Dryer Won’t Dry Clothes, but Gets Hot? Here’s Why

VIA Appliance
April 25, 2022
Dryer Repair

Opening the dryer door to find clothes that are still damp can be a day-ruining experience. It is especially frustrating when it seems to make no sense as you know the dryer was tumbling, and it definitely feels hot, so it must have been heating. So, why is the dryer not drying? In most cases, if the dryer is hot but the clothes are not dry, the problem is that the ventilation is clogged. If clogged ventilation is not responsible for the heating issue, the heating element, high-limit or cycling thermostats, or a gas valve solenoid is likely malfunctioning and causing the issue.

Clogged lint screen

The dryer’s lint screen should be cleaned after every cycle. If the lint screen is neglected, then the lint builds up and restricts the airflow in the dryer. If the dryer’s airflow is restricted, the dryer will struggle to dry the clothes. A clogged lint screen can also lead to one of the dryer’s thermostats, or the thermal fuse, becoming defective, which can also cause dryer heating issues. Before you check any other components, make sure the lint screen is not clogged with lint.

Clogged exhaust

The dryer’s exhaust duct usually runs from the lint screen to the back of the dryer, where an exhaust hose connects to the dryer’s ventilation duct. Like the lint screen, but on a larger scale, if there is an exhaust blockage, the dryer will struggle to dry the clothes. A blockage in the exhaust duct can also affect other dryer components, which can cause the dryer to heat but not dry. Accessing the dryer’s exhaust duct can depend upon the type of dryer that you have. However, with most dryers, you should be able to remove the exhaust hose at the back of the dryer by unscrewing or removing its clamps. Removing the exhaust hose should give you access to the blower wheel and dryer exhaust vent. The dryer’s rear panel may also need to be removed. Make sure to turn off the power or gas before accessing the dryer. Once you have accessed the dryer’s exhaust, vacuum all the lint and clean the area with a damp cloth. Another way to clean the exhaust duct is to remove the lint screen and use a vacuum attachment to vacuum clean the vent.

Clogged dryer duct

Another part of the dryer’s ventilation that can become blocked is the ventilation duct that runs from the dryer to outside the home. The ventilation duct may also have a lid on it that has become stuck and will not open far enough to allow air to exit the dryer, which can also cause a hot dryer, but damp clothes. The ventilation duct can be cleaned with a dryer vent cleaning kit, which comes with an extendable and flexible brush that can be inserted into the duct to remove blockages. The end of the ventilation duct can be checked when the dryer is in use to make sure air is flowing out of it and that its lid is not stuck in the closed position (if it has a lid).

Defective blower wheel

The dryer’s blower wheel is located at the back of the dryer, where the dryer connects to the ventilation duct. Accessing the blower wheel will likely require the removal of the ventilation hose and the rear access panel. If the dryer does not have a rear access panel, the dryer will likely need to be disassembled to access the blower wheel. Make sure the power and gas are turned off before removing any dryer panels. Once you have accessed and located the blower wheel, check that it spins freely. If you cannot turn the blower wheel, you will either need to clear the obstruction or replace the blower wheel. Making sure the blower wheel can spin freely will allow the dryer to dry more effectively and without overheating.

Malfunctioning gas valve solenoid

If you have a gas dryer, one of the gas valve solenoids that open the gas valve to allow gas into the burner assembly may be malfunctioning. If a solenoid is malfunctioning, it can initially open the gas valve but then fail later in the dryer cycle, resulting in the dryer being hot but drying the clothes properly. A defective gas valve solenoid can be detected by checking the igniter. If the igniter glows at first and then goes out without igniting the gas, then there is likely a problem with the solenoid. The solenoid can also be tested with a multimeter to determine if it has failed and needs to be replaced. A working two-terminal solenoid should have continuity that measures between 1000 and 2000 ohms of resistance. A three-terminal coil should measure between 300 and 2000 ohms of resistance.

High-limit or cycling thermostat

The high-limit thermostat shuts the dryer off if the dryer overheats, while the cycling thermostat activates and deactivates the heating element during a drying cycle. If either the high-limit thermostat or the cycling thermostat is malfunctioning, the dryer could be heating but not enough to dry the clothes. However, a malfunctioning thermostat is more likely to lead to no heat at all, so replacing the thermostats should be a last resort.

Malfunctioning heating element

The dryer’s heating element warms the air that enters the dryer. The heating element could be working but malfunctioning and not providing enough heat to dry the clothes. However, like the thermostats, the heating element is more likely to fail completely, and it is difficult to assess whether it is malfunctioning. Therefore, replacing the heating element should be a last resort.

In conclusion

Clogged dryer ventilation is most likely the cause of a dryer that heats but does not dry. If the dryer’s ventilation is not responsible for the drying issue, the dryer’s heating element, gas valve solenoid, or thermostats may be causing the issue. If the drying issue still remains, the dryer’s control board or timer may need to be replaced.

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