Solved! My Dryer Won’t Start—What’s the Problem?
Getting stuck with a broken dryer in the middle of laundry day can put a damper on anyone’s mood. Troubleshoot reasons for a dryer that won’t start with these tips about what may have gone wrong.
Q: I have a huge load of wet clothes that I threw in the dryer, but my dryer won’t start. It worked fine just yesterday, but now nothing happens when I try any of the settings. Why won’t my dryer start? Do I need to call a repair person or buy a new dryer?
A: When a dryer is not drying properly, it’s a huge inconvenience. Gone are the days of stringing up yards of clothesline and hanging the family’s clothes on display, but this means that when the dryer isn’t working, there are few alternatives. It’s frustrating to have the dryer acting up after checking to ensure it’s properly plugged in and the door is completely closed, and homeowners may be left wondering, “What are some reasons my dryer won’t start?” According to Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, “The most common explanations for a dryer not starting are a broken belt or a broken start switch or door switch.” As with most major appliances, the possible solutions range from a simple fix to a heavy-duty dryer repair that’s best left to a licensed technician. Here are some possible reasons why a dryer won’t start.
The power cord may be disconnected or defective.
The first issue to check for when an electric dryer won’t start is whether the power cord is properly plugged in, directly connected, or showing signs of serious damage. If the cord is melted or discolored near the metal prongs, this could indicate that the cord is overheating. Also, a dryer requires a lot of electricity to operate, so it may have tripped the breaker when pulling the necessary power.
Homeowners will want to make sure they have the dryer plugged into the wall without an extension cord, which can reduce the overall power draw and result in a washer that won’t spin or a dryer that won’t start. Any melting, fraying, or damage of any kind to the power cord needs immediate attention. A technician from one of the best appliance repair services will know how to fix a dryer power cord safely.
The gas supply may have been interrupted.
While gas dryers use both gas and electricity to run, they rely solely on gas as a heating element. When a gas dryer won’t start, it may be because the unit is not receiving sufficient gas flow. This issue can often be fixed by making adjustments to the unit’s air shutter, which is located behind a panel near the bottom of the dryer. When the dryer is getting plenty of gas, the shutter will emit a blue flame when the dryer is turned on. However, if too much air is getting in, the flame will turn yellow at the top and there may be a faint whistling sound. Airflow to the shutter can be adjusted by turning a knob. If the dryer is not working even after this adjustment has been made, or if homeowners are uncomfortable adjusting the gas themselves, it’s a good idea to have an appliance repair person take a look at the unit.
The problem may be due to user error.
Especially if a dryer is new (or new to its current owner), there is a possibility that the dryer not starting could be due to user error. If the dryer won’t start but has power, it’s a good idea to do some simple troubleshooting. For example, users may not know that it takes several seconds of holding down the “start” button for their dryer to turn on. Another common issue is that the dryer door isn’t latching or hasn’t been closed completely. It’s also possible that child-lock controls have been accidentally switched on and will need to be turned off for the dryer to function. Lastly, selecting the wrong cycle could cause the dryer to start but pause mid-cycle or run without heat.
There may be a problem with the thermal fuse.
The thermal fuse is a helpful safety feature designed to prevent overheating. When the thermal fuse blows out, the dryer won’t start, which is a safety precaution to prevent a fire. This is one of the most common dryer problems. If this happens, the fuse will need to be replaced before the machine can be used again. One sign that the fuse has tripped is if the dryer is still running but only blowing cool air. Other dryers may stop working completely.
The thermal fuse on most models can be found near the exhaust vent on the back of the dryer. Before inspecting the thermal fuse, it’s a good idea for homeowners to make sure that the dryer is unplugged. The best way to find out for sure if the fuse has failed is to remove it and test it with a multimeter, which a professional can do easily.
Sometimes thermal fuses go out due to clogged dryer vents. Keeping vents and hoses regularly maintained by one of the best dryer vent cleaning services can help prevent a dryer from overheating. If it turns out that the dryer vent has been clogged for some time, a technician can test the thermal fuse to see if it’s gone out. It’s a common fix, so they’ll likely have a replacement part available.
The dryer may have a burnt-out or broken heating element.
If the dryer is running but not heating, this could be due to a faulty heating element. In some cases, this is due to overheating, which may trigger the thermal fuse to blow. Heating elements for electric dryers are located at the back of the unit and can be tested using a multimeter. If the heating element is working correctly, the multimeter will show that the dryer has a reading of about 15 ohms. If the dryer’s heating element is the problem, it will likely need to be replaced. This is a job that’s usually best left to an appliance repair professional.
The thermostat may be defective.
Not to be confused with the thermal fuse, the thermostat is another dryer part that helps regulate temperature. If the machine gets too hot at any point during the cycle, the thermostat is designed to turn off the heat until the machine can cool down again. If the thermostat fails, it cannot properly detect the machine’s temperature, thus causing the machine to overheat and the thermal fuse to trip.
Many dryers have more than one thermostat, and if the machine is either overheating or not heating at all, one of the thermostats may need to be replaced. Thermostats are typically located on the back of the dryer near the exhaust vent. It might not be obvious to the homeowner which thermostat is malfunctioning, so it’s advisable to consult an appliance repair professional if they are unsure.
There may be a failure with the terminal block.
The dryer’s terminal block is where the power cord connects to the machine’s internal wiring, providing it with electricity. A dryer needs electricity to run, so if the terminal block fails, the machine will not turn on. The terminal block is located on the back of the washer behind an access panel near the power cord. Some visible signs of terminal block failure are discoloration and corrosion.
It’s important for homeowners to note that dealing with electrical components poses a safety risk. Before getting started, homeowners will want to make sure that the machine is unplugged to avoid electrical shock. A problem with the terminal block can also be a fire hazard, so if the homeowner notices melting or exposed wires, it’s best for them to get in touch with a professional to handle the problem.
The start switch may be malfunctioning.
Though they’re designed to last for many years, the button to start the dryer could have worn out. Some dryers are activated by pushing a dial, while others simply feature a small “start” button. In either case, when the button is pushed, the start switch should send a spark to prompt the dryer’s motor to start running. If the switch fails, the motor will not get the signal and the dryer will not turn on.
A quick way for homeowners to check if the start switch is the problem is to try pushing it while listening carefully to the dryer. If there’s any kind of humming sound, which signifies the dryer is trying to start, the start switch is probably not the issue. But if no sounds come from the dryer, homeowners will want to consider having a professional order and replace the start switch. A pro may even have the exact part in stock, which would help get the homeowner back to drying clothes in no time.
A defective drive motor may be the culprit.
One of the more serious problems for why a dryer won’t start could be a faulty drive motor. The drive motor is the mechanism that rotates the machine’s drum. The motor can overheat from lint buildup, or sometimes small items can get inside and cause a blockage. If the dryer makes sound but won’t start, there is probably an issue with the drive motor. There is usually a slight humming sound coming from the motor as it tries to rotate the shaft and pulley that spin the drum.
To troubleshoot a faulty motor, homeowners can unplug the dryer and locate the motor on the back of the machine, then remove the belt and inspect for lint or blockages. After putting it back together, homeowners will want to see if it’s possible to turn the motor by hand. If the motor is stuck or still won’t turn on, it may need to be replaced. A qualified technician will know how to access it quickly and inspect it for damage or an electrical problem. To avoid clogging the drive motor with lint in the future, it’s a good idea for homeowners to learn how to clean a dryer vent or to schedule regular appointments with a dryer vent cleaner (someone who installs dryer vents may also be able to do this job). Professional dryer vent cleaning costs about $139 on average.
A damaged motor relay can be causing the problem.
A motor relay is a lesser-known part present in some dryers that helps the drive motor operate as long as it’s receiving sufficient electricity as determined by the control board. It’s designed to help prevent electrical overloads and potential ensuing fires.
If the motor relay loses the electrical current from the control board, the relay will trip and stop supplying power to the motor. That means the dryer won’t start or operate. Typically, the relay is damaged in these cases and will need to be replaced before the motor can receive the signal to operate again. A good sign that the motor relay is to blame is if the motor starts when the homeowner pushes the start button, but stops after it is released.
A defective door switch might be the issue.
For safety purposes, dryers are designed not to start unless the door is securely locked. Though it may seem like the door is closing properly, the switches may have lost their ability to sense when the door is locked, or they aren’t locking at all. Sometimes the simplest solution when a dryer won’t start is to repair a defective door switch.
One indication that door switches have failed is a lack of the usual clicking sound that indicates a locked door. If the dryer has a window, another indication the door switches need to be replaced is if the light remains on rather than turning off. Homeowners can locate the door switch on the inside of the door—if any prongs are bent, they may simply need to be straightened back out. If that does not solve the problem, it may be necessary for the homeowner or a professional to test the switch with a multimeter to see if there is a problem with the electrical wiring instead.
A damaged drive belt can cause a dryer not to start.
The drive belt is what helps spin the drum to keep clothes moving during the drying process. Over time, drive belts can wear down, crack, loosen, or break completely. Some dryer models can still run with a damaged drive belt, though the heating efficiency may suffer. Other dryers have a switch built in that will stop the motor from running if a drive belt is damaged significantly or broken.
If the inner workings of the dryer are accessible, after unplugging it, the homeowner can remove the dryer cabinet to try to inspect the drive belt themselves for damage. If there is a problem with the belt, they may notice the dryer squeaking or making a popping sound when the drum is turned. In some cases, the drum will not turn at all. Otherwise, a licensed professional can take a look at the belt and check for any other damaged parts at the same time.
Shorted-out components on the main control board may be to blame.
Circuit boards are present in all electronics, from computers to home appliances such as a dryer. Circuit boards help electronics perform tasks and source power. But as with any electrical component, they can occasionally malfunction. Since the control board controls every part of the machine, it can be difficult to say for sure whether this is the root cause of the issue. One indication is if the problems are inconsistent, such as the machine randomly turning on and off. Ultimately, though, “To determine if an issue is caused by a circuit board rather than a mechanical failure, an appliance repair expert needs to be called,” says Shimek. He adds that the typical consumer “will not be able to do this.”
Though this problem is rarer than others, it’s worth looking into when other common issues don’t seem to be the cause of a dryer that won’t start. If other troubleshooting efforts have come up empty, it’s probably time for the homeowner to call in a licensed technician who will be able to inspect whether the main control board has been damaged or not.
The dryer’s timer may be broken.
If a dryer has a dial or knob to control the timer setting, the timer controls may have broken down. Usually, it’s a broken motor switch contact problem. The timer has its own motor and gears that rotate cams, which are designed to direct electricity to other parts of the dryer. When the motor switch goes out, the dryer won’t start, continue running, or advance the time. The timer may be broken if the dial does not move after being set, the machine keeps running after time is up, or if the clothes are not as dry as usual after a cycle.
In some cases, hitting the “reset” button on the dryer’s control panel will fix the problem. If this doesn’t work, replacement is the only option for a defective timer. While a faulty dryer timer is another rare problem, it’s worth considering if no other obvious parts have malfunctioned.
A professional appliance repair company can pinpoint the reason your dryer won’t start and recommend repair or replacement.
Some dryer problems are obvious. For example, if the power cord is visibly damaged, logic dictates that the machine is not receiving electricity. Homeowners who would like to save money on dryer repair costs may even be able to make small repairs themselves. Shimek says, “[It] depends on how handy the customer is. Some knobs are simple to change, and the lint screen is easy to replace.”
In other cases, it may not be clear how to fix a dryer that won’t start, or where the issue is located on the machine. Homeowners who are unsure of how long dryers last may even be wondering if it’s time to purchase a replacement. Appliance repair technicians have seen hundreds of broken dryers and will be able to get to the root of the problem quickly.
Even if a homeowner is able to identify the problem, it can be difficult and dangerous to attempt to repair a dryer themselves. Ambitious homeowners may feel confident dealing with a simple repair, but they run the risk of further damaging the machine, or worse, injuring themselves in the process. It’s well worth the cost of appliance repair to have the job done right the first time. When in doubt, hiring a clothes dryer repair service is the surest and quickest way to get the dryer back up and running.
A home warranty can help cover the cost of dryer repair service, and sometimes even replacement.
If the reason for a dryer not starting is more than simple user error, a home warranty with appliance coverage can greatly reduce what a homeowner pays for washer and dryer repairs. Purchasing an annual policy means a homeowner will pay lower costs for repair service for dryers and other appliances as well as for home systems such as HVAC and plumbing. When a problem occurs, homeowners can simply file a claim with their warranty company and if the claim is approved, the repair costs will be fully or partially covered. For example, American Home Shield’s coverage for dryers includes up to $2,000 per appliance. Homeowners who don’t already have a home warranty policy may want to research some of the best home warranty companies, such as American Home Shield and AFC Home Club.