Does your electric dryer get your clothes to beyond dry? Do they come out so hot you can't hold them? Does your dryer smell hot? This is the place to walk through the possible causes. Most of them have to deal with a dryer that either can't shut off its heat source or can't regulate the temperature correctly. If your dryer overheats and then doesn't heat at all, you should go to our Dryer Not Heating page for the causes.
We look at airflow issues first as they are common causes of overheating.
- Before you start looking at the dryer itself, is the dryer often very full of clothes or towels? It may just be a case of an overloaded unit impeding its own airflow. Check your owner's manual for proper loading capacity.
- Is your dryer in a small room with little ventilation? If the dryer can't pull in air from elsewhere, it can't exhaust it to the outside, and the heat will build up.
- Usually the bottom of the door to a laundry room is trimmed to make sure there is an air gap, or there may even be a vent in it.
- Has something been done that would close that gap? A new door or floor covering that is thicker and narrows the gap can do it.
- Did your door have a vent and now doesn't?
- If any of these things have changed, your dryer may be starved for air. Open the door to the dryer area and try running a load and see if that cures the problem.
- The next one is pretty simple (or so it would seem). Is your lint filter really clean? There is more to really cleaning a lint filter than just swiping off the lint. Here's a link to the filter cleaning process.
- Are your dryer exhaust ducts possibly plugged with lint or other things (leaves, bird nests, toys, acorns, etc.)? Have you cleaned them recently, or ever? Here's a link to duct cleaning info.
- Have you cleaned the area inside your dryer where the lint filter is installed? There can be clogs just past the lint filter in the housing. Here are some ideas of how to check and deal with that. Look at the bottom of the linked section.
- There could be something obstructing the blower inside your dryer, like a piece of clothing or lint buildup that needs cleaning. Here's a link to cleaning the blower.
Next, try running your dryer on a setting that should not have heat, like Air Fluff or such.
- Does it heat up? If it does, you now know that you are dealing with a dryer that can't shut off its heat source.
- On an electric dryer this is frequently a grounded heating element. We'll look at that below.
- On a dryer with electronic controls, this can also point to a stuck relay on the control board.
- If it doesn't heat up, then you know you are likely dealing with some other component. We will walk through those below.
Grounded Heating Element
To check if your dryer has a grounded heating element, you will need to see if there is continuity between the dryer element and the metal cover of the element.
- Disconnect the wires that feed power to the element.
- Using a multimeter, check first to see if there is continuity through the entire element, about 20 to 30 ohms. if there is no continuity the element is burned out, but may still be heating because it is shorted to the metal case. Replace it.
- Using a multimeter check to see if there is continuity from each terminal of the heating element to the metal case. If there is anything other than an open circuit, your element is grounded and must be replaced.
- If all checks out, reconnect the wires.
Control Board Relay Problem
If your heating element isn't grounded, but the dryer heats on no-heat settings, there is likely a problem with the control board relays. You should replace the control board.
Faulty Cycling or Operating Thermostat
This device controls the heat level in the dryer. If it fails, there are a number of things that can happen.
- Are all the heat settings feeling too hot? This points to a sticky or failed thermostat that isn't opening when it should. You can test it by removing it from the dryer and using a digital probe thermometer and a hair dryer (or a hotplate with a digital temperature readout). This is the hair dryer method:
- Hold the thermostat in a clamp or vise so you can clip the meter leads to the switching terminals. They usually are located at the ends of the thermostat.
- At room temperature, the thermostat should show continuity
- Blow air at the thermostat toward the metal side, while holding the thermometer probe in the airflow right next to the thermostat.
- Depending on your dryer, the thermostat should operate (break contact) between 135 and 165° F. You can look for a marking with an L followed by 3 numbers to tell you the temperature.
- If it goes more than 5% above this temperature, it's bad and should be replaced
- Here is more detailed information on testing your thermostats.
- Are the lower heat settings feeling too hot? This points to a faulty Bias Heater which fools the thermostat into thinking that the dryer is hotter than it is. When it doesn't work, it's like having the heat set to high all the time.
- You can check this by removing the thermostat from the dryer and checking the resistance on the two terminals that are located on the top of the thermostat.
- If you get zero or infinite resistance, the unit is bad. You will need the tech sheet for your dryer to find out the correct value, usually between 3200-4000 ohms. If it doesn't match, replace it.
If your dryer has digital readouts, it likely uses a thermistor to signal the control board when to turn the heat on and off.
- If it fails you may get an error code on some models.
- To test it you will need the spec sheet for your dryer model's service manual so that you can get the correct resistance reading.
- Use a Multimeter to check the resistance reading at room temperature.
- If you wish, and have the resistance values, you can check the resistance at the normal operating temperature as well using a similar procedure to thermostat testing.
- If the values are off replace the part.
Moisture Sensor Malfunction
If the moisture sensor malfunctions, it is possible for the dryer to keep trying to dry a load of dry clothes. It can make the clothes come out overly hot.
- Since the sensor works by sensing the amount of moisture in a load of clothes as they touch it, if it has a short between the metal strips, it can trick the dryer into continuing to dry the clothes.
- This will occur only on non-timed cycles, as the timed cycles will just run for the set amount of time.
- Clean the sensor with rubbing alcohol and a cloth; sometimes there is dirt that conducts and acts like wet clothes.
- After cleaning it, check the sensor for continuity between the strips, if there is a reading, the sensor is bad and must be replaced.
Hi-Limit Thermostat or Thermal Cutoff Failure
Occasionally a failure in the Hi-Limit thermostat or Thermal Cutoff can contribute to overheating.
- If your cycling or operating thermostat tests bad, it is especially wise to test the Hi-Limit thermostat as well.
- The testing is similar to the procedure for the cycling thermostat. A heat gun must be used in place of the hair dryer since the Hi-Limit thermostat operates at a higher temperature.
- The thermal cutoff is usually like a fuse, but sometimes won't operate as it should. If the Hi-Limit shows problems it's best to replace the thermal cutoff as well.
An air leak immediately upstream of the blower can introduce cool air into the air that is passing by the cycling thermostat, causing it to register the temperature in the dryer as lower than it actually is.
- This can be caused by a leak near the point where the blower sucks air from inside the dryer drum.
- Occasionally the felt seals on the dryer drum can be worn enough to allow this leakage, but this is unlikely. Sometimes there can be a leak in a poorly assembled lint filter housing.
Thermostat Temperature Testing
- Using Hot Plate (Hi-Limit Shown)
- Using Hair Dryer and or heat gun (Clip from Appliance Parts Pros, full video here)