How to Repair Your Dryer

Dryer machine lint trap

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Before calling a technician to repair your dryer, you might be pleased and even surprised to learn that you can do many repairs yourself. In contrast to your washing machine, the dryer is a simpler device that is lighter in weight. This means that even critical dryer repairs that involve removing the drum are relatively easy. Many issues are as easy to solve as cleaning out a vent, while others require only a few minor adjustments.

The type of tools you will need will vary depending on the repair. Generally, you will use basic household tools that you may already own, such as a cordless drill, Phillips head screwdriver, pliers, putty knife, shop vacuum, and shop light. To open some panels, you may need to purchase a hex nut driver set.

Basics of How Dryers Work

Clothes dryers depend on three actions happening at the same time: warm air flowing in; clothes tumbling; and moist air being expelled. If any one of these actions fails, the entire process fails. Clothes may be warm but not dry. Or they may be slightly dry due to the tumbling action, but mostly wet because air is not flowing in and out.

If one of these processes fails, the other two processes may become overloaded, causing damage or even a fire. This is especially the case with dryer venting. If the vent is blocked or otherwise failing, at any point from the dryer to the home's exterior, this may cause a fire.

Important Safety Instructions

As high-voltage appliances, electric dryers do present a great danger to the do-it-yourself repair person. Follow all safety instructions. In order to generate enough heat to dry and tumble clothes, electric dryers use twice the amount of voltage (240V) than is found in common household outlets. You will see this on the electrical service panel, with a dryer circuit breaker that is twice as big as the other circuit breakers. Always take care to flip off this circuit breaker and unplug the machine before undertaking any repairs.

  • 01 of 05

    Dryer Produces No Heat or Does Not Heat Up Enough

    1. Turn machine to a heating cycle: Check to make sure that your dryer is on a drying cycle that includes heat. An air-only cycle will not adequately dry the clothing.
    2. Clean the lint filter: If your lint filter is clogged, heated air will not freely flow through the drum, slowing the drying cycle. Clean the lint filter and dispose of the lint.
    3. Clean vent tube: The rigid metal or corrugated foil vent tube that leads to the exterior may be clogged. Remove and shake it to force the lint out.
    4. Have your circuit breaker checked: It's possible that the circuit breaker powering your dryer has failed. Have it checked and, if necessary, replaced by an electrician.
    5. Determine if the heating element is working: Electric dryers use a single- or multi-coil element to heat air. The air is drawn into one end of the element, heated, then passed out the other end and into the drum. If the element is not working, air cannot heat up.
  • 02 of 05

    Dryer Will Not Start

    1. Check cord, plug, and receptacle: Because of the dryer's high voltage draw, the cord and peripheral items such as the plug and receptacle may become melted. If you discover this, do not use the dryer until you can entirely replace all affected items.
    2. Check door actuator: For your dryer to start, both your dryer door actuator and door switch must be working. Located on the door itself, the actuator is little more than a spring-loaded metal finger that pushes into the door switch. This is an easily available cheap item that is simple to replace.
    3. Check door switch: The door switch is a fairly inexpensive electrical device located in the dryer. The actuator finger pushes the switch when the door is closed to tell the dryer that it can begin working. Check this item with a multi-meter for electrical continuity. If this is not working, replace this item.
  • 03 of 05

    Dryer Is Not Venting to Outside

    When the dryer is venting properly, you should be able to go outside and feel hot, damp air coming out of the vent. If this is not happening, there are four key points to check where air might be blocked.

    • Vent: At the vent–the very endpoint–lint may jam up when the vent cap flap is not working properly. Clear with your fingers or suck out the vent with a shop vacuum. You may need to entirely replace this outdoor vent if the flaps do not open and close freely.
    • Vent tube: You may have either a rigid metal or corrugated aluminum foil vent tube leading from the dryer to the wall. Remove at two points–the dryer and the wall–and clear out the vent.
    • Dryer: Lint may have become clogged within the dryer. Special devices under brand names such as Lint Lizard or Lint Eater attach to your vacuum or drill and allow you to grab out the lint from within the limited spaces of the dryer's interior.
    • Dryer filter: The dryer lint filter should be cleaned after every load. Replace the filter if it is broken or otherwise not trapping the lint.
  • 04 of 05

    Dryer Is Noisy

    Not all dryer noises mean the same thing. Diagnose your dryer's problem by identifying the noise. Remove all items from the dryer and run it empty for a couple of minutes while assessing the sound.

    • Squeaking noise: This may mean that your drum roller bearings are not operating as they should and either need to be replaced or lubricated. These bearings look like little rubber wheels and are located within the machine. You will need to open the machine at the top, then slide the drum forward to access the bearings.
    • High-pitched squealing noise: Your idler pulley may need to be replaced. The idler pulley is a spring-loaded arm that regulates the tightness of the drum belt. If it is too tight or too loose, the friction causes the squealing sound. 
    • Thumping noise: If the dryer had a long period when it was not being used, the rubber on the drum rollers may have flattened. When the drum rotates, it will not spin smoothly. Every time the round drum hits a flat area, it will thump. Replace the rollers, as they cannot be repaired.
    • Screeching noise, like metal on metal: Your dryer glides may be worn or damaged. A glide is a small, inexpensive part made of plastic and felt that acts as a guide for the drum to move on the drum rollers. After enough time, glides will eventually wear down. Remove the top of the dryer, then the front bulkhead to access the glides. Glides cannot be repaired, so replace them entirely.
    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Dryer Drum Will Not Move

    When the dryer will not tumble the clothes, the cause might be that the motor has broken. But when you can hear the motor running and the drum is still not turning, the cause is likely a worn or broken drive belt. This is a cheap part that is easy to obtain, but it does require accessing the dryer drum.

    1. Remove the dryer's top panel by inserting the putty knife in the slot and pressing the spring-loaded clips on the left and right sides.
    2. Release the front bulkhead with the appropriate tool, likely the hex nut driver or Phillips head screwdriver.
    3. Release the electrical harness by unsnapping the plastic connector.
    4. Lift the front bulkhead forward and set it out of the way.
    5. Loosen the drive belt by releasing the tension on the idler pulley. Lift the drive belt up and away from the drum. 
    6. Drape the new drive belt around the drum, making sure that the ribbed side of the belt is against the drum. 
    7. Reach to the back and loop the belt over the driveshaft and the idler pulley.
    8. Replace the bulkhead and top panel. Plugin the machine and turn on the circuit breaker again to test.