Our clothes dryer died. So did the clutch on the pickup. I won’t get into the pickup repairs, but it’s going to be a few months before it gets fixed. Normally, I’d get on craigslist and pickup a cheap dryer. That’s not an option without a pickup.
So… I’m going to try to fix the dryer. It’s a Kenmore, which means that It’s probably a Whirlpool that’s been re-badged.
If I had it all to do over, I would order all the common replacement parts and have them on hand for when the dryer breaks. The worst part of this ordeal was waiting for parts to arrive.
This post will cover belt replacement, thermostat replacement and element repair/replacement.
The initial problem with the dryer was that there was no heat. The drum turned, the air blew, just no heat.
I’m going to assume that you don’t have a multi-meter or don’t want/know how to use one. You’re going to need some tools. I recommend a socket set, some stubby wrenches and a screwdriver. You may need a wire cutter/stripper. You’ll also need something to pry up the top of the dryer if replacing a belt.
The first thing to do is unplug the dryer, take the back cover off and look at the heating element.
The heating element is inside the silver thingy on the right in the pic below. The bottom wires going to the silver thingy are actually connected to the heating element. There’s a bolt holding the element in place. You can’t see the bolt–it’s on the back of the silver thingy a few inches up.
You’ll need a short wrench to undo that bolt. The bolt on my dryer is an 8mm.
I made a special trip to Harbor Freight to pick up some stubby wrenches for $21…
Unhook the two wires connected to the element. Undo that bolt I mentioned. Tip the dryer forward and pull the element downward. It will slide out.
Here’s the heating element…
Let’s zoom in…
The element is broken. This curly wire is the same stuff you see in your toaster. Electricity goes through it and it glows and puts off heat.
Some people try to “fix” a break like this, using electrical connectors. I gave it a try.
I took the plastic off a connector and crimped it on the wires.
I got three loads through the dryer before the heat went away again.
As you can see, the connector broke. It was very brittle.
I also tried this connector, breaking off the loop and crimping…
I didn’t even get one load out of this.
So, order a new element. Expedite the order. Wait a couple days. Get angry at your supplier. Wait a few more days.
The new element comes, but the wire connectors are different…
The new element, on the right, has blade style connectors, while the old style left has round connectors.
My element came with a kit.
You cut off the old tips off the red wires and wire nut the old wire to the adapter wires.
Stuff the new element in place and put the bolt in. Hook up the wire adapters and then wirenut them to the old wires…
But maybe your element looks good. Usually, this is a thermostat problem. Once in a while, it’s a problem with the heating element. There are two thermostats involved. One thermostat is in the silver thingy on the right. See the red and white wires? The other thermostat has red and purple wires going to it.
Get the part numbers off both and order them.
I recommend ordering both thermostats because you may have to replace the second a month or two after the first fails.
Get your dryer serial number. Look up the parts and order them. Don’t expect to get them within a couple days, even if you expedite shipping. There may be newer parts that replace your part numbers.
You may get a thermostat with a different wire connector than your dryer uses. Get some wirenuts and wire and crimp on what you need.
So… In the middle of all of this, the belt broke on my dryer.
To get to the belt, unscrew the screws that hold the dryer top and lint catcher together…
Next, you’re going to pry the dryer top up. It’s hinged in the back, so you’ll be prying at the front of the dryer. Try not to pry at the corners–the plastic holders are there and you might break one. Slide a big screwdriver or something pry-worthy in and pry the lid up.
The lid may tip back too far. Use something to prop it up, or tie it so it can’t tip back all the way.
Below is a pic that shows the drum with the belt still on it. The belt is the dark line close to the middle of the drum.
Time to take off the front of the dryer.
First, we need to unhook the wires to the door sensor. This is the thing that shuts the dryer off when you open the door. The pic below shows the sensor, but isn’t great at showing where it is. The sensor is centered above the door of the dryer. Pull the wires off.
My dryer front was held on with two screws, one in the top of each corner. BTW, the blue wire and white wire in the pic below are going to the door sensor.
Just an FYI, that spring is what holds up the dryer door.
Take the two screws out and pull up on the front of the dryer. It should come off.
In the pic above, there’s no belt. (it’s broken and lies underneath the drum).
Pull the drum out. The sides of the dryer will bend out a bit as you do this. No big deal. Put the drum off to the side out of the way.
Three things to note about the pic below. First, there’s a black wheel with a white hub. It’s one of two that support the drum. The second thing to note is the white wheel at the bottom of the pic. This is the belt tensioner. It keeps the belt taut. I recommend that you look at how it’s connected to the floor of the dryer. The third thing to note is the motor. It has a pulley that the belt goes around.
Put your brand new belt on the drum, rubbery side to the drum.
Slide the drum back into place, sitting on top of the wheels. Try not to cut the belt on the sides of the dryer as you do this.
At this point, it helps to have a second pair of hands. Have them hold the drum up. Alternatively, prop the drum up. You can even take the top off the dryer and rest it on its back. This is a pain though, because gravity pulls the belt the wrong direction.
Assuming your dryer is still standing, get down and peer under the drum. Below is a pic with the belt in place. notice the path that the belt takes.
BTW, your tensioner may have fallen out. It fits in a slot within the dryer floor. Reach in and slide it back in.
Here’s a pic with the belt path highlighted. I don’t want confusion about this…
Pull the belt so the slack is to the left of the tensioner. grab the tensioner with your right hand and pull it to the right. Fit the belt on the motor pulley, making sure the rubbery grooved side is the side touching the pulley. Gently release the tensioner.
Spin the drum by hand, making sure that the belt isn’t twisted.
Fit the front of the dryer back on. This is a job where a second person helps. You’ll need the lip of the drum to fit into the door while sliding the dryer front in place.
Put in the two screws holding the front of the dryer in place.
Hook up the door sensor wires.
Put the lid down.
Plug in the dryer and run it. Do you hear the drum spinning?
I still plan to buy a new(er) dryer. This gives me some breathing room to get my truck fixed. Later, when we build a shack just for doing laundry, I’ll install both dryers.
Oh my goodness! What a chore! But you know what? That’s how you make it work a little bit longer. Your dryer looks just like the one my dad had (also a Kenmore)…..that has been in that house I grew up in since I was a kid! He only replaced it in 2014 (or 2013 but it is new). He made it work, fixing it whenever he had to, because he couldn’t afford a new one just yet. You guys are awesome…..
I replaced a Kenmore dryer belt years ago, and I swear it was a lot less involved than this. I pulled the back off (not the top and front), and was able to install it that way…
I agree! Some dryers have access from the back. That’s a lot easier because you’re closer to the belt and motor. It’s a real pain to do from the front. The tensioner doesn’t stay in place easily and there’s not a lot of slack to play with.
I’m sure there are tricks to the trade that I’m not aware of.