Troubleshooting a Dryer: Drum Doesn't Tumble

A clothes dryer with a pile of shirts inside.
  • 1-6 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-500

When troubleshooting problems with your dryer, you need to be able to diagnose a number of different issues. One situation you’ll often encounter is a drum that won’t turn. There can be several reasons for this and a useful troubleshooting list can help you decide what you can repair yourself and what needs a professional's touch.

1. Does the Dryer Start?

The first thing to establish when troubleshooting your dryer is whether it will start or not. If it won’t, start by checking the outlet and the circuit breaker. Is the dryer plugged in or has it tripped the circuit breaker? If the breaker has been tripped, flip it back on and try the dryer again. The drum should turn without a problem.

If both the plug and breaker are fine, you’ll need to inspect the door switch. When you close the door on the dryer, a plastic peg protruding from the door is designed to push on a switch inside the wall beyond and activate it allowing the dryer to work. The peg might be bent or broken, in which case it won’t connect with the switch.

You can try to straighten the peg, but if it’s broken, you’ll need to replace it. If the peg is in good condition, the switch has probably failed, but before replacing it, it can be further tested by briefly inserting a small object the size of the peg inside the hole opening of the switch to trigger it and start the dryer.

2. Dryer Starts but Drum Won’t Turn

If the dryer will start but the drum refuses to turn, there are three possible causes: the belt, the motor, or the capacitor.

3. Belt Problems

person repairing a clothes dryer

The belt is the easiest problem to check. Try to turn the drum with your hand. With a working belt, the drum will be a little stiff, and you’ll need to put in some effort to turn it. If it turns very easily and loosely, the belt is probably broken.

To confirm, you'll need to, first of all, UNPLUG THE DRYER from the wall to prevent electrocution or injury. Next, you need to remove the lid after which you should be able to see the belt around the drum. Lift it to see if there’s adequate tension (be aware there are instances where a broken belt has stayed attached to the drum so it could come off in your hand).

Replacing the belt can be a tricky job since it’s not easy to access the area you need to work on. Often, the heating element for the dryer is behind it. You can still do the job yourself but you’ll need to take care and know what you’re doing. The simplest solution here can be to hire a professional.

4. Motor Problems

If the dryer makes a humming noise but the drum won’t turn, it’s fairly easy to assume the problem will be in the motor. The motor itself might be jammed or there could also be a fault with the capacitor.

You can try checking by turning the dryer on, reaching in through the door to spin the drum by hand and closing the door again. If the dryer starts to work until it has to stop to reverse, you can be certain the problem is in the capacitor. You need to be aware a capacitor can hold an electrical charge even after the dryer has been unplugged so you need to be very wary if you try to replace it yourself.

If you can eliminate the capacitor as the problem, then you can be pretty certain your issue is a malfunctioning motor in need of replacement.