Common Tumble Dryer Problems

DIY repair the most common problems with your tumble dryer.  The most common faults are 'tumble dryer not heating up' and 'tumble dryer drum won't turn.  With our expert guide below you'll be surprised just how easy they are to fix yourself.


Why Is My Tumble Blowing Cold Air & Dryer Not Heating Up?

There’s nothing worse, is there? You put your wet clothes in the tumble dryer and remove them an hour or two later only to discover they’re just as damp as when they went in.

Generally, you’d release a small shriek of panic then call an engineer. There are, however, a few checks you can do yourself which may save you from picking up the phone.

Here are some of the most common faults that could explain why your tumble dryer isn’t heating up.

Tumble Dryers With Re-Set Buttons

  • If your tumble dryer is not heating up, it’s likely that the heater has overheated and may have tripped and needs to be re-set.
  • The re-set button is usually situated on the rear of the tumble dryer, usually on the back panel.
  • To re-set the heat button on your tumble dryer, press in the red button. If it’s tripped you’ll hear a click.

Tumble Dryers Without Re-Set Buttons

  • Not all tumble dryers have re-set buttons, so if it stops heating it is most likely to be because the thermostat or TOC (Thermal Overload Cutout) has tripped due to overheating.
  • Thermostat’s are usually the size of a 5p and can be accessed by removing the back panel. Always switch off the power before working with any electrical part.
  • If you have one you can use a multimeter to test the thermostat's resistance.

For further information about tumble dryer thermostats see 'tumble dryer thermostats - all you need to know'.

How to replace tumble dryer thermostats:

Heating Elements

  • The heating element assembly can be found at the back of the tumble dryer. The thermostat, or TOC, is often part of the heating element assembly.
  • The heating element assembly will look like a large metal box, with wires attached coming from the tumble dryer.
  • Visually inspect the element to check for any breaks or if you have one you can test the element with a multimeter.

How to replace a tumble dryer heating element:

Why Does My Tumble Dryer Overheat And Trip The Thermostat?

  • The most common cause of a tumble dryer tripping the thermostat or TOC is opening the door before the cycle has finished.  This will stop the cooling fan before the heater element has had time to cool down.
  • The door filters should be cleaned out regularly. If they’re not, it won’t allow air to circulate through the dryer, and this will also cause it to trip.
  • Check inside the drum to ensure there are no lumps of fluff blocking it up.
  • The condenser box at the bottom of the dryer can also get fluff trapped in it, so you should clean it out regularly by running it under a tap.
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Tumble Dryer Not Turning

The most important part of a tumble dryer, after the ability to dry, is the ability to tumble. Of course, if your tumble dryer isn’t tumbling, it also won’t dry properly, so a non-tumbling tumble dryer is a problem to be fixed just as soon as physically possible.

Belt has snapped

One of the most common problems with a tumble dryer is that the belt has snapped, causing the drum to fail to turn. Checking the drive belt is, therefore, a great idea.

Before checking the drive belt, always disconnect the dryer from the mains.

The belt on a dryer is harder to get to than on a washing machine. Removing the back will often just reveal the heating element. Removing the front and sides may be necessary.

Heating the belt with a hair-dryer may allow the belt enough give to make fitting easier.

Some dryers require a special tool in order to attach the belt. This special tool is simply called a Tumble Dryer Drive Belt Fitter, and can be found easily online.

Moving the drum by hand might help you work out if the drive belt has completely snapped and fallen free. If moving the drum by hand is easier than usual, the drive belt has snapped. If moving the drum by hand is harder than usual, the drive belt may have become tangled.

How to replace a tumble dryer belt:

Faulty Start Capacitor

If it’s not the belt, it might be the capacitor that’s faulty, in which case you’ll need to consider the following:

Capacitors can give electric shocks if faulty. Do not handle them unless you know exactly what you are doing.

If the capacitor has developed a fault, you will be able to spin the drum by hand, quickly shut the door and then get the machine running – until it has to change directions.

This is because the capacitor kick-starts the motor. If you can manually kick-start the motor and it works fine, then the capacitor is the most likely problem.

How to replace a tumble dryer capacitor:

Faulty Tumble Dryer Motor

Alternatively, the motor itself may have developed a fault – in this case you will need to replace the entire motor. If neither the drive belt nor the capacitor is faulty, it is likely to be the motor that is the problem.

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Tumble Dryer Not Drying Properly

If your tumble dryer won’t dry, it can pose a real problem, especially if you don’t have access to enough space to dry your clothes out on a clothes-line. Fortunately, we can offer some helpful advice on getting your dryer up-and-running again.

Tumble Dryer Won't Start At All

If your tumble dryer won’t even start, it is probably because a fuse is blown (you checked that it was plugged in and turned on, right?). Failing that, the door may not be properly closed, or the socket itself might be broken. To check the socket, plug in a different appliance and see if that works – if it doesn’t, it’s almost certainly a problem with the socket.

Starts but won't heat up

On the other hand, if your tumble dryer is starting up, but isn’t heating up at all, then see our guide on Why is my tumble dryer not heating?

Vented Dryer or Condenser?

There are slight differences between ‘vented’ tumble dryers and ‘condenser’ tumble dryers, although some of the problems overlap. For either vented or condenser dryers, you may have one of the following problems:

  • A full lint filter – empty the filter and clean the door seal after every use.
  • Covered or restricted ventilation inlet grilles. Clear the grilles and try the dryer again.
  • Improperly sorted loads – lots of different fabrics together can lengthen load drying time.

‘Vented’ tumble dryers are dryers which vent excess condensation outside. If you have a vented tumble dryer you may have a warped or kinked vent hose.

‘Condenser’ dryers are dryers which collect condensation into a tray, to be disposed of. If you have a condenser dryer you may have one of the following problems:

  • The condenser may be covered in fluff, in which case you should clean and replace the condenser.
  • The water tank may be full – double-check that it’s been emptied correctly.
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Why Does My Tumble Dryer Keep Tripping the Electric?

It can be both frustrating and worrying if your electrics trip (turn off) every time you use your tumble dryer. Any issues that affect your electric system should be addressed as soon as possible.

Condenser box

If your tumble dryer keeps tripping the electric, it could be a result of the condenser box getting blocked with wet, soggy lint or fluff and debris from clothes. As some clothes shed more than others, it’s best to keep a regular eye on this.

When the condenser box gets partially blocked it doesn’t condense the steamy, moist air into water efficiently, so the insides of the dryer get steamy and damp.

It depends on the amount of moisture and the make of the tumble dryer, but if any particularly vulnerable part of the dryer gets damp it will result in a ‘flash-over’ between a live component and neutral or earth. This causes the RCD to trip (MCB in older units) and a fuse to blow.

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Why is My Tumble Dryer Making A Banging Noise?

Most of the time a tumble dryer will work like a dream but, as with all appliances, occasionally there will be technical problems.

If your tumble dryer is making a banging, whining (or other strange noise) it’s best to diagnose and sort out the problem. It could be the result of a number of things, but what you certainly don’t want to do is ignore it.

Here are the most common reasons for your tumble dryer making odd noises.

Coins and keys

One of the most common reasons for a banging, rattling or clanking is keys or coins left in pockets – so always check them before you put any clothes in the tumble dryer. More often than not you won’t hear anything until the dryer cycle is in full spin.

Uneven surfaces

If the dryer is vibrating or shaking during spinning, check to make sure the dryer’s sitting on a level surface. If it’s fitted with height adjusters on the front legs, adjust them accordingly to ensure the machine is level as this will often reduce or eliminate the banging sound.

Drum bearings

If the tumble dryer is noisy when its turning and the whole appliance is shaking and rumbling, it could be indicative of a problem with the drum bearings, which help the wheels turn freely and easily.

The drum

If the banging noise is continuous when the drum is turning then it might be problem with the drum itself. If the noise is a metallic one, it could be the result of the drum scraping on something inside the machine. You could always check the drum visually for any marks or dents.

Motor bearings

If the tumble dryer is emitting a high-pitched screaming or whining noise it could be a sign that the motor bearings are wearing out.

Tension pulley wheels

If there’s a squeaking noise coming from the dryer it could be the result of wear on the tension pulley wheels. This occurs more frequently on older models.

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Why Does My Tumble Dryer Make a Grinding Noise?

A tumble dryer is an absolute godsend when it works properly, providing clean, dry laundry every time. However, like all electrical appliances it can be susceptible to the occasional problem or fault, and a grinding noise is one of the most common. Here are a few of the most common causes.

Metal objects

A possible reason for your tumble dryer making a grinding sound is because there’s a metal object hitting the sides of the drum. Stop the machine and check for coins, keys, belt buckles or screws and take them out. The best advice is to check all your pockets BEFORE you put your clothes in the dryer.

Worn rollers

The rollers are a small set of (usually metal) wheels attached to the exterior of the drum that help it spin. If they start to wear it can cause a grinding noise when the drum turns. Replacing the worn rollers for new ones should sort out the problem.

Disintegrating gliders

On some tumble dryers the drum’s outer rim is a pair of gliders which act as a protective barrier to prevent the rim coming into direct contact with the metal cabinet when the drum spins. They’re usually a thin seal made of nylon or plastic, depending on your dryer model. They wear down over time, resulting in a grinding or whining noise. To stop these noises you’ll need to replace them (they’re sold as a pair so it’s best to replace them both so they wear evenly).

Slipped belt

There’s a long, thick rubber belt that encompasses the centre of the drum which supports it and allows it to rotate. If the belt slips from its position it could start making a grinding noise because it’s trying to maintain its position as the drum spins. See how to replace your tumble dryer belt above.

Damaged tensioner

The tensioner (or idler pulley) keeps the belt firmly positioned on the drum, and the belt goes over the component’s bracket which is attached to a wheel and spring. When the wheel malfunctions it can result in a grinding noise because it’s struggling to turn and maintain the belt’s tension. Damage can also occur because there’s a lack of sufficient tension.

By Lee Gilbert

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