repair failing dryer
March 14, 2007 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Dryer repair question for the DIY'ers or other mechaincally-inclined people

So our dryer suddenly stopped thoroughly drying clothes a few weeks back. To get them fully dry you have to run them through about 3 times. We took the exhaust pipe thing, made of aluminum covered wire coil, off and looked for blockage. It was surprisingly clean. Does anyone have any other suggestions for what we can try before we have to replace or pay for a costly repair? The dryer is a Whirlpool Gas dryer.
posted by Raichle to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ignore this part: Are the clothes warm at the end? If not, it's probably the heating coil that's gone out and you are just air drying them (while the humidostat is throwing up its hands). If they are warm, the dryer probably can't tell how wet they are, so it'd be the humidostat. Does a regular run take about the same amount of time?

Read this part: Back when I had an inexplicable fridge problem I googled for it and found the Samurai Appliance Repair Man. His brief explanation totally nailed the problem, which I fixed in just a few minutes and we haven't had an issue in 2 years. His dryer FAQs.
posted by DU at 11:43 AM on March 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Try here for more help.

If you are lucky you'll have my experience with that site. 2 or 3 times I have used it to ID an appliance problem, only to the problem stop on its own immediately upon me figuring out how to fix it.

I think my appliances are mocking me.
posted by COD at 11:46 AM on March 14, 2007

Is the coil heating up?

I recently helped a friend repair a dryer and it turned out to be a bad temperature sensor (I think). There were two sensors that, according to the schematic on the back of the dryer, should be normally closed at room temperature. At higher temperatures they are supposed to open to break the circuit to the coils to prevent overheating and possible fire. One of the two sensors was open at room temp; once it was replaced, the dryer worked fine.

If you're at all handy, pull the dryer away from the wall and see if there is a schematic anywhere; that may tell you switches, sensors, and relays to check.

Dryers are often very fixable. Good luck.
posted by Doohickie at 11:47 AM on March 14, 2007

Is the drum turning? One of the most common dryer problems is breakage of the belt that spins the drum, providing tumble action. This is definitely something the DIY'er can replace, as it generally just involves gaining access to the drum and drive motor by removing a sheet metal panel (back or front of the dryer), and replacing the composite belt with a new one.
posted by paulsc at 11:48 AM on March 14, 2007

I had the same problem 2 years ago with my newish Whirlpool gas dryer. When there was no blockage in the exhaust, I turned to this website which had troubleshooting advice and excellent illustrations. Instead of replacing the whole heating element, I just replaced a fuse that had probably blown. It has worked like new ever since!
posted by ejvalentine at 11:49 AM on March 14, 2007

Response by poster: Not sure if this changes anything, but the clothes ARE warm. At the prompting of our friend we ran it for 10 minutes with nothing in it and the dryer was warm afterwards. I will look through those links though, thanks.
posted by Raichle at 11:55 AM on March 14, 2007

Response by poster: a couple more things I observed:
1. There is heat
2. There is tumbling
3. The cycle take the normal amount of time
posted by Raichle at 11:58 AM on March 14, 2007

If there is heat and tumbling and it takes the regular amount of time, then to a first approximation your clothes are dryingit's the vent. Check the lint screen (duh, but hey) and the point where the vent exits the house. Also, try running the dryer and feeling the vent output. It should blow pretty hard.
posted by DU at 12:03 PM on March 14, 2007

Another idea is that you have multiple coils and only some of them are heating up. I don't know how to check that, though. And in any case, your humidostat should be telling the dryer it ain't done yet (unless you always do timed drying).
posted by DU at 12:08 PM on March 14, 2007

You might check the exhaust again, looking in to the machine.
Check the lint trap too after the filter is out. Could be clogged there. It is unusual that the hose was clean, mostly they are covered with fuzz. It sounds like the air is not moving through it.
posted by lee at 12:21 PM on March 14, 2007

Check the entire exhaust path. When this happened to my drier, I found that there was lint trapped right at the exit vent. Once I cleared that out the drying time went back to normal.
posted by Lokheed at 12:26 PM on March 14, 2007

If the spin cycle of your washer is suboptimal, your clothes will no longer be dry in the usual time because they contain so much water when you put them in the dryer.

Before you put the clothes in the dryer, heft them a bit to see if they seem too heavy. If you can wring any water from them by hand, you definitely have a spin cycle problem. If you think that might be the issue, make sure the washer is level, and that all four feet are touching the ground at the same time. Arrange to be in the room when the wash cycle is finishing. If the spin cycle is not working quite right, you may well be able to hear that something is wrong.
posted by jamjam at 1:08 PM on March 14, 2007

Check the lint trap (should clean between every load) and the slot or whatever it goes into. Actually clean the hose as well, however you need to do it, and clean inside the machine where the hose attaches.

But I'm guessing it's something like a faulty thermostat or overheat sensor. Those are probably a DIY replacement job, if you're so inclined.
posted by 6550 at 2:08 PM on March 14, 2007

Gas dryers rarely have a limit switch failure because they only switch fractions of an amp at 110V instead of the 20 amps the same switch deals with in an electric dryer. Also limit switches are generally pregnant failures, they don't start working at a different temperature or intermittently.

Things to check:
1) this is going to sound silly but make sure you haven't selected a air fluff/wrinkle remove/delicate cycle if your unit is equipped with such.

2) make sure your lint trap is clean. Has the dryer been ran without it at any point? If so a sock or other object may be causing a partial blockage internally.

3) make sure the vent path is clear. You've checked the flex pipe1 so make sure that the vent thru the wall is clear and if it has a flapper or louvres that they are free too move. Have someone watch the flapper/louvres then turn on the dryer. Do they move? If you can put your hand in the air stream after a minute of empty running you should feel warm air. If it has a screen make sure it isn't blocked by lint. The vent should terminate in open air, if it terminates in a shed or garbage container then you need to provide at least 12 square inches of venting.

4) your burner may be misbehaving in assorted ways but it isn't really a user serviceable part with the exception of determining, if you can, that it can receive plenty of air.

5) your timer may be malfunctioning and only calling for heat for part of the cycle. Try a different cycle if you can to see if that makes a difference. If your Permanent Press cycle is drying fast than regular you could have a timer problem. However you could have a limit switch problem as well.

[1]PS: flex pipe is bad, if at all possible replace with solid vent pipe. It isn't directly causing your problem but it is reducing the efficiency of your dryer and is a slightly greater risk of fire than solid pipe.
posted by Mitheral at 4:17 PM on March 14, 2007

I don't know much about dryers, but I'm puzzled - gas dryers have coils?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:34 PM on March 14, 2007

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