How to Test a Thermal Switch on an Electric Dryer


A thermal switch on an electric dryer completes a circuit and remains open, or on, while the dryer is in operation. The switch leads to a heating element that produces hot air to dry clothes as they tumble in the dryer. A sign of a faulty thermal switch is that the clothes are damp and cold after the dryer finishes a timed cycle. You can easily test a thermal switch for faults with a simple jumper wire.

Things You'll Need

  • Jumper wire
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Small flat screwdriver
  • Turn off the dryer and let it cool before testing the thermal switch. On Maytag, Whirlpool and Kenmore dryers, the switch is on the fan housing. Older GE dryers place them under the lint filter. Newer GE dryers install them on the front of the fan blower.

  • Remove the wires from each end of the thermal switch. The wires attach to the switch differently depending on the model. Use needle-nose pliers to unwind the wiring from each end or a small flat screwdriver to remove screws that connect the wiring on each end to the component.

  • Connect a jumper wire to each end of the switch to bypass the switch. A jumper wire is an insulated copper wire. Any small copper insulated wire is useful in this procedure. Auto supply stores sell jumper wires in many lengths.

  • Wind one end of the jumper wire to the wire that was on one end of the switch. Wind the two copper ends together in a clockwise direction. Place a wire nut on the junction by pushing it on and turning clockwise at the same time. Repeat this procedure for the wire on the other end of the switch.

  • Turn the dryer on and wait for about five minutes. Open the dryer door and put your hand inside after it quits turning to see if the air is hot. If the air is heating, the switch is not working properly and needs replacement.

  • Replace the switch with either a new one or the old one that is working. Detach the jumper wire from each end of the switch wiring by removing the wire nuts and untwisting the wires in a counterclockwise direction. Reconnect the wiring to each side of the switch.

Tips & Warnings

  • Bypassing the thermal switch and receiving no hot air inside the dryer indicates that the switch is in working order.
  • Check the dryer exhaust hoses and vents for blockages that cause the lack of heat. This is the most common cause of limiting heat in an electric dryer.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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