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Clothes Dryer Repair Guide

Most dryer problems can be fixed in an hour with a few basic tools and a continuity tester or multimeter—and you can do the work yourself with these simple instructions.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

If your dryer breaks down

Here’s the first thing to know: You can solve most dryer troubles yourself. There’s no need to find a technician, schedule a service call or pay hundreds dollars for repairs.

The fixes we show in this article correct about 90 percent of dryer breakdowns. Most repairs take about an hour, but set aside extra time to locate replacement parts. To find parts, check the yellow pages or search online for “appliance parts.” Most parts are relatively inexpensive. Aside from basic tools like a socket set and screwdrivers, you may need a continuity tester or multimeter to diagnose the problem.

Tip: The first step in any appliance repair is to make sure it’s getting electricity. Unplugged cords and tripped breakers are a leading cause of appliance “breakdowns.”

Dryer disassembly

Most dryer repairs require some disassembly of the outer cabinet so you can get at the parts inside. If your dryer’s lint filter is inside the front door (Figure A), disassemble it this way: First, remove the screws at each corner of the control panel. Flip the panel up and back to expose the screws in the top panel. Remove the screws, then pull the top toward you and lift it off. To open the bottom panel, release the spring catches by shoving a putty knife into the slot just above them. With the bottom panel open, you can remove the front panel by removing two screws at the top and two at the bottom.

If your filter slides into the top of the dryer, remove the screws alongside the filter slot. Using a putty knife, release the two spring catches located under the top panel at the front. Tilt the top panel up like a car hood and remove the screws that hold the front panel in place.

Figure A: Disassembling a dryer

Figure A: Disassembling a dryer

Figure A: Disassembling a Dryer

Dryer disassembly is slightly different depending on where the lint filter is located, but either way most repairs to gas dryers require that you remove the top and front (not the back or sides) to access the parts.

Caution!

Don’t get shocked! Unplug the dryer before you do any disassembly, diagnostic or repair work. On a gas dryer, also turn off the gas supply shutoff valve.

Dryer won’t start

If your dryer seems absolutely dead when you turn it on, chances are the door switch is bad or the plunger is broken or bent. Door switches wear out from normal use, but repeatedly slamming the door can speed up their demise. Start by checking the plunger located on the door. If it’s missing or bent, replace it. If the plunger checks out, the next step is to remove the top cabinet panel to gain access to the door switch. See the disassembly instructions.

Test the switch for continuity. If the switch is good, test the thermal fuse (see “No heat” below) mounted on the blower housing. If you have a gas dryer with the lint filter in the door, access the thermal fuse by opening the bottom panel. If the filter slides into the top of the machine, remove the entire front panel. On an electric dryer, remove the rear service panel. If you don’t get a continuity reading from the thermal fuse, do NOT simply replace it. A blown thermal fuse is a warning that you have other serious problems—either a malfunctioning thermostat or a clogged vent. Fix those before replacing the fuse.

Dryer thumps, rumbles or chirps

The drum support rollers are worn. Replace all of them. If the noise continues, replace the tensioner roller (see below). Since it takes longer to disassemble the machine than to actually replace the rollers and belts, we recommend replacing both of them at the same time.

Using a Continuity Tester

Our photos show using a multimeter to diagnose trouble. But a continuity tester, which is much cheaper, will also work for all the troubleshooting in this article. To use a continuity tester, simply attach the clamp to one contact point and touch the probe to the other. If the light glows, you’ve got continuity. If not, you’ve got trouble.

No heat

If you have an electric or gas dryer that tumbles but won’t heat, check the thermal fuse for continuity. If the thermal fuse checks out, move on to the radiant sensor if you have a gas dryer. It monitors the igniter and powers up the gas valve coils when the igniter reaches peak temperature. A bum sensor will stop the whole show. Test it for continuity (Photo 1) and replace it if it fails. If the sensor is good, disconnect the electrical connector to the igniter and check it for continuity. Again, replace it if it fails the continuity test. If both the radiant sensor and the igniter pass the test, replace the gas valve coils. To replace them, remove the retaining plate, unplug the sensors and pull them off the gas valve.

If the thermal fuse on your electric dryer checks out, test the heater element for continuity. Replace the element if you don’t get continuity (Photos 2 and 3).

Drum won’t rotate, but the motor runs

You’re in luck—it’s only a broken belt. Remove the front cabinet panel and lift the entire drum out of the cabinet. Now’s the time to fire up your shop vacuum and suck out all the lint. Then spin the tensioner roller by hand to see if it runs smoothly and examine it for cracks. Replace the tensioner if it fails either test. Reinstall the drum and wrap the new belt around it (ribs facing the drum). Some tensioners are mounted behind the motor, so they’re difficult to see from the front access panel. You’ll have to do this by feel. Reach your hands around the blower housing and lift the tensioner up while you route the belt around the motor pulley.

Photo 1: Pop in the new latch.

Photo 1: Pop in the new latch.

Pry out the old strike.

Pry out the old strike.

Quick Fix for a Dryer Door

If your dryer door won’t stay closed, chances are the latch is either bent or missing, or the strike is worn. The fix is cheap and easy. Buy the parts from any appliance parts store. Then grab pliers, a couple of small, straight-slot screwdrivers and a roll of masking tape.

Grab the bent or broken latch and yank it out. Then install the new one, pushing in firmly until the locking tabs seat (Photo 1). Next, protect the door’s finish with tape and remove the old strike. Jam a small screwdriver into the strike and bend the metal locking tab inward. Pry upward with a second screwdriver to pop it out (Photo 2). Snap in the new strike and you’re back in the laundry business.

Back to Top

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Socket/ratchet set
    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Putty knife
    • Shop vacuum

You’ll also need either a multimeter or a continuity tester and a small straight slot screwdriver.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Door switch
    • Drum support rollers
    • Thermal fuse
    • Radiant sensor
    • Igniter
    • Gas valve coils
    • Heating element (electric dryers)
    • Tensioner
    • Belt
    • Door latch
    • Door strike

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 6 of 6 comments
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August 28, 10:24 AM [GMT -5]

My Kenmore 90 dryer works, albeit slowly. The dryer came with the house I bought 3 years ago & frankly has always worked slowly. Now for about a week, it is LOUD when it tumbles. Noticed a part INSIDE the dryer says "REPLACE' in red letters. Looks like an extra filter or something? Unsure? It can be pulled out of the dryer tumbler. I have had the dryer repaired last year & lint removed from the dryer vent. The SAME part said 'REPLACE' last year as well. Then the dryer would NOT tumble. At least now it does tumble, though again LOUDLY! Going to REPLACE said part for now & shall be in the market for a new dryer SOON!

March 21, 5:23 AM [GMT -5]

i have a whirlpool model le6150xsw0. it runs a few minutes time still on but dryer stops.if i wait a few minutes it will start again but within a couple min stops i have checked continuity to the fuse thermostat and coil iam at a lost any help appreciatd

November 21, 7:04 AM [GMT -5]

Unusual Noises:
Trying to figure out an intermittent squeak and "clanging" while the dryer drum rotates.

Disassemble the dryer (including the drum) and removed all the lint - especially rotating parts.

Disassemble the "blades" on the drum - removed lint and found a penny and dime - causes of the clanging!

Upon inspection and cleaning of the drum slide glides - noticed they were very thin - worn after 18 years of use - ordered a set of glides (top set, weight bearing). The other set was cleaned but still in very good shape.

Reassemble - squeaking gone and no more clanging! Waiting for the glides to arrive...

August 21, 3:03 PM [GMT -5]

My electric dryer heats, rotatesand I blew out all excess lint from the exhaust and lint filter. But it takes forever to dry and it seems like it doesn't push out exhaust air like it used to. What am I missing?

April 12, 12:30 PM [GMT -5]

Very good and simple intructions! My thermal fuse needed replaced, which is exactly what the article anticipated it to be. I would add to the article to check the timer. Really enjoyed diagnosing and repairing my dryer!

February 16, 12:57 PM [GMT -5]

Older models of Whirlpool (Kenmore) dryers have a tentioner that can fly off when the belt breaks, There are perhaps three dozen ways to install the belt/idler... only one is correct and useable. Should you have the dryer available to remove the rear panel, do so. Then mark the slot the idler is in and make a drawing of idler orientation, etc. This will save much time and agravation should the belt break.

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