clean the clogs immediately for a quick fix, and make sure that whatever was clogging it isn’t likely to return.
Bad Thermostat or Faulty Heating Coils
Follow the same test and repair procedures listed above.
Dryer Won't Work at All
Again, there are numerous potential perpetrators to check for when this is the case.
Power Is Off
Check the voltage at the outlet with the VOM. If no power is flowing to the appliance, go next to your breaker or fuse box. Make sure nothing has blown or that the breaker hasn’t tripped for whatever reason. If everything checks out here, you may need to replace the outlet itself.
Now, what if there’s electricity at the outlet but none is getting to your dryer? Try changing out the power cord, as age and too much movement may have frayed the connections in the cord.
Bad Timer or Thermostat
Again, follow the same tests and repairs listed above.
Bad Terminal Block
First, remove the power cord access panel. Use the multimeter to check for voltage at the terminal block, but be very careful here, as the power needs to be on for this test. If you don't feel comfortable, call an experienced electrician.
If you can determine the block is faulty without an electrician, unplug the machine and continue with replacing the part. Disconnect the power wires from the terminal block and remove the mounting screws holding it in place. With a flathead screwdriver, release the terminal block wires from the casing and then take out the three nuts. Installing the new block should be as simple as reversing these steps.
Bad Start Switch
Pull the knob off the switch and open up the control panel, once again from either the front or the back. Set the VOM to RX1, remove one of the leads to the switch, and clip the probes to the switch's terminals. The reading should be infinity. Then, press the start button and the reading should change to zero. If not, the start switch is bad and you’ll just need to disconnect it and replace it with a working one.
These, of course, are not everything that can go wrong with your dryer, but only the most common problems. When removing parts for replacement, I find keeping a notebook nearby to take notes on which wire goes where to be a valuable assistant. Others will also take photos on their phone for visual diagrams to reinstalling parts.
Of course, when you take your faulty part to the appliance parts shop, make sure to have the make and model number for your dryer handy just in case they need it. With that said, good luck and hopefully your dryer will be sound for several more years.