Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fixing Kenmore

In the morning of Sunday, March 28, on my way out for my weekend exercise, I noticed that our Kenmore dryer was running . Apparently that it had been running the whole night. I opened the dryer's door, the laundry was not even warm.

Dryer runs but no heat

Upon checking, we found two problems, the timer malfunctioned, it stuck at 2 minute mark, and something was wrong with the heating unit. The dryer has been in use regularly for about 10 years now, so Lily and I agreed that we would not have it fixed but replace it with a new. However I did not want to give up just yet since the motor could still run; the problem might not be serious and I might be able to fix it myself, .

Checking manual, it says that for the situation the most likely problem is that either the thermal fuse was open or the breaker tripped. The questions then were: What is the thermal fuse look like? Where is it in the dryer? There is no answer to these simple questions in the manual. I searched - found no answer either. Then I did a broader internet search - quite a few people had similar problems - an answer on the Internet said that the thermal fuse was above the fan wheeler, one needs to open the back panel, then remove the duct around the lint filter.

Moving the dryer to a open place, taking out my tool box, I used a a wrench with hex nut to remove the screws on the back of the dryer, opened the back panel, there was a fan right there, but I still followed the internet comments to take down the duct around the lint filter, I saw no fan above it, but did see tremendous amount of dirt/lint. Lily and I cleaned the whole thing - hoping that we would fix it eventually. By the fan there are several parts, I did not know which one was the thermal fuse. I searched internet again, found website, which showed how each part look like - there is a picture of the thermal fuse there. also sells appliance parts.
There it mentioned that there can be 4 possible reasons for the motor running, no heat situation - 1) open thermal fuse, 2) broken heating element, other reasons do not apply to my case. I found the thermal fuse and the heating element. So now the problem became how to check if either part failed.
Diagnostic test
To test, a electrical test meter was needed, and I did not have any. So on the way to shopping, Lily and I stopped by at Home Depot to purchase a electrical meter. Upon a lot of comparisons I picked a professional grade meeter. At home Depot, we also went to the appliance department to ask the salesperson about where to buy the parts locally - and got names of two stores.
When I tried to use it to test the thermal fuse at home, I found out that it did not have a continuity function. Since I did not want to work on a live circuit, I returned the meter and purchased a much cheaper testing pen which has a continuity function. The thermal fuse was found out to be good. A little disappointed, I put the dryer's back cover on without testing the heating element. When I remembered that I needed to test the heating element, it was late already. We decided that we would test it later and if heating element was good as well, then we would buy a new dryer, otherwise we would replace it.
It was a week later, the next weekend that I tested the heating element. There was no continuity from one end to the other end. Lily came over to double check, then I took the heating element out, and saw the heating wire broken at one place. We finally found a cause for the failure. Checking internet the price for the heating element was about $55 plus handling and shipping fee. I called The Colony Appliance Guru - one of the store the Home Depot salesman recommended, the price there for the heating element was $72. Eager to fix the dryer right then, taking the failed heating element with me, I drove to the store to purchase the replacement. The salesperson at the store had the part and invoice ready when I got there. He asked me if I knew that I needed to take the thermostat off the failed heating element and put it on the new one, I did not, he offered to help. In five minutes, I left the store satisfied and pleased, with a functioning new heat element.
The dryer was fixed
Even though I did not remember the wires connection, installing the heating element turned out to be fool proof. The three wires connecting to the heating element can each only fit one socket. After the installation, it was time to take Nick to his soccer game, so I left the house without testing if the fix worked. Lily called at the end of the first quarter, the fix worked - the dryer could dry laundry again!
This is the first major appliance we fixed successfully. I was very pleased and satisfied - felt like solving a very difficult problem in my research - the process was challenging and fun, the end result was sweet.

1. the dryer was not totally fixed - because the timer still is not working. Instead of replacing the timer on the dryer which would cost over $100, we decided not to fix it, but to use a stand alone timer in its place. - two weeks later - the timer works again on its own!
2. The pictures were taken before I was about to install the new heating element - quite sure that I would fix it.

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