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Electric Dryer Troubleshooting and Repair
by 411 on Dec 29, 2019
Electric dryers aren't very complicated. Here are some common symptoms that you may experience with your dryer: (Gas Troubleshooting)
- It doesn't work at all
- There's no heat
- It won't tumble
- Drying is too slow
- It overheats
- It seems to run forever
- It's noisy
- The light doesn't work
- It blows fuses or trips the circuit breaker
- My clothes smell bad!
- My clothes are marked or torn
- Learn more about dryers
- Where to buy Dryer Parts
Note: If your repair problem isn't listed, click here to email or chat with a repair expert.
If your dryer doesn't work at all, it could be because of problems with:
Check to see whether there's power getting to the dryer. Is it plugged in? If you plug something else into the outlet, does it work? If not, check for a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker.
If the door switch or the door-switch actuator is defective, the dryer won't work and you need to replace the failed component. The switch is inside the dryer main housing near the door frame. Sometimes you need to raise or open the top or front of the dryer to reach the switch.
Often the main wiring connection from the house, at the dryer, burns and the connection breaks. In this has happened to your dryer, you need to replace the power cord and the terminal block inside the dryer to which the wire is attached.
If your dryer doesn't heat, check these:
Check to see whether there's power getting to the dryer. Is it plugged in? Check for blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers--your dryer uses two fuses or circuit breakers. The dryer could tumble but not heat if only one of the two fuses is blown. If you have circuit breakers, one of the two circuit breakers can trip, even if the two for the dryer are connected.
Often a dryer heating element burns out, but doesn't trip the circuit breaker or blow a fuse. The heating element is simply a long coil of special wire. You can check it for continuity with an ohm meter. No continuity means the element is bad and you need to replace it--electric heating elements aren't repairable.
On many dryers, there's a thermal fuse mounted to the exhaust duct inside the back cover panel. The fuse--which is about an inch long--is usually embedded in black resin and mounted in a white plastic housing. If the fuse has blown, you need to replace it. (You can't re-set it.)
A common problem is for the main wiring connection from the house, at the dryer, to burn and break its connection. Because the dryer can still tumble with partial power, the connection may be only partially defective. You may need to replace both the power cord to the dryer and the terminal block inside the dryer that the wire is attached to.
If your dryer doesn't tumble, check these:
Dryers have a drive belt that turns the clothes drum. If the belt breaks, the drum stops rotating. Then you need to replace the belt, and often the idler pulley, because the pulley tends to wear out at the same time.
If the dryer motor only hums when you press the Start button, the motor may be burned out. Here's how to test the dryer motor:
- Remove the belt.
- Check for obstructions in the blower fan housing.
- Manually rotate the shaft of the motor.
If the motor is very stiff, or impossible to rotate manually, and the blower fan housing is clear, you need to replace the motor.
If the motor rotates freely, run the motor momentarily with the belt removed and the blower in place. If the motor runs fine with the belt removed, there may be a problem with the idler pulley or the clothes drum. Try to rotate the drum by hand. If it is very difficult to move, correct any problem with the rollers or pulley, and then reassemble the dryer and try it again.
If the motor hums but doesn't rotate on its own even with the belt removed--yet you can turn it freely by hand--you usually need to replace the motor or the motor start capacitor.
Your dryer can't operate at all if the door switch is defective. It's inside the dryer main housing near the door frame. Sometimes you need to raise or open the top or front of the dryer to reach the switch. If it's defective, you need to replace it.
It normally takes about 45 minutes for a dryer to dry a full load. If your dryer is taking more than an hour, check these.
Frequently there's an obstruction in the vent duct from the dryer to the outside of the house. For the dryer to heat properly, the duct must be clean and clear of lint or any other substance. That includes the outtake of the lint to the outside.
You can also buy a vent cleaning kit to clean out the vent outlet tube all the way outside the house. I personally did this and was shocked how much lint came out. My drying time almost was cut in half.
Your dryer's heating element may be partially burned out. If it is, your dryer still heats, but at such a low temperature that it takes three or four times as long to dry the clothes. If the element is partially burned out, replace it.
Your dryer has some internal ductwork. If it gets clogged, your dryer can't dry properly. In most dryers, to get to the internal ductwork to clear the clog, you have to substantially disassemble the dryer. A quick way to check for internal clogs is to remove the lint filter and use a flashlight to inspect the inside of the duct. If it looks clogged and you can't clear it using your vacuum, contact a qualified appliance repair technician.
Although this isn't a common problem, one of the thermostats that controls the temperature in your dryer may break and cause the dryer to heat poorly. If so, you need to replace it. The thermostat is usually a small, round, black device mounted to an oblong steel plate. The plate is mounted to the internal ductwork with two screws.
Usually, when an electric dryer overheats it's because of a defective cycling thermostat or a clogged vent system. Clean any lint from the internal and external ductwork, and/or replace the cycling thermostat (read about cycling thermostats in "Drying is too slow" above).
If your dryer seems to run forever, it could be because of a clogged vent or internal ductwork. Your dryer may have an automatic cycle that turns off the dryer when the clothes are dry. It does this with a special thermostat or moisture-sensing system.
Normally, this is what happens during an automatic cycle with a dryer:
- The thermostat tells the dryer to heat until the interior of the dryer reaches a pre-set temperature--say 135 degrees.
- When the dryer reaches the pre-set temperature, the thermostat tells the timer to begin advancing. (If there's a moisture sensor, the timer advances only if the moisture content of the clothing is low enough.)
- The timer advances until the interior cools, then the thermostat tells the timer to stop advancing, and tells the dryer to start heating again.
This cycle continues until the clothes are dry. But …if the vent is clogged, the dryer may never reach the proper operating temperature, so it doesn't send the signal to the timer and the dryer continues to run indefinitely, even if the clothes are completely dry. To fix the problem, clean the vent and/or internal ductwork.
If your dryer is noisy, check these:
Many dryers use rollers or wheels to support the clothes drum. When these rollers are worn, they can be noisy. You should replace the whole set of rollers at the same time.
Dryers have a tension or idler pulley that keeps tension on the main drive belt. When it's worn, it can be noisy. When that happens, don't lubricate it. Just replace it.
Many dryers use nylon or plastic glides at the front of the clothes drum for support. When these are worn, they can be noisy. When that happens, replace them.
Some dryers support the clothes drum in the rear with a center spindle instead of rollers. The spindle may be a ball-and-socket type support or a shaft through a sleeve. When the components are worn, they may squeak, squeal, or rub. You can't repair them. Just replace them when they're worn.
Your dryer's blower wheel pulls air over the heat source, through the clothes drum, and past the thermostats, then pushes it out the exhaust duct. The blower wheel, which is usually plastic, may wear out over time. But if it's noisy, it may simply be clogged with lint. Clean the blower and test to see if the dryer is still noisy. If it is, you probably need to replace it.
If your dryer has an interior light, it probably uses a standard 40-watt appliance bulb, but check your owner's manual to be sure.
If the bulb is good but the light won't come on, check the door switch, which serves two functions:
- When the door is closed, it turns off the light and allows the dryer to start.
- When the door is open, it turns on the light and prevents the dryer from starting.
Electric dryers use 220 volts or two power lines of 110 volts each. Some components in the dryer need only 110 volts; the heating element requires 220 volts. So it's possible for one part of the dryer to be fine and another part to have a short circuit. Short circuits can be caused by the heating element, the main power cord, or any other part of the internal wiring. To decide where the problem lies, unplug the dryer, then:
- If the circuit breakers or fuses remain on and/or intact when the dryer is unplugged, it's likely the problem is with the dryer. Contact a qualified appliance repair technician.
- If the circuit breaker trips or the fuse blows when the dryer is unplugged, it's likely the problem is with the house wiring, fuse box, or circuit box. Contact a qualified electrician.
If you don't clean out the lint trap frequently, your dryer may have small lint fires inside the cabinet. The smell from these fires can leave a strong odor in the clothes drum.
Also, if there are any solvents, paints, lacquers, etc. in use in the house, your dryer may alter and/or amplify the fumes to an odor unlike the natural fumes given by the solvent, paint, etc.
Here's what to do when your washed clothes smell bad:
- First, clean all of the lint from the inside cabinet and ductwork of your dryer.
- Have a qualified appliance repair technician inspect the dryer for damage caused by lint fire. Try cleaning it yourself with a vent cleaning tool first.
- Then, try to clear the odor, by running a couple of loads of old rags or towels with vinegar.
- Or simply, you left your clothes in the wash before drying them. Wash them again is an easy solution.
If your clothes get marked or torn in your dryer, check these:
Your dryer may use rollers, or wheels, to support the rear of the clothes drum. When these are worn out, they may cause the clothes drum to drop down slightly, which can pinch the clothes between the top of the clothes drum and the rear of the dryer interior. When the rollers wear out, you need to replace the whole set.
Your dryer may have a felt-like seal at the rear of the drum. If this seal is worn, torn, or missing, clothes can get caught and torn in the space between the clothes drum and the rear of the dryer interior. When the rear seal wears out, you need to replace it.
Your dryer probably uses nylon or plastic glides at the front of the clothes drum for support. When these are worn out, they may cause the clothes drum to drop down slightly, which can pinch the clothes between the top of the clothes drum and the front of the dryer interior. When the glides wear out, you need to replace them as a set.
Many dryers have a felt-like seal at the front of the drum. If this seal is worn, torn, or missing, the clothes in the dryer may get caught and torn in the space between the clothes drum and the front of the dryer interior. When the seal wears out, you need to replace it.
Warning! To avoid personal injury or even death, always disconnect your appliance from its power source--that is, unplug it or break the connection at the circuit breaker or fuse box--before you do any troubleshooting or repair work on your appliance. Also, because some components may have sharp edges, use caution while working on your appliance.
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