Tumble Dryer not working? Check These Issues

What if your tumble dryer goes wrong? This is a guide to common tumble dryer problems and faults. 

Tumble driers are essential when wet and cold weather makes drying clothes outside problematic. 

For example, if you live in a flat, you might rely on your tumble drier if you don’t have anywhere reasonably practical to dry clothes. Drying your clothes quickly and efficiently reduces the smell of damp clothes and ensures they’re ready to air, iron or put away straight after washing. 

So, what if your tumble dryer goes wrong? This is a guide to common tumble dryer problems and faults. 

Why is my tumble dryer blowing cold air & dryer not heating up?

There are two main types of tumble dryers: vented and condensing.

  • Vented dryers use a venting hose to disperse hot air from within the machine. They require external ventilation. 
  • Condensing dryers evaporate air from the clothes, which condenses and is removed via a drainage hole or tray. Therefore, they don’t require external ventilation.

White tumble dryer duct hanging out window
Above: Venting pipe for a vented tumble dryer

If your tumble dryer is blowing cold air, it’s almost certainly a vented dryer. Unfortunately, these are prone to overheating problems which cause the unit’s thermal overload cut-out (TOC) to switch the machine off. 

This is much more common in warmer weather when running your tumble dryer at full max for long periods. In this situation, most modern tumble dryers should switch back on once they’ve cooled. Otherwise, you should let the unit cool for 30-minutes to an hour and switch it off and on again, or reset it. 

1: Check for debris

Overheating can also be caused or exacerbated by a build-up of fluff or debris in the filters or ventilation pipe. 

Taking lint filter out of tumble dryer
Above: Filter or lint trap

Ensure that these components are free from fluff, dust and other debris. Keeping tumble dryers clean prolongs their life. Make sure you unplug it from the mains first just to be on the safe side. 

2: If resetting doesn’t solve the issue

If you switch your machine off/on or reset it, but it still blows cold, then there may be an issue with the thermostat or heating element. The thermostat governs the temperature of the heating element while the heating element provides heat. 

Thermostats and heating elements aren’t costly, but whether or not you can repair them yourself depends on your electrical experience. 

Why is my tumble dryer not spinning?

If you switch your tumble dryer on and you can hear the motor running, but the drum doesn’t spin, the belt has likely snapped. 

Another telling sign is that you can move the drum with your hand, but it doesn’t move when switched on. 

The belt transfers motion from the motor to the drum and can stretch or snap. This is straightforward to fix but will take some disassembly. 

Another possibility is that the drum has seized because of obstructive fluff or debris. Give the drum a good clean from the outside. If that fails, you might need to remove the cover and see if there’s fluff or other debris around the outside of the drum. 

The motor or the start capacitor can also fail, causing the drum to not spin. You may still be able to turn it with your hand if so, but not easily. 

A start capacitor is a small unit that effectively jumpstarts the washing machine motor, and is pretty easy to swap out for a new one. Finally, the jockey wheels for the drum might have failed, though this probably wouldn’t cause the machine to cut out suddenly. 

  • Firstly, check for error codes. Most modern dryers with control panels are excellent at telling you what’s wrong. 
  • Your machine might’ve automatically switched off due to overheating or a full reservoir (in the case of condensing dryers).
  • Check to see if you can turn the drum by hand. If you can, the belt might have snapped. The drum or motor might have seized if it’s stuck or doesn’t spin easily. 
  • Ensure the mains plug socket is working and check to see if the fuse has blown. 
  • Never touch electrical components unless your machine is unplugged. 

Why is my tumble dryer not heating?

If your tumble dryer isn’t heating up adequately or not at all, there are a few possible culprits. The probable cause depends on whether your dryer is a vented or condensing model. 

large white condensing dryer
Above: Condensing dryer

For vented systems, the most likely cause is overheating, often due to debris building up in the filter or venting pipe. 

Modern dryers will display an error code to this effect. Allow to cool completely, clean the dryer, switch it off/on or reset it, and see if that rectifies the fault. Always unplug the machine from the mains first. 

Condensing systems can also overheat and shut off automatically if they cannot drain properly or if the drainage tray is full. Empty the drainage tray/reservoir and try again. 

Moreover, condensing dryers can shut off if the room’s humidity becomes too high, making it difficult to condense water away from the clothes. Therefore, you should install condensing dryers in well-ventilated rooms that aren’t too cold. 

1: Thermostat or heating element faults

Both vented and condensing dryers can suffer from thermostat or heating element faults. The thermostat controls the temperature delivery to the heating element, which provides heat to the system. 

2: Electrical Faults

Any number of electrical faults can cause your washing machine to trip and turn off within just seconds or minutes of being turned on. See below. 

Why is my tumble dryer tripping?

If your tumble dryer turns off within seconds or minutes of being switched on, something is tripping the system and forcing it to turn off. 

Any electrical defect within the dryer can cause this, including the element, motor, start capacitor, thermostat, thermal control unit, or control panel. There may also be an issue with the mains plug and fuse. 

Firstly, ensure your dryer is clean and free from debris. Then, if it’s a condensing model, ensure the drainage is working correctly or remove the drainage tray or reservoir. If that fails to fix the issue, you’re probably looking at an electrical fault that requires the attention of an electrician. 

Why is my tumble dryer making a banging noise?

Tumble dryers can be pretty noisy, especially if you’re drying shoes or other solid items. 

However, constant banging noises during normal operation can signify worn rollers or failing motor bearings. The rollers support the drum and help it rotate - if one fails, then your drum will probably stop spinning smoothly. 

Why does my tumble dryer make a grinding noise?

Worn motors or rollers often cause grinding noises. The motor bearings may have failed, causing a harsh mechanical grinding sound during operation. 

In this situation, the motor will need to be replaced. Another possibility is the rollers that support the drum are damaged, worn or misaligned. Both are replaceable. 

Why does my condenser tumble dryer keep stopping?

Condensing dryers often fail when the water reservoir is full, in which case you’ll have to remove it and empty it. Like vented dryers, they also have a fluff filter that needs to be cleaned temporarily. 

Condensing dryers have a component called a moisture sensor that can become blocked or dirty. However, these are easy to clean with a moist cloth, which some manufacturers recommend every 1 to 3 months. 
If the problem persists, you might be looking at an electrical issue associated with the thermostat, heating element, thermal control or sensors. This will probably require you to get an electrician to take a proper look. 

Luckily, replacing these components is usually fairly inexpensive, especially compared to the cost of a new dryer! Our kitchen appliance insurance covers you for any problems.

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