Just how tricky is dryer repair?

andaleeMay 27, 2010

Day before yesterday my Neptune dryer (bought new in 1999) stopped heating. I'm guessing that the heating element has gone out, but are there other things that could cause it, like the heat level switch going out? (It's a sliding switch; no digital anything on this machine.) Since I don't have any kind of maintenance agreement on it, I really don't want to pay a repair guy to fix it. I'm handy, can follow directions, have a ton of tools, and am about to utter the fatal phrase:

"How hard could it be?"

If anyone knows, please chime in. :o)

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What's the specific model number of the unit? You can look up parts diagrams at several web sites, such as www.searspartsdirect.com and www.partstap.com to get an idea of how to disassemble the machine. Troubleshooting the problem may involve use of a volt/ohm meter to test electrical components. The element may not be bad, could be something else such as a thermostat or thermal fuse. Since Whirlpool bought Maytag, they've put some Maytag service manuals on their www.servicematters.com site. I refurbished a Neppy dryer (with electronic controls, but likely the same mechanical design as yours) several years for my neighbor who got it free as a cast-off. Nothing particularly tricky about it ... but I do have experience with appliance repair.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 6:46PM
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It's an MDE4000AYW (first generation) and has held up well, all things considered.

I've done some googling, and found a repair manual at this site: http://www.applianceaid.com/partsmanual.html It's a good quality pdf, and even better, it was free. :o) It has troubleshooting instructions, including a list of what to check if the dryer doesn't heat. (Cha-ching.) I also like this page (http://www.davesrepair.com/DIYhelp/DIYnoheatdryers.htm) from Dave's Repair Clinic. That site has helped me more than once.

My dad's coming over tomorrow to go through it with me and see what we can figure out. A little moral support is never a bad thing, eh? I've got a volt meter, and dad has another tool (can't remember what he called it) that he thinks will help troubleshoot. He knows something about electrical systems repair (elevator mechanic), and I think between the two of us, we'll be good to go.

Thanks, dadoes for the tips!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 7:55PM
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Since it's an electric dryer and it's only not heating it could be that one side of your double breaker has tripped.
Go to your breaker box for the house and find the double breaker for the dryer. cycle the breakers to off then push them a little harder all the way torwards off to reset the breaker then turn them back on. Now try the dryer to see if it heats.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 8:01PM
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We just had our dryer repaired. The repairman explained that dryers are really simple to work on. They are just a large, round metal drum, a fan and a heating element. Only a few things can go wrong. The dryer still rotated but it didn't produce any heat. We needed to replace an electrical part, a breaker I believe. Cost about $80 dollars. Since our dryer is about 14 years old, they had to special order the part. Did I pay too much? I hope not. Anyway, it is much better than dragging all the laundry out to the laundromat!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 8:22AM
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In the old days whe I was a lot younger, I DIY'd the repairs on a Hotpoint Dryer involving fixing the timer, adding a power relay for the heating element, and replacing a couple thermostats. There was a schematic on the back of the machine and I got a repair book at an appliance repair parts shop. Other than that, I have owned Whirlpool dryers and the only repairs were belt changes.These days I go on-line and find diagnostic charts for any appliance. If you don't know what a schematic is, I wouldn't DIY it.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 9:36AM
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Thanks, everyone. Between my dad and I, (he's the electrical guy, I was the head info-gatherer providing schematics and repair manuals), we figured out it's the high-limit thermostat. I had suspected as much, as I realized yesterday that the landlord hadn't cleaned the dryer vent before we moved in six months ago.

Everything electrical tested out just fine, until we turned on the dryer . . . then the fluke meter (fancy-schmancy voltmeter-thingy) showed that the high-limit thermostat was open. It tested just fine with the dryer off, but open as soon as I turned the dryer on, makes me think that it's an obstruction in the vent. I'll know once the part gets here (in a few days), and we get the vent cleared out. I'm not firing up the dryer until that vent is clear from stem to stern.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 11:44PM
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The breakers are good--they were one of the first things I checked/reset. Thanks for the tip . . .

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 9:53PM
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Just thought I'd post an update on how things turned out.

The landlord was wonderful about taking care of the vent. The vent was the white vinyl accordion style, and had between 3/4"-1" of buildup. The vent itself is 14' long and has 5 (that's right, FIVE) 90-degree bends. My dryer can handle that length and that number of bends, and I'm so thankful that the high-limit thermostat kicked in when it did. After the handyman came and replaced the vent with nearly-smooth metal ducting, I took a good look at the white vent . . . and it was really scary. I'll be blogging about it soon, with photos to show how bad it was. I don't think that the vent had ever been cleaned in the 15-year life of the house. At the next-to-last 90, there was a spot that was scorched brown from heat buildup . . . truly sobering to look at.

So, check and clean your vents REGULARLY, make sure they're NOT the bumpy, accordion vinyl, and don't take anything for granted when you're in a rental.

Thanks so much for the help, everyone, and I'm so glad to have a happy dryer again!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2010 at 3:25PM
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Good that you got rid of the vinyl ducting - that stuff is dangerous. ALWAYS use rigid or semi-rigid ductwork for a dryer. The folds and springs in flexible ductwork catches lint easily which builds up and causes blockage, and thus occasionally fires. It also gets crushed easily. The vinyl cracks with age, and the aluminum foil type tears easily.

Here is a link that might be useful: Consumer Reports on dryer ducting

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 2:10AM
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This may sound funny, but we just cleaned our vent really good. We had vacuumed it out before, particularly on bends. However, to get it really clean, we did the following. Basically, I took the leave blower in the house, put in hole and wrapped towel around that end. My fiance' took the wet/dry vac outside and inserted in dryer vent and wrapped towel around his end. We let run for about 10 minutes. In middle, we took flexible hose and ran it throught the whole run to loosen up anything remaining. We got tons of lint out and it was very easy.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 9:55AM
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