Tumble dryers involve electrical and mechanical components; after a few years of use, they might show signs of wear and tear.
A fault you might encounter is a tumble dryer that keeps tripping the electrics. For example, you might plug the dryer in and your home’s circuit breaker kicks in, or the machine may trip internally. Another possibility is that the dryer keeps blowing fuses in the plug or extension cable.
Firstly, you should treat any electrical fault in a dryer seriously.
Never fiddle with electrical components when the dryer is plugged in. Water and electricity do not mix, which compounds safety issues if your dryer is wet or damp in any way.
Here’s what to do if your tumble dryer keeps tripping the electrics.
Dryer trips when plugged in
If your dryer trips a circuit breaker, either a mains breaker or another breaker near the mains breaker, then there’s probably an electrical short somewhere in:
- The cable or plug
- The heating element
- The interference suppressor
- The main drum motor or fan motor
- The control panel
- The motor starter capacitor
- An issue with the wiring, e.g. the wires are worn or melted
As you might imagine, testing all of these components is pretty tricky. You’ll need to systematically work through them using a multimeter to test the resistance across the components.
To add insult to injury, damage to one component can quickly inflict damage on another.
One of the prime culprits is the mains filter, also called the interference suppressor. This is designed to prevent the machine’s motor from interfering with other electrical components.
These can bulge or short out from moisture, particularly if the dryer is fitted in a damp utility room or similar.
Replacing the mains filter is reasonably simple but requires disassembly. It should be easy to access the mains filter, so you can visually expect it for any damage or burn marks. If it looks good, it’s probably not the source of the issue. Never fiddle with electrical components without unplugging the machine from the mains.
Dryer trips when powered on
This is a similar situation to the above. When you plug in your dryer and switch it on, it immediately trips. The dryer may switch itself off, blow a fuse in the plug, or trip one of your home’s breakers.
Again, this is the sign of a serious electrical fault, so you should take every precaution you can. Never fiddle with electrical components or wires if the machine is plugged into the mains.
A common source of this issue is the tumble dryer heating element. If the heating element is faulty, it will likely trip the internal thermal overload cut-out (TOC), which will trip the unit. However, this shouldn’t trip your main breakers, unless the TOC is also faulty. As mentioned, a fault in one component can lead to a fault in the other, so don’t rule out the possibility of multiple components failing!
This can be diagnosed with a multimeter - you’ll need to measure the resistance (in ohms) across the heating element. You can also check the thermal overload for visible damage. Only attempt if you have electrical experience. Otherwise, call an electrician or repairer.
Check the following:
- First, check the cable for damage. If the fuse has blown, replace it and see if the issue happens again. In addition, check the mains plug to ensure it works correctly with another device.
- If your dryer is plugged into an extension lead with other heavy-duty electrical appliances, remove it and plug it directly into the mains. Tumble dryers should be connected to their own mains socket, not an extension lead.
- If that fails to fix the issue, you’re probably looking at an internal electrical fault. Any number of components could be damaged, and you’ll need to check them methodically. Time to call a repairer or electrician!
Dryer trips when drying starts
You switch your dryer on, it starts working and then it cuts out. This is different from the above, as it shows that most of the dryer’s electricals are working correctly for a while before shutting off.
Firstly, diagnose whether the dryer has actually tripped or whether it’s just shut itself off automatically. Modern dryers shut off if they overheat or detect some other fault, like a clogged vent or drain. Damage to the motor can also trigger the internal shut-off.
If you have a modern dryer, check the panel for error codes and consult the manual. These should help you diagnose the fault.
Clean the filter
Firstly, check the filter and give it a good clean. Fluff and lint will clog the filter and cause various issues with your dryer, including forcing it to shut down. Some dryers tell you when to clean the filter.
Clean the vent
If you have a vented dryer, check the vent for debris and fluff. If they become too clogged, the dryer will fail to work properly or shut down.
Empty/clear the drainage
Condensing dryers have reservoirs or drainage systems. Empty and clean the reservoir and check the drainage system. Occasionally, the drainage pump will stop working properly or labour, meaning the machine can’t properly drain water. Check the pump for visible obstructions or faults.
Issues with the heating element, thermostat, mains filter or condensing sensors
If the above fails to solve the issue, there’s probably an internal fault. Modern dryers contain numerous electrical components, and most could cause the dryer to trip or shut off if they’re damaged.
You’ll need to test each component individually with a multimeter to find the culprit. Only attempt this if you have electrical experience.
Otherwise, it’s wise to call us to take a look.
Luckily, most of the common causes of electrical issues in dryers are relatively easy to fix. The cost of repairing the fault is often cheaper than replacing the entire unit! If you need some peace of mind, take a look at our kitchen appliance cover.