Don’t replace your dryer. Ever.

There are very very few actual parts inside a gas dryer. I know, because I’ve repaired or replaced most all of them.

Several years ago, a room mate did a bad thing. The lint screen in my dryer pulls out of the top of the dryer for cleaning. While it is out, it’s pretty easy for any little thing on top of the dryer (Which came with the house, so it’s at least 20 years old now and probably closer to 30) to fall in there. Anything that falls in there ends up in the main blower impeller. So something (like a quarter or a pen or something else you might pull out of a pocket while loading the washer) fell in there while he was cleaning the filter, after he’d started the dryer. It made a horrible clattering noise and then quieted down.  All’s well!

Nope.

It had broken off one of the vanes of the impeller. So now the thing was unbalanced.  Over time that unbalanced weight spinning at high RPMs gradually tore the steel motor mount in half. Eventually it was so out of kilter that the impeller bound up against its housing and stopped spinning.  The impeller is threaded directly onto the shaft of the motor. So when the blower stopped, the whole dryer stopped.

Which is bad.

So I called a guy.  He came out and looked at it and told me I’d need a new dryer. Because the motor is held up by two motor mounts: one is bolted to the floor of the dryer.  The other is part of the back of the dryer. And that of course is what was torn.  So to repair the dryer by replacing the part you’d have to buy a whole new dryer chassis.

No way could I afford a new dryer at that time. So I started looking carefully at the part that was torn. I called my good friend Chris, who came and we both looked at the part that was torn. We talked about welding it back together (One of Chris’ hobbies is blacksmithery). But what we decided to try first was to bend/hammer/force the torn and twisted metal more-or-less back into place and use a heck of a lot of J-B Weld to hold it in place.

When it was all hardened, we started it up and it ran perfectly. So I bought a new impeller and was back in business.

A few years went by.

About 18 months ago, the dryer stopped staying hot. If I started it cold it would fire up, get to operating temperature, and shut off the flame. Like it should. But it would then never start the flame again; just spin cold forever. I looked at the circuit diagram (printed on a giant paper sticker pasted to the inside of the first panel you take off to open the dryer up. Clever.) I tested the two thermostats. I called my local appliance parts store and described the symptom. That guy said it was likely to be either the flame sensor or the igniter and do this and look here to know which to try. So I did that and looked there and then came to the store to buy a flame sensor.

I don’t shop at that store any more.

The guy on the phone was wrong; he didn’t really listen to my description of the problem. The guy at the counter to whom I described my situation should have known it was not the flame sensor: If the flame sensor was bad, the dryer would not get hot at all. But I was asking for a flame sensor so he sold me the part knowing it was wrong. No refunds or exchanges.

When it did not fix my problem, I did about an hour’s worth of Internet research and determined that it was the valve coils. It’s apparently a common thing for old worn out coils to work just well enough to open the valves when they’re cold, but not when they’re hot. Exactly my situation. I called a different appliance parts store and said I needed valve coils, and that guy wouldn’t tell me about coils until he’d asked what my symptoms were, listened to what I said, and agreed that it was the coils.

A few hours later, it was running and getting hot again.

Over this summer, my friend Nicky’s dryer stopped starting. I went over there and figured out that it was the door switch. We were going to replace the switch, but her husband Eric took the switch apart and got it working again. So that was awesome.

But just before Thanksgiving, my dryer stopped starting to spin. For a while it would start if there was a very light load in it. Or if I hand-started the drum. But soon it was not spinning at all.

I took it apart.  Without the load of the drum, it started just fine.

The Internet seemed to say it was probably either the motor or the centrifugal switch. I didn’t like either answer, because the motor is kind of expensive and “or the centrifugal switch” is useless to me because on my dryer that’s part of the motor; not replaceable separately, and see above re: motor is expensive. I called my good appliance parts store and explained my plight. “It’s your motor. The bearings are shot; they spin, but can’t support the load any more.”

So I replaced the motor. I had a scary moment when I went to take the motor out: I had to chip away some of the blob of JB-Weld to get the clips unclipped. But I got it out, took it to the store, bought one just like it, put the dryer back together and it runs like a champ. Better than it has in years.

After Thanksgiving Nicky’s dryer died again. Their basement had flooded, and now the dryer started but would not heat at all. I looked at the circuit diagram, and what I’d learned in all this time, and decided this time it likely was the situation the guy on the phone had thought I had had: the igniter was broken or the flame sensor was clogged with silt or plain broken and the igniter was broken. Internet seemed to say that a: the igniter could easily crack and break if you try to start it and it’s even a wee bit wet (like, y’know, after a flood), and b: that would be easy to see if you looked at it. So I told her to pull it out and look at it. Sure enough, it was shattered.  So we got that dryer running again again.)

Igniter. Flame Sensor. Motor. Valve Coils. Door Switch. There are literally only four more breakable parts in a dryer’s electromechanical guts: the timer, the start switch, the belt, and the thermostats. I’d done extensive testing of the thermostats when I was chasing my “heats once and never again” problem. The start switch is literally just a pushbutton. The timer is easy to diagnose: if the timer does not whir when the dryer is running, and the dryer runs forever, it’s the timer.

There have been no massive advances to dryer technology since the 50s. Some new ones have more bells and whistles, steam, heat with no spin for delicates, Internet connectivity, and so on and on and on; but the basic internals are still these same 9 parts.

Just repair your dryer. It’s easy!

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About

A guy in his 40s, living more or less alone in a 90-year-old house, trying to keep it all together.

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Posted in Appliances
4 comments on “Don’t replace your dryer. Ever.
  1. marymascari says:

    Have you considered a clothesline?

  2. I am impressed with your fixit ability.

  3. Sam Paris says:

    On the other hand, especially if it’s a gas dryer, do open it up and vacuum the accumulated lint, oh, every five years or so.

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