Dryer Not Working: Problems & Solutions

By Ian | Jul. 05, 2017 2:51 pm PST

A dryer uses a simple system to dry your clothes: An inner drum rotates wet clothes while circulating heated air through them to collect the moisture and then carry it out through the exhaust hose. Like most people, you probably use your dryer at least once a week. When you find the dryer not working, you want to fix the problem as quickly as you can.

Some simple troubleshooting tips for gas and electric dryers help pinpoint the problem and determine if you can repair your dryer or if you need to make a service call to get your dryer repaired by a professional.

Dryer Not Working

A dryer not drying clothes may be because of a broken part or because the dryer isn’t getting enough power to operate. Before you start looking at the interior of the dryer, check the plug, power cord and breakers:

  1. Make sure the dryer is securely plugged in and that there is no damage or wear to the plug or cord.
  2. If you have an electric dryer, check the breaker box to make sure the breaker hasn’t been thrown. Since your dryer operates on 240 volts, only one-half of a double breaker may be thrown. This could explain a dryer not heating even though it is running.
  3. If you have a gas dryer, check the gas supply – if it’s not heating (or not running at all) you should check the breaker.

Once you rule out these simple fixes, you can look at how to fix a dryer that’s not drying. Specific problems may include the following:

  • Dryer won’t heat
  • Dryer won’t start
  • Dryer won’t spin
  • Dryer makes a lot of noise
  • Dryer starts then stops

Important: Before doing tests or repairs, unplug the dryer. If you have a gas dryer, also shut off the gas supply.

Dryer Not Heating

An electric dryer not heating, even though it’s running, is often due to a faulty dryer heating element. You can test the element with a tool called a multimeter. The tool tells you if there are breaks in the electrical path. The reading should be about 15 ohms. If there is no measure of continuity on the meter, replace the dryer heating element.

New update with additional information as of July 8, 2022.

Besides a broken heating element, several other failures in an electric dryer can keep it from heating.

Here’s an advanced troubleshooting video that shows how to check all components inside a common electric dryer that will keep it from heating.

A gas dryer will run but won’t heat if its thermal fuse blows because the dryer overheated (usually because the vent is clogged, so check the vent path). Use a multimeter to check the thermal fuse and replace the thermal fuse if you don’t’ measure continuity.

Additional update with new information as of July 8, 2022.

In addition to a blown thermal fuse, several other failures can prevent a gas dryer from heating.

Here’s an advanced troubleshooting video that shows how to check all parts inside a common gas dryer that will keep it from heating.

Dryer Not Starting

There are numerous reasons for a dryer not starting. Check the power source first, because it could be the problem, rather than the dryer itself. If the dryer is completely plugged in, check the circuit breaker for your dryer. A gas dryer has one breaker, while an electric dryer has two breakers that often are clipped together. Because you can’t always tell whether a breaker tripped, flip the breaker off then back on.

Common dryer issues include a faulty door switch or start switch and control problems such as a broken dryer timer or faulty electronic control board:

  • Problems with the door switch can prevent the dryer from starting. Shut the dryer door fully to activate the door switch. To test the switch, open the door press in the door switch lever. If the drum light doesn’t turn off, a failed door switch is the likely reason the dryer won’t start.

  • A blown thermal fuse often prevents an electric dryer from starting. You’ll find the thermal fuse on the blower housing. Unplug the dryer and check the thermal fuse for continuity. Replace the thermal fuse if the multimeter measures no continuity. Check the exhaust vent because a clog in the vent likely caused the thermal fuse to blow.

  • For dryers with a dial timer, a broken push-to-start switch can prevent the motor from running. Use a multimeter to check for continuity through the push-to-start switch. Replace the push-to-start switch if you don’t measure continuity through the wires between the push-to-start switch and motor. It could instead be that the timer has a broken motor switch contact. Following the wiring diagram for the dryer, test for continuity through the wires between the timer and motor. If you don’t have the wiring diagram or this tasks sounds too complicated to do on your own, have a service technician check the timer.

  • Electronically controlled dryers have a circuit board that operates the dryer’s components. A faulty circuit board prevents the dryer from starting. Unplug the dryer and then find the circuit board in the main control panel. It might have burn marks or areas that are shorted out. If the circuit board is faulty, it’s best to let a professional handle the fix.

Dryer Drum Not Turning

If the dryer starts but the dryer drum won’t turn, the dryer might have a worn drum bearing or dryer belt. To test the bearing, remove the belt and try to turn the drum with your hand. If the drum doesn’t turn, the bearing needs to be replaced.

If you hear the dryer motor running but the dryer drum doesn’t turn, the drive belt could be broken. Unplug the dryer, check the drive belt and replace it if it’s broken. Even if the belt isn’t the cause of your dryer problems, it’s a good time to replace an old belt that could cause problems later.

Dryer Making Noises

If your dryer is making squeaking or squealing noises, the idler pulley assembly may be the cause. This assembly controls the tension on the drum belt through friction. Over time, the idler pulley may fail.

Dryer Starts Then Stops

It can be surprising when you start an electric dryer only to come back a few hours later to find your clothes are still wet. If your electric dryer starts and then stops too soon, a dryer thermal fuse could be the culprit if you have an electric dryer.

The dryer thermal fuse is a safety mechanism that detects the temperature of air flowing to the outside vent. If the air too hot, the fuse blows, stopping an electric dryer (a gas dryer keeps running but won’t heat). Unfortunately, if the thermal fuse trips, it must be replaced before the dryer will work again.

To keep your dryer running the way it should, pay attention to signs that the machine may be starting to fail. A dryer not drying well today may signal that it is time to make needed repairs.

Regular dryer maintenance such as removing lint, cleaning the vent tube and drum cleaning are recommended to keep your dryer in good shape.

When you need professional dryer repair services, you can always count on the experts at Sears Home Services.

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