Dryer Repair: Clothes are getting too hot

Dryer Repair: Clothes are getting too hot.

Hotter is not always better.

Ever reach into your dryer and get a blister from that brass or steel button on your jeans?  How about those wrinkles? Do they seem to be ironed into the permanent press (wrinkle) clothing?  The usual culprit is the dryer is getting too hot (duh).

Not only are you wasting money on electricity (dryers pull a lot of energy), you are ruining your clothing.  (As Lonestar sings, Pampers melt inside a Maytag dryer.) So, the question is, “Why is my dryer getting too hot?”… followed by, “What can I do to fix it?”  I am glad that you asked, because I am going to give you several reasons and several remedies.

As always, make sure the dryer is unplugged before you attempt any of the following steps.  If it is a gas dryer, making sure the gas is turned off is a splendid idea.

The following procedures are not conclusive because there are some really technical things that require technical expertise (digital timers and other printed circuits).  What we are giving you is a heads up on the simple and most obvious problems and remedies.  Look for the obvious before you tackle the difficult.

The most obvious culprit is the “operating” thermostat.  Dryers can have more than one thermostat.  There are high limit t-stats, operating thermostats, and t-stats that control cycles in your dryer.

If you are fortunate enough to retain the wiring diagram for your dryer, you will find that most diagrams list components.  Most diagrams also give wire colors and/or numbers.  If your wiring diagram has turned to toasted parchment (after all, your dryer is getting too hot), or the previous tech (the husband) took it out of the envelop, you will usually find the operating thermostat located within the area of the air/lint flow.  Look for a round disk looking thingie held in by a couple of screws and having at least two wires connected to it.  It’s usually about the size of a quarter.

Now, to get to this device, you will have to take some of the panels off the machine…. so remember how they come off, cause you gotta put ‘em back  together in reverse order.

Once you have located the thingie and verified that it is the operating t-stat, carefully remove at least one of the wires from the terminal (best to carefully remove all wires).  Now, with the help of the cheap nine dollar multi-meter that you ran to Wal-Mart and picked up before you attempted this self-repair, place the meter dial on one of the Ohms settings (If you know your Greek alphabet the symbol looks like an Omega – cause it is an Omega).

Take the probes (the red and black things) and place one on one terminal and the other on the other terminal.  If the needle on the meter moves across the scale, then the t-stat is closed (or making contact). This is good.  It means that the operating t-stat is calling for heat.  Now, with the probes still on the t-stat terminals, heat the metal side with a lighter (Uh, please remove the t-stat before using the lighter).  If you don’t hear an audible “click” in just about 30 seconds, and the needle on the meter is still across the scale, then your operating t-stat is stuck in the closed position (welded internal contacts) and must be replaced.  It is constantly calling for heat.

Please note, part numbers are usually imprinted on the disc somewhere.  But, to be on the safe side take the part with the model and serial number to your local appliance parts distributor.

Now, if those tests prove the t-stat to be in good condition, another likely culprit could be the element itself.  You would think that, if the element moved and touched the frame of the dryer, it would trip the breaker.  The usual result is that the element will move, touch the frame or metal casing, and weld itself to the metal.  This will result in the element staying on the whole time the unit is running.  This, of course, will cause the dryer to over heat.

You can check the element for “grounding” to the metal, by locating it (usually in the back) of the dryer (It usually looks like a bare spring wire).  Look for two heavy wires that are connected to two silver contacts.  Carefully remove the wires.  Taking the cheap Wal-Mart blue light special meter (wait, that’s KMart), place one of the probes on one of the silver contacts and touch the other to the metal body of the dryer.  With the meter again set on resistance or Ohms, the needle will move from one side of the scale to the other, if the element is grounded.  If the needle moves, you must replace the element.  Do the same thing with the bad part as we recommended with the operating t-stat.

One other thing to check is the lint trap and the exhaust.  If you are like most appliance owners, there’s enough lint built up in your lint trap to knit a sweater.  Also, from time to time the dryer gets pushed too far back and the exhaust hose gets crimped “pinched” and will not allow the air to flow properly.  You might also find that something has crawled into your exhaust and built a nest in it.  I once found where a snake had crawled inside the damper door outside and clogged the hose with dead mice.

If your dryer is a gas dryer, it is rare, but the gas valve itself can remain stuck in the open position.  You will notice this, because when the dryer is off, you will smell the escaping gas.  If your gas valve ever sticks, turn off the gas and call a repairman.  Don’t let your husband attempt to fix it unless you are trying to collect insurance on the home or him…either way, make sure the rest of the family and pets are completely outside of the home.

You have just learned the three most obvious reasons for your dryer getting too hot.  If these simple tests don’t help you locate the problem, then it is best that you call a competent appliance repairman, not your Uncle Guido.  Besides, fixing appliances  (one technician to another) is like being a magician.  A good magician never reveals the secrets of the trick.