What to Do When Your Dryer Won’t Start

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So your dryer won’t start. Most of us discover this fact in that inconvenient moment right after loading the dryer with wet clothes. You check the settings, smack the ‘start’ button and…. nothing. Why nothing? It’s hard to say right off the bat, but with a little troubleshooting, you can often discover why a perfectly good dryer would suddenly fail to start. There are a number of reasons why a dryer might not start, and discovering them requires a range of skill and inspection. Fortunately, over half of the available troubleshooting options are things you can easily do at home with no technician training. This article will help you walk through safe DIY troubleshooting your dryer step-by-step.  

Is There Power?

The first thing to check is whether your dryer is even drawing power. Without power, all other components are irrelevant. Before you laugh, remember that dryers are high-powered appliances that also shake around. This means a dryer could (and they often do) shake until the plug is pulled from the wall or ask for a surge of power that blows the breaker.

Depending on your dryer, it’s easy or challenging to test for power. If you have a control-panel dryer that lights up and chirps, just try turning it on. If you get no response, the dryer lacks power. For older dryers, check to see if your dryer has a light that comes on or responds to any panel button commands.

Check the Plug

Of course, the easiest way to know if your dryer is plugged in is just to look. Check behind your dryer and follow the cord to the wall. A dryer outlet and plug are both huge so it should be noticeable if the dryer plug has fallen from the wall outlet. If it has, or if it is loose in the socket, carefully reconnect the two and plug your dryer back in.

Check the Breaker

If the plug is in the wall but your dryer is unresponsive, go check the breaker panel. This may be in the garage, utility closet, or a random wall of the home. Dryers can blow breakers. If you know the dryer breaker, flip it closed and open. If not, look for any breakers that appear to be misaligned from the others (including set to the center). Switch that breaker off and back on again. Then check the dryer.  

Clear the Lint Trap

It’s a good rule of thumb to always clear the lint trap when troubleshooting a dryer. Lint buildup can and will choke out a dryer if allowed to become too dense. Lint can build up in the trap, in the duct, vent, and even inside the dryer housing. So clear the lint trap frequently. At this moment, clear the lint trap then peer inside the housing with a flashlight to see how much lint buildup inside the dryer. Too much, and your problem certainly isn’t being helped by unnecessary dryer fluff getting into everything. 

Inspect the Door Switch

The problem might also be your dryer door switch. Dryers won’t start unless the door is firmly closed and this is electronically confirmed with the door switch. The reason for this is to prevent the door from falling open for hot, tumbling clothes to fall out. It also prevents the heating element from warming up while the appliance is open and potentially exposed to humans or pets.

Clogged Door Switch

Find the door switch, a small depression switch often in the upper-right-hand corner of the door pocket. Check to see if it looks clogged with lint, laundry soap, or other general grim. Wipe it lightly with a sponge sprayed with surface cleaner or use a cotton swab to clean out the grooves.

Broken Door Switch

It’s also possible your door switch isn’t triggering at all. If you have an interior dryer light, you can test the door switch the same way you’d test the fridge light: by pressing the switch while the door is open and seeing if the light flickers. If the door switch turns out to be broken or unresponsive, it’s simple to replace. 

Push On the Drum

With the door open, reach in and give the drum a shove. It doesn’t have to be hard, but enough to make the drum move. If it doesn’t wiggle, try spinning it with the internal fins. Just feel with your hand and listen closely to how the drum moves. If it clunks, scrapes, or wobbles excessively, then the problem may be a serious internal issue with your dryer that will require disassembly to repair. But it’s a good sign if your dryer spins firmly along its track like it always does. 

Is It the Button?

If it’s not the power, lint, door, or drum, then it might be the dryer’s control panel or the start button itself. This is more of an electrical problem and will require some disassembly and screwdriver work to repair. But there are some ways you can track down the problem without opening up the back or playing with wires.

Test the Other Buttons

First, see if the other buttons on the control panel respond. If there are lights or beeps from the setting buttons, then you know the dryer control panel is essentially working. It is running electricity through and responding to signals from the buttons. If your dryer is all-manual (clicking dials and mechanical push-set buttons) in settings, this is harder to determine.

Remove the Start Button Knob

Many dryer buttons and knobs are plastic molds on metal posts. This makes them removable, but also means gunk can build up between the button and the post. If it is possible with your dryer, pull the start button or knob off and inspect what’s underneath. You’ll likely want to wipe down the panel surface below and you may notice grime or metal corrosion on the post. Clean the knob and carefully clean the post. If you see corrosion or other signs of damage, you’ll likely need to replace the start switch, which is what backs the post inside the panel housing.

Test the Start Button

Put the knob back on (if it came off) and test starting your dryer again. If there is a flicker of light or electrical response, examine the symptoms. This means there is actually electricity flowing between the switch and panel. If there is no response, this is not a conclusive test. 

Consider More Invasive Methods

If you haven’t tracked down the reason for your dryer not starting yet, it’s time to get serious. You’ll need a screwdriver, nut driver, work gloves, a multimeter with probes, and a detailed how-to guide. Contact us today for more DIY appliance repair tips or for the assistance of a skilled appliance repair technician. We’ll get your dryer running again one way or another, or confirm that it’s finally gone for good.

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