5 Reasons Your Dryer Smells Like Burning Rubber

Fleet Appliance
July 8, 2024
Dryer Repair

It’s not a good sign if your washer lets off a smell similar to burning rubber while in operation. It’s a pretty clear indicator that something is off with your appliance. However, don’t despair, as it’s likely a problem that can be fixed. In this article, we’ll show you how.

Here are 5 reasons your dryer smells like burning rubber.

1. Worn or slipped drive belt

Considering that the drive belt is made of rubber and can be exposed to excessive friction if it slips out of place or the tension is wrong, it’s a component that’s worth checking if you smell burning rubber coming from your dryer.

The drive belt wraps around the drum and the motor, turning the drum when the motor spins. You can access it by removing the lint filter and the screws inside the filter housing, and then removing the top panel and the front panel on your dryer. Don’t forget to unplug your appliance before disassembling it.

Once you’ve accessed the drive belt, inspect it for fraying, cracking, melting, or slipping. If it appears damaged, it will need replacing. You can remove the old one and take it with you to an appliance parts store to ensure you buy the correct replacement.

When fitted correctly, the drive belt should be wrapped firmly around the drum, motor pulley, and idler pulley. There should be no slack, but it shouldn’t be overly tight either.

2. Worn bearings on the idler pulley

The idler pulley is crucial because it helps ensure the drive belt stays in the right position and maintains the right amount of tension. It’s essentially a wheel that the drive belt sits on, attached to a spring-loaded arm.

If the bearings in the idler pulley wear out, the wheel will no longer spin, meaning the drive belt will just slide across it, creating excessive friction and a burning rubber smell.

You can access the idler pulley to inspect it the same way we explained for accessing the drive belt in the section above. It makes sense to check both at the same time.

When inspecting the idler pulley, manually turn the wheel to see if it moves freely. If it does, it’s okay. If it has a lot of resistance, a gritty feel, or makes grinding or squeaky noises, this indicates the bearing is bad.

It’s easy to purchase a replacement idler pulley online or in an appliance store, and fitting the new idler pulley is also simple. You just have to unbolt the old one from its bracket and fit the new one in its place, making sure it’s positioned correctly.

3. Overloaded motor

If the dryer motor becomes overloaded, perhaps from an excessively heavy or large load, it can overheat and emit a burning rubber-like smell. The odor might also be comparable to a burning electrical smell.

If overloading was the cause, the smell should dissipate on its own in a couple of hours after the motor has cooled down. As long as you don’t overload the dryer again when you run it, and the motor isn’t damaged, the smell shouldn’t come back.

Additionally, lint buildup in the lint trap or exhaust vent can cause the dryer motor to overheat since it restricts airflow, causing the motor to work harder to dry clothes. Therefore, it’s important to clean the lint trap after every use and the exhaust vent at least once per year.

4. Worn-out drum rollers

The drum rollers support the drum and allow it to spin freely. Over time, the drum rollers can wear out or seize up, meaning they don’t spin as well as they should. This leads to a squeaking sound, excessive friction, and a burning rubber smell as the drum will slide over the rollers rather than rotate with them.

Most dryers have two to four drum rollers. However, if even one wears out, it’s best to replace them all as a set to maintain balance in your dryer’s components. You can access, test, and replace the drum rollers by first unplugging your dryer and then removing its top and front panels.

Next, remove the drive belt by releasing the tension with the idler pulley and then lift out the entire drum. Locate the drum rollers—they look like small rubber wheels—and check whether they rotate freely or look worn. If they rotate freely, this means they don’t need to be replaced. However, if any look worn or are difficult to spin, replace all of the drum rollers.

You can replace them by ordering a new compatible drum roller set, unbolting and removing the old drum rollers using a socket wrench, and then bolting the new ones in place.    

5. Damaged Motor

If, after checking all of the above, you have still not been able to resolve the burning rubber smell, there’s a chance that it could be your dryer’s motor failing, such as its bearings wearing out or the centrifugal switch failing.

A failing motor is usually accompanied by loud, unusual noises, such as squealing or grinding, and a burning rubber-like smell. In some cases, a failing motor will cause the dryer not to spin at all.

A failing motor is quite a complex issue and is time-consuming to repair or replace since it requires disassembling many parts of the dryer. Therefore, it’s best done by a professional. However, replacing the motor is also quite expensive when you factor in the cost of parts and labor, so if your dryer is old or a cheaper model, it’s worth considering whether it’s better to purchase a new dryer.

Other causes of a burning smell from a dryer

Other issues can also cause a burning smell to come from your dryer. However, these issues are less likely to cause a burning rubber-like smell and more likely to produce a general burning smell. They include:

  • Charred lint
  • Shorted control board
  • Failing thermostat
  • Faulty wiring

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