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How to Troubleshoot an Overheating Dryer

Danielle Smyth
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Is your dryer overheating? First, clean it. Then, check the heating element and thermostat. Always clean out the vents and lint traps on your dryer to avoid fires. If you're unsure how to troubleshoot your dryer, contact a professional for assistance to avoid damaging the unit or harming yourself.

How to Troubleshoot an Overheating Dryer

Whenever a major appliance acts up, it can cause a lot of stress. This is particularly true when that appliance is as necessary as a clothes dryer for most homes. Troubleshooting an overheating dryer could save you a lot of money in the long run. Regardless of what your appliance problem is, please remember first to disconnect it from its power source before attempting a repair.

Is Your Dryer Overheating?

How do you tell if your dryer is overheating? There are a few signs that you can look out for. Older units tend to emit a burning smell if they're overheating. This is typically caused when a heating element shorts out and doesn’t turn off or regulate its temperature.

Another common sign of an overheating dryer is if the top of your unit becomes extremely hot to the touch. You might wonder, will a dryer stop working if it gets too hot? Newer units tend to have the ability to short circuit before they get too hot. They're designed this way to protect the wiring of the unit.

Why is Your Dryer Overheating?

One reason that your dryer may be overheating is due to a broken cycling thermostat. Most dryers have this type of thermostat, designed to tell the heating element to turn off once the unit reaches a certain temperature. You can easily check the cycling thermostat on most dryers by removing the back panel of the appliance.

Then, use a multimeter to check if your clothes dryer thermostat is working or not. The multimeter should read zero or close to it if you have good electrical flow through your thermostat. If you don’t have that reading, you should replace the thermostat. Fortunately, this repair is fairly easy to do without the help of an expert.

Troubleshooting Your Overheating Dryer

If you’ve cleaned the unit to ensure good airflow and the thermostat is good, you should next check the heating element. Over time, heating elements can shift or warp, particularly if they make direct contact with other components of the appliance. If this happens, the dryer could heat up too much and too quickly. You can typically access the heating element through the back of the machine.

Any appliances that contain a heating element can overheat and therefore stop working. The quickest way to determine what might be wrong with your unit is to clean out the heating element and then check it, as described above. If you're unsure how your dryer works, refer to your user manual or call the manufacturer before proceeding.

Can a Dryer Catch Fire?

Clothes dryers can catch fire if they overheat. In fact, firefighters nationwide respond to over 14,000 house fires annually that were caused by clothes dryers. One-third of these fires are thought to be caused by an accumulation of dryer lint. To avoid this hazard, be diligent in cleaning out your dryer vent and lint trap on a regular basis. Don’t forget to clean out the ductwork itself.

Fixing an Overheated Hair Dryer

On a smaller scale, you might experience difficulties with your hair dryer. Despite the size difference, the inner workings of your hairdryer are similar to that of a clothes dryer. Both contain a heating element, blower and a “short circuit” that will sense the hair dryer overheating and turn the unit off to protect both it and you.

One of the first things you should check when fixing a hair dryer is the fan. Checking the fan should also include cleaning it. Over time, the filters and fan can clog up and stop permitting the heating element to get enough airflow. When this happens, the unit overheats and then shuts off.