What's a fair price to pay for a broken dryer repair?
October 28, 2007 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Our gas dryer stopped working. When the "Start" button is pressed the machine hums, but won't tumble. Reading this leads me to believe the problem is with the motor. Any idea what a fair price is to get such a problem serviced is? We're trying to evaluate the relative value in having this repaired (the preferred option) vs. possibly buying a new (or used) unit. I've never dealt with this type of repair before and want to avoid getting ripped off, of course.
posted by The Gooch to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds to me like the drive belt is gone.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:48 AM on October 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, why don't you disconnect it from the gas and unplug it, take the cover off of the back where you can see the motor and the belt, and see if it's just the belt that's loose and you only need a new belt, which can be bought online and installed by yourself for a few dollars?

Dryers are NOT complex items (Well, ok, some of the really new computerized high-end ones are, but they also don't usually have many consumable parts like belts in them...) and you shouldn't have to pay someone to repair any part in one.
posted by SpecialK at 7:50 AM on October 28, 2007

If you don't feel like doing it yourselves, for reference our "dryer-repair technician" charges about $70 for an hour visit, which usually is long enough to fix most problems, plus the cost of the parts. But dryers are pretty simple as SpecialK points out.
posted by anadem at 8:13 AM on October 28, 2007

What does the hum sound like? Does it sound like the motor is whirring but the drum just isn't turning (broken belt), or does it sound like it is straining and not turning at all (bad motor)? The second sound can be pretty dire and is often followed by the circuit breaker blowing. Did you actually do all these checks?:
If the dryer motor only hums when you press the Start button, the motor may be burned out. Here's how to test the dryer motor:

* Remove the belt.

* Check for obstructions in the blower fan housing.

* Manually rotate the shaft of the motor.

If the motor is very stiff, or impossible to rotate manually, and the blower fan housing is clear, you need to replace the motor.

If the motor rotates freely, run the motor momentarily with the belt removed and the blower in place. If the motor runs fine with the belt removed, there may be a problem with the idler pulley or the clothes drum. Try to rotate the drum by hand. If it is very difficult to move, correct any problem with the rollers or pulley, and then reassemble the dryer and try it again.

If the motor hums but doesn't rotate on its own even with the belt removed--yet you can turn it freely by hand--you usually need to replace the motor or the motor start capacitor.
My money is on a bad belt, which should be less than $20 to do yourself or about $100 or more if you have it done. I replaced one on a Sears (Maytag) dryer and it took awhile do the the extensive disassembly required and some difficulty getting the belt and drum properly placed (although with an extra set of hands this would have been a snap). The level of difficulty in the repair though was pretty low. Anybody could do it.
posted by caddis at 8:23 AM on October 28, 2007

After doing what the above suggest to pinpoint the problem call up several repair places and tell them what you think the problem is and ask what they estimate the repair charge would be. They shouldn't have a problem telling you.
posted by Mick at 8:26 AM on October 28, 2007

Not a dryer expert, but just based on life experience with other things, it could indeed be the belt. It also could be a fuse in the machine, which would be super-cheap to replace.

Because it hums, you may not think a fuse could be blown, but I recently found out in another mechanical situation (humming but not operating), that's not necessarily true. Some mechanical devices have TWO fuses. Blowing one still sends enough juice to hear a hum, but not enough for operation.

Again, I have NO CLUE whether this is the case, but who knows.

Check out the cheap things first, before you dive into the deep end of the repair pool.
posted by The Deej at 8:28 AM on October 28, 2007

If the dryer continues to hum after releasing the start button it is 99% not the motor, most likely a broken belt. If the humming stops after the button is released it is probably something more serious.

In about 95% of cases the belt can be replaced in under 15 minutes. My service calls included enough labour to change the belt in those cases so you would be out the price of the belt and the service call charge without any additional labour charge. In the other 5% major surgery is required up to maybe an hour tops.

Note that in most cases it may be penny foolish to just change the belt. Often the idler pulley and possibly rollers, bushings or slides depending on make should be done at the same time. The labour is the same so you are just out the part saving you a service call later. Also if you have a vacuum standing by it'll make the tech's job easier and the inside of your dryer will get nice and clean.
posted by Mitheral at 8:30 AM on October 28, 2007

For clarification:

The machine hums when I press the start button, but stops humming after the button is released.

I took the front off the machine yesterday and manually was able to rotate the drum. The belt seems to be intact.
posted by The Gooch at 8:36 AM on October 28, 2007

Bad relay or bad timer unit in the control panel then.
posted by SpecialK at 9:12 AM on October 28, 2007

This is a good repair resource I have used to help troubleshoot and fix my dryer; unfortunately the last time it was a bad breaker in the electrical panel which I let a pro handle.
posted by TedW at 9:41 AM on October 28, 2007

Does the drum turn when it's humming? If yes you have a bad motor start switch (it's attached to the motor, not the one you press). If no then yep it's probably the motor. The part itself will be in the 100-150 range. Changing it can be a quick 15 minute job or it can take more than an hour if the fan is seized on the motor shaft. Occasionally you need to replace the fan because it gets damaged when you remove it.

Some dryers have the fan driven by a belt instead of direct drive off the motor. In those cases a seized fan bushing can cause this symptom.
posted by Mitheral at 11:25 AM on October 28, 2007

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