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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.