If you’re among the 80% of Americans using a clothes dryer, you might have to deal with a dryer that’s running but not getting hot at some point. If this happens, you’ll be left wondering why your dryer isn’t heating up. Is it the clothes, or does the machine have issues?
A dryer that isn’t getting hot likely has an insufficient power supply, a clogged vent, wrong cycle settings, a burnt/malfunctioning heating element, or a defective high limit thermostat. You can fix these issues by replacing faulty parts, cleaning the vent, or correcting the settings.
If you can’t fix your dryer immediately, you’ll be forced to put your linen on a clothesline to dry, and that’ll take a while, especially in the depth of winter. I figured you’d want your dryer issue resolved ASAP and put together this article with all the common causes and hacks to fix a dryer not getting hot. Read and get your dryer issue resolved right away!
Dryer Not Getting Hot: 5 Common Causes and Fixes
Here’s a table summarizing the 5 most likely reasons why your dryer isn’t getting hot and a quick fix or advice for seeking professional help:
|Your dyer has an insufficient power supply.||Check the power cable, circuit breaker, and electrical outlet voltage.|
|Your dryer has the wrong cycle settings.||See the User Manual for drying cycle options and settings|
|The dryer vent is clogged or kinked.||Clean the vent and check the ductwork for damage or twists|
|A heating element is burnt or malfunctioning.||Test the heating element(s) for continuity and replace it if no continuity is detected.|
|The high limit thermostat is bad.||Test the thermostat for continuity and replace it if it doesn’t show current flow.|
Let’s discuss each of the above causes and fixes at length, so you know exactly what to do.
1. Your Dryer Has Insufficient Power Supply
This is likely the problem if you’ve just bought your dryer. If it’s running without getting hot, the electrical outlet or the circuit breaker switch supplying power to the dryer could have a lower voltage than required.
According to GE Appliances, electric dryers should be connected to a 208/240V dedicated electrical outlet. From the breaker, two 120V switches supply power to the dryer: one makes the motor turn and the other runs the motor.
So if one of the 120V breaker switches that supply the wall outlet is tripped, your dryer may be connected to a 240V outlet but still not heat. As a result, the dryer drum will turn thanks to the 120V partial voltage, but the motor won’t. The net effect of this is a dryer that runs without getting hot.
How To Fix a Dryer With Insufficient Power Supply
First, check if the circuit breaker has any tripped switches. A tripped switch is turned downwards. So, push it back up to get the current flowing. If the tripped switch is hard to turn, don’t force it. Call a trained electrician instead.
Also, check that the circuit breaker switches sending power to the wall outlet have the correct voltage. Circuit breakers usually have a label beside the switch or at the back of the circuit breaker door showing the power capacity of each switch.
Second, check the wall outlet if there are no issues with the circuit breaker. This implies testing the plug with a multimeter to see if it has the correct voltage.
Caution! Since testing a wall outlet for voltage implies working with electrically charged wires, don’t do this test if you aren’t sure you can do it safely. Instead, call a trained electrician.
If you can perform the test, follow these steps:
- Set a multimeter to the voltage range by selecting the alternating current (AC) function. You’ll see a wavy line on the meter display.
- Notice the three slots of the wall outlet: Hot (left), Neutral (right), and Ground (below/above the hot and neutral slots). The sides are read from your position facing the outlet.
- Insert the black probe into the neutral slot first, and the red probe into the hot slot next. The reading should show a number between 215V and 240V. While at it, you can check if the outlet is properly grounded by inserting one probe to the ground slot and the other to the hot or neutral probes in turns. You should get a reading between 110V and 120V both times if the outlet is properly grounded.
See this quick YouTube video for a visual demonstration of how to test your dryer wall outlet for voltage:
Note: If you have a gas model, the drum will run on electrical power, but the dryer won’t get hot because the burner is charged by gas. If your gas dryer is running but not heating up, ensure that the house and dryer gas hook-up aren’t turned off. Call the gas supplier if no gas is coming into your home.
You can find out if gas is flowing into your house by trying to run other home appliances running on gas.
If there are no issues with the circuit breaker, the wall outlet, or the gas, proceed to check for other possible causes of a dryer not getting hot.
2. Your Dryer Has the Wrong Cycle Selection
Most dryers come with a selection of cycle options depending on the intensity of the heat that you want on your linen. As an exception, the air dry cycle uses air to remove moisture from delicate clothes but doesn’t use any heat.
If you have linen that requires heat to dry and have set the dryer on the air dry cycle, the dryer won’t get hot.
How To Fix Wrong Dryer Cycle Settings
For this fix, you’ll need to consult your dryer User Manual. Typically, the drying cycle has different options: high, medium, low, mid-low, and mid-high.
Follow the provided User Manual guidelines to set your dryer on the right dry cycle depending on the type of linen you’re working with. If this doesn’t fix the problem, the issue isn’t wrong cycle settings.
3. The Dryer Vent Is Clogged or Kinked
A clogged vent is the most common cause of a dryer not getting hot. If the vent is blocked or twisted, air circulation in the unit is restricted. This means the moisture from your clothes doesn’t leave the unit, reducing heat and lengthening the drying time.
Also, if the vent is twisted, the airway is blocked. That means lint can accumulate in the vent, creating a blockage in the long run. In addition, longer dryer vents leave fluff circulating too long inside the vent, creating a favorable environment for lint blockage.
How To Fix Dryer Vent Blockage, Twist, or Incorrect Length
You’ll need to clean a clogged vent. To check if the vent is blocked:
- Run your dryer on a high heat setting.
- Find the vent exit outside and feel if hot air comes out and if it has a steady flow.
- If you feel no or little hot air or the hot air flow isn’t steady, the vent could be blocked and in need of cleaning.
To clean a clogged dryer vent, follow these steps:
- Turn off the power to the dryer and unplug.
- Pull the dryer away from the wall and disconnect the vent.
- Use a dryer vent cleaning brush to loosen the fluff and vacuum to pick any excess fluff that doesn’t attach to the brush.
- Use the brush and vacuum to also clean the dryer vent exit outside the house.
- While at it, assess the ductwork for any damage or twists. If any, replace the ductwork.
- Once done, reconnect the vent, push back the dryer to its place, plug it, and turn on the power to run your dryer again.
Find a visual demonstration of the Dryer vent cleaning process in this YouTube video:
To reduce lint buildup in the vent, avoid running a dryer without a lint filter. In addition, ensure you clean the lint filter after every drying cycle.
As a general rule, Dryer vents should be cleaned every 6 months to preempt clogging. Also, make sure that the vent covering outside the home opens when the dryer is running to allow airflow and eliminate the fluff.
Note, too, that some dryer models have an indicator that shows when the vent is clogged. Check your User Manual to see if you have such a model.
Regarding vent size, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors recommends that dryer vents be as straight as possible to facilitate lint elimination. Additionally, dryer vents should be 4 inches (10.16 cm) wide and not more than 35 feet (11 m) from the dryer to the wall or roof exit.
If there are any bends on your dryer lint vent, reduce the total length by 2.5 feet (0.8 m) for a 45° bend and 5 feet (1.5 m) for a 90° bend.
4. A Heating Element Is Burnt or Malfunctioning
If your dryer has two heating elements and one is burnt, or the single heating element in your dryer isn’t working as it should, your dryer will run but won’t get hot enough. As such, you’ll need to replace the burnt or malfunctioning heating element.
How To Replace a Burnt/Malfunctioning Heating Element
You’ll need to test the heating element first to determine if it’s bad, then proceed to replace it if needed. Here’s how to do that:
- Switch off power to the dryer and unplug.
- Take out the two screws in the dryer door to remove the top.
- Remove the two screws inside the case to detach the front.
- Unhook the belt by pulling the pulley towards the motor to release the tub. You should now see the heating element(s).
- Check the element(s) to see if it’s broken. If you can identify any breakage, the element isn’t delivering current. If you can’t see any breakage, proceed to test the element(s) for continuity.
- Unplug the element wires.
- Set a multimeter to the lowest range for ohms of resistance.
- Place each of the multimeter probes on one of the element’s terminals. If the multimeter reading records 3 zeros and 50 ohms, the heating element has continuity. If no reading is recorded, the element has no continuity and must be replaced.
- Consult your dealer for the correct type of heater element to replace the burned one. Then follow these steps in reverse to put back the dryer tub and the front and top casing.
See how to test a dryer heat element in this RepairClinic YouTube Video:
Caution! Since this is a complex process, opt to have a trained dryer technician test and replace a burnt or malfunctioning heater element if you don’t feel up to the task.
5. The High Limit Thermostat Is Bad
The high-limit thermostat is a safety device in a dryer and stops the heating element if it overheats. This usually happens due to a clogged vent that causes heat buildup in the unit. It can also be caused by overworking following moisture retention in the drum.
If the high limit thermostat is bad, it won’t do its heat control job properly. This could cause your dryer not to get hot while the dryer is running.
How To Fix a Bad High Limit Thermostat
To access the high limit thermostat, you need to remove the top and front dryer casing and the tub, as explained in the previous section. Your dryer should already be unpowered, and the plug removed when you remove the casing. Once this is done, proceed with the following steps to test the limit thermostat and replace it if necessary:
- Spot the limit thermostat一an oval-shaped element with wires connected to it.
- Isolate the limit thermostat from the appliance.
- Set your multimeter to zero ohms of resistance.
- Touch each of the thermostat terminals with one of the two probes of the multimeter. The thermostat should show continuity at room temperature if it’s good. If the thermostat is bad, the multimeter needle won’t move, and no change will happen to the reading display. In that case, the high limit thermostat needs to be replaced.
- Consult your dealer to purchase the right type of thermostat for your dryer and fix it where the old one was.
Watch this YouTube video by RepairClinic for a visual idea of the steps to testing a high limit thermostat for continuity:
If any of these problems isn’t the issue causing your dryer not to get hot, your drier could be having other rare or complex issues that need professional attention from a trained technician.
Some of these “other complex issues” include:
- A malfunctioning motor.
- A faulty timer.
- A defective main control board.
- A bad flame sensor or igniter (for gas dryers only).
Let’s Sum This Up!
Here are the key takeaways from today’s post:
- A wrong cycle setting or a dirty dryer vent could make your dryer not get hot. More complex issues include insufficient power and faulty parts.
- Clean your dryer vent every 6 months. A clogged dryer vent will block airflow and can be a cause of other dryer problems.
- If your dryer has power or faulty parts issues, only attempt to fix it if you can do so safely. Otherwise, call a trained electrician.
If you need more information about your dryer, these articles might be able to help: