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What Causes the Clothes Dryer to Shut Off After a Few Seconds?

Kathy Adams

A dryer that shuts off in a few seconds could have several potential issues. The easiest fix is a new door latch assembly, which is simple and inexpensive to replace.

What Causes the Clothes Dryer to Shut Off After a Few Seconds

A clothes dryer that won't stay on for more than a few seconds quickly turns from a minor annoyance into a major frustration; after all, that load of towels will smell like mildew if it doesn't dry. In some cases, the issue is as simple as replacing a door latch. A thorough inspection of potentially problematic parts can help determine whether the issue is a simple home repair or something that requires professional service.

Faulty Door Latch

That tiny latch on a front-loading dryer is what keeps both the wet items and the heat inside the dryer as you dry those freshly washed items. The latch does more than that, however. If not properly secured, the dryer will shut off. If the tab that holds the latch is loose, broken or missing, the dryer may start, then disengage once the dryer drum starts turning. Test the door latch by closing the dryer door, then gently pulling it open. If it opens far more easily than it should, the latch assembly needs replacing. If unsure, close the dryer door, start the dryer, then gently tug on the door. It should feel as if it opens at the same time the dryer stops if this is indeed the problem.

Universal dryer-door latch kits are available from home improvement stores and appliance dealers and are inexpensive. Tug the damaged latch out of the door frame area, then pop in a new one so the tabs from it lock in place. Use a slotted screwdriver to pop the old locking tab out of the door assembly. Press the new one in place. Close the dryer door and turn on the dryer again to ensure this solves the problem.

Clogged Dryer Vent

The dryer vent, which looks like flexible tubing extending from the back or side of the dryer, is designed to vent air out of the dryer. Lint sometimes gets into the vent tubing and can clog it over time, causing a fire hazard. A clogged vent tube may also make the dryer overheat, which shuts the dryer down, thanks to a thermal fuse that helps prevent hazards. Clean the vent tube by looking for the exit port, typically outside the home and covered by an angled plastic shield. Remove the shield, which may require a screwdriver, then clean out the inside of the tube with a long extendable brush designed specifically for dryer vents.

Check the Power Cord

While the cord shouldn't develop any issues on its own, moving the dryer and rolling it over the cord could slice the protective housing on the cord and cause potential electrical issues. Unplug the dryer and inspect the entire length of the cord, looking for exposed wires or other signs of damage. Purchase a replacement dryer cord from a home improvement store if any damage is visible. Replace the cord by removing the dryer access plate surrounding the existing cable, then unfastening each strand of the wire from the cable attached to the dryer, one at a time. Connect the new cord's color-coded wires to the matching color-coded terminals inside the back of the dryer, then replace the access panel.

Bad Thermal Fuse

If cleaning and inspecting all the easy-to-fix parts don't solve the stopped-dryer issue, an electrical part may need replacing, such as the thermal fuse. Replacement fuses are available from appliance parts dealers. To replace the fuse, unplug the dryer, remove the back cover, then look for the pronged part that looks exactly like the replacement fuse. Note how the fuse is attached and connected to the dryer with spade connectors. Unscrew the old fuse and pull off the spade connectors, then connect the new fuse, following the same process in reverse. If handy with a multimeter, you can also test the old fuse for continuity by touching the meter's probes to each of the connectors on the fuse, with the multimeter at its lowest setting. A good fuse should net an infinity reading.