What is Wrong with My Clothes Dryer?

Clothes Dryer Troubleshooting Guide

Clothes in dryer
Bryan Mullennix / Photographer's Choice RF / Getty Images

While we can always dry laundry on a clothesline or drying rack, a gas or electric clothes dryer has become a staple in most homes. And, when it stops working correctly, there is a list of common dryer problems and solutions that you may be able to solve yourself:

Problem: Dryer Won't Heat


  • If you have a gas dryer, check the supply line valve. It must be fully open.
  • Electric dryers use two household fuses or circuit breakers. The drum can still turn if just one fuse is blown but there will be no heat. You may need to replace both fuses or reset both circuit breakers.
  • The thermal fuse has blown due to a power surge or other mechanical problem. These are easy and inexpensive to replace (around $5.00). If you need a user or repair manual, you can find it here and replacement parts here.

Problem: Dryer Cuts Off After A Short Period


When a dryer shuts off after "working perfectly", it is usually a problem with either the thermostat, the thermal resistor or the thermal fuse that turns off the dryer to prevent overheating. You can check each of these parts with a voltage meter to determine if they are working properly or need replacing.

Problem: Dryer Making Unusual Noise


  • If you hear loud thumping, the clothing may be knotted or balled up. You may not be loading the dryer correctly. Remove the knotted items and give them a shake before reloading to complete the drying cycle.
  • If you have a gas dryer and hear a clicking sound, this is normal. It is the gas valve opening and closing.

    Problem: Dryer Won't Start


    • The door latch may not be engaging. Check the latch for lint and clean completely so that the door closes properly.
    • Check the power supply, including fuses and circuit breakers. When replacing a fuse, be sure to use a time-delay fuse.
    • Check the dryer's internal thermal fuse. If it is blown, the dryer will not start.
    • If you have a push knob or start knob, it may not be engaging correctly. Remove the knob and clean behind it, removing any dirt and lint.

    Problem: Clothes Take Forever to Dry


    • Clean the lint filter. A filter loaded with lint reduces the air flow necessary for quick drying. You can recycle the lint!
    • Clean the outside exhaust vent. If the outside vent is not opening and closing properly, moisture is trapped inside the dryer drum. Run the dryer for 5 or 10 minutes. Hold your hand under the outside exhaust hood to check air movement. If you do not feel air coming from the vent, it is blocked and must be cleaned thoroughly.
    • Check the dryer vent exhaust pipe. Be sure it is connected properly and has no kinks. If you are using a flexible hose, replace it with a rigid system.
    • Reduce the size of each load. An overcrowded dryer does not allow clothes to tumble freely and receive heat evenly.
    • Be sure the dryer is in a room that is above 45 degrees F. It cannot work efficiently in a room that is too cold.
    • Check the air circulation around the dryer. If your dryer is in a closet, there must be ventilation openings at the top and bottom of the door. The front of the dryer requires a minimum of one inch of airspace and the back should have at least five inches.
    • Do not allow fabric softener dryer sheets to block the air flow into the lint trap or grill. Never use more than one sheet per load.

    Problem: Clothes Are Covered with Lint


    • Clean the lint screen! If the screen is full and can hold no more lint, then the lint is going to stay on your clothes.

    Problem: Clothes Aren't Dry after Automatic Cycle


    • Clean the moisture sensor strips. The moisture sensors are usually two metal strips located inside the front edge of the dryer drum. If they become coated with residue from fabric softener sheets, they won't work properly. Clean them with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol.