“Is my shirt dry yet? I’m gonna be late!” This Fix-It Guide on clothes dryer repair tells how a dryer works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a dryer problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to disassemble a clothes dryer, and how to service the drive belt and idler pulley. It also refers to other Fix-It Guides on electrical cord repair, switch repair, motor repair, appliance controls repair, heating element repair, and others.
How Does a Dryer Work?
A clothes dryer is a large appliance for drying clothes, bedding, towels, and other linens. Moisture is removed from clothes with a combination of air, heat, and motion. Gas and electric dyers differ mainly in the heat source. Both gas and electric models use a motor to turn a drive belt. The drive belt revolves the drum which holds the clothing. A blower directs air past the heat source and into the drum where it draws lint and moisture from the fabrics through a lint screen and out an exhaust duct. Appliance controls regulate the options, such as temperature and drying time. Some machines use mechanical timers while others rely on digital electronics.
What Can Go Wrong with a Dryer?
A dryer is a sturdy machine that will usually last for many years. The most common problem is also the easiest to fix: a buildup of lint. In addition, the electrical cord can fail. Switches, the timer and the timer motor, thermostats and the heating element can all fail. The drive belt and idler can malfunction. Many of these problems you can resolve yourself without calling a costly service person.
Newer dryers use digital rather than mechanical timers and other controls. Many of these offer diagnostics that can be activated to report problems in the form of codes. Check your machine’s owner’s manual for information on how to activate and interpret diagnostic codes. They can save you hundreds of dollars in unnecessary repairs.
How Can I Identify a Dryer Problem?
- If your dryer doesn’t run at all, check the electrical service panel for a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse and test the electrical cord. Test the door switch and the start switch for continuity. Test the timer or consult a professional who can read a wiring diagram, and test the timer motor. If necessary, call a professional for service on the dryer motor .
- If the dryer takes a long time to dry, clean the lint screen and clean or un-kink the exhaust duct and vent. Make sure you aren’t drying too many articles at once.
- If the motor runs, but the dryer doesn’t heat, test appliance controls and the electric heating element . Or you can call a professional to service a gas element.
- If the motor runs, but the drum doesn’t turn, check the drive belt and the idler (see below). Call for professional service on the drum.
- If the dryer runs when the door is open, test the door switch.
- If the dryer will not turn off, make sure the room is not too cool for the dryer to operate properly; test the timer and the timer motor , test the heating element , and test the thermostats.
- If the drying temperature is too hot, clean the lint screen, clean or un-kink the exhaust duct and vent, test the thermostats, and test and replace, if necessary, the heating element .
- If the dryer is excessively noisy, level the dryer with the adjustable feet, and tighten any loose screws on the housing and rear panel. Also check the drive belt and idler (see below).
No one likes to be overworked. Drying too many clothes at a time can slow drying time significantly. Remember to load the machine loosely following the manufacturer’s recommendations for best results–and a happier dryer.
What Do I Need for Dryer Repair?
Replacement parts are available from the manufacturer and aftermarket suppliers and from local gas and electric appliance suppliers, larger hardware stores, and home centers. The tools you will need to fix a gas or electric clothes dryer include these:
- Nut Driver
- Putty knife
- Blocks of scrap wood
What Are the Steps to Dryer Repair?
Gas dryers typically have a shutoff valve on the gas line coming into the dryer. Make sure it is securely turned off before working on a gas dryer. Electric dryers are powered by 240V AC so be extra cautious of loose or exposed wires. If you’re in doubt about the safety of what you’re doing, call your gas service or an electrician as appropriate.
Disassemble a dryer:
Unplug the dryer or turn off power at the electrical service panel .
- Unscrew the control console at each end. Fasteners will be at the bottom front, top, or the sides.
- Place the console face down on a soft towel or other cushion on top of the dryer for further disassembly and testing.
- Remove the console’s rear panel to access the start switch, temperature selector, circuit diagram, and timer.
- As needed, access the drum by removing a top-mounted lint screen (on some models), and pushing the blade of a putty knife between the dryer’s top and body to disengage attachment clips.
- As needed, remove the dryer’s rear panel by moving the dryer away from the wall and removing any screws around the panel edges.
- As needed, remove the toe panel by inserting a putty knife under the center top of the toe panel to catch the clip, then removing the panel.
- As needed, remove the front panel by loosening screws at the panel corners to access the drum and motor.
- Once inside the dryer, disconnect and label any wires attached to components you need to remove.
Service a dryer drive belt and idler pulley:
- Remove the top panel or raise the top and remove the front panel (see above).
- Support the dryer drum on a block of scrap wood.
- Push the idler pulley toward the motor pulley to slacken the drive belt, then disengage the belt.
- Inspect the idler bracket, pulley, and spring and adjust or replace as needed. Some idler pulleys are held in place by belt tension and others by spring tension.
Clothes dryers cause many fires that could be avoidable. Make it a habit to clean out the lint trap on your dryer after every load. And occasionally detach the vent hose and clean out any lint or other built-up material. At the same time, vacuum around the back of the dryer.