How to Troubleshoot a Gas Dryer

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You make a trip to the laundry room only to discover that the clothes in the dryer are still wet. You know that both the gas and the power are on, so you don't understand why the dryer isn't working. You have already checked the obvious things like making sure that the door is closed firmly and the "start" control set, but that doesn't help. The next step is to take a closer look at some of the basic dryer components to try to diagnose the problem.

  • Go to the dryer vent located on the outside of the house to test for proper airflow. Place your hand over the vent while the dryer is running. If you feel little or no hot air coming out of the vent, check the lint trap, which is usually located at the top of the dryer, and remove any lint.

  • Unplug the clothes dryer or shut off the power at the electrical service panel before examining any appliance parts connected to or found inside of the dryer. Even after cutting off power to the dryer, let the dryer sit for a few minutes before beginning any work on the appliance. Always follow safety procedures to avoid the risk of electric shocks when working with appliances.

  • Look behind the dryer to make certain that the vent duct is connected both to the dryer and to the outside vent. Move the dryer out from the wall if you need to get behind it to do a closer inspection of the vent hose. Take off the end of the hose that connects to the dryer. Check for any buildup of lint or other obstructions inside the dryer duct.

  • Remove the access panel located at the bottom front of the dryer so that you can observe the parts of the burner assembly in operation. You can usually pry the panel loose using a flathead screwdriver. Choose a high temperature setting and then start the dryer. You should see the ignitor glow. The ignitor on newer models replaced the pilot light on older models of gas appliances. If the ignitor is working as it should be, the two coils on the gas valve will click and the flames will ignite.

  • Pay attention to whether the ignitor goes out after glowing for only a few seconds. If it does, the problem is likely the coils, which control the flow of gas to the dryer. However, if the ignitor remains on, the problem could be the flame sensor, another part of the burner assembly, which resembles a small black box. This sensor is supposed to shut off the ignitor when it gets hot, and open the gas valve, allowing the dryer to heat up.

  • Schedule a service call to have the dryer repaired if you observe that any component of the burner assembly is not working properly. One of the parts may need to be replaced, and unless you are confident about what you are doing, a professional familiar with the operation of a gas appliance should do this.

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean the lint trap regularly, preferably after every dryer load. Not only can the buildup of lint affect the efficiency of the dryer, it can be a dangerous fire hazard as well. You might want to vacuum the inside of the dryer cabinet at least once each year to remove any buildup of lint, particularly around the motor and gas burner. Be sure to disconnect the power cord to the dryer and turn off the gas before starting.
  • Do not operate a dryer without having the lint trap in place. Turn off the gas before moving the dryer so that the gas line does not get damaged or leak.

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