Is a Dryer’s Life Span Predictable?

ByMarc Silberberg


If you are living in your own home, you probably have a washer and dryer installed. It may be one on top of the other if you do not have room for a laundry room or some folks take a part of the kitchen and place doors in front of their mini laundry room to make it look neat like a closet. Wherever your dryer is situated you want to get the most out of it for the longest period of time reasonably possible. If you bought your house with the appliances already installed, you may not even know the age of the dryer although if you find the serial number there is a good chance that you can look it up and see the approximate year it was manufactured.

A lot of us will do our research on sites such as Consumer Reports to find out which dryer is the most popular for our budget and compatible with our laundry area. Another common way of research is to look at the reviews of the different models that we are considering but sometimes one person can have trouble with a certain model because even the best car can be a lemon.

No one can predict how long a dryer will last and it’s not necessarily the costliest ones that will last the most. In fact, many repairmen and appliance retailers discourage their loyal customers from buying a dryer that is complexly computerized. Recently, I was staying in a relative’s apartment, and I needed to wash some clothes. I could not figure out how to turn on the washer and dryer as there were so many options such as timers for different types of loads, water temperatures, and of course length of drying time. If you have not seen these types of machines and you are older than forty you would not believe how complicated, they are. I finally got the machine turned on, but it went off after a few minutes and I was then forced to ask the owner to show me how to use it.

It usually happens suddenly; your dryer stops working by either not heating up or not even turning on. But is it really sudden or have you had hints that you ignored? Here are some common annoying problems that do not suddenly happen if we would be more aware them:

1 – Dryer Belt: The belt wraps around the dryer drum and spins the load as it dries, and this belt is a main part of the dryer. If you start hearing loud noises such as thumping even if the dryer is still working, it means you must check the belt. The belt erodes slowly over the years so even if it is not at the snapping point when it totally breaks, it will need to be replaced. Here are some reasons the belt may be faulty.

Dryer Pulley Not Working Properly: The dryer idler pulley is what keeps the tension tight as the dryer drum turns. The belt can either be too tight or too loose but either way must be dealt with. Sometimes it is this pulley itself that is not moving freely and will cause the tension of the belt to be too high. This can heat up the belt and the heat will stretch it out. If the idler pulley can be adjusted by pushing it closer to the motor, then the problem does not have to do with the dryer belt

Belt is Too Loose: The opposite problem from the one above is just as challenging and that is when the dryer belt is too loose and can slip right off the rotating drum. When the dryer belt becomes loose the thumping begins and if the dryer belt is worn out it cannot be fixed but must be replaced.

The Belt is Already Broken: We mentioned that thumping noises are the signs of a too loose or too tight belt however, if the belt is broken you might not hear any warning noises to bring to your attention that there is an issue. But there is another major and easy indication that the belt is ripped and that is when you turn on the dryer there will be no turning of the drum but only the sound of the motor working for no reason.

According to some manufacturers the dryer belt should last as long as the machine and should not have to be replaced as a general rule. However, we know that there are exceptions to the rule and with larger families and the dryer working more frequently the years of expected life can go down considerably.

2 – Faulty Heating Element: The dryer heating element heats the air which the dryer fan pulls into the machine and the heating element heats up the air before the air goes into the dryer drum. There are two indications that the heating element is not functioning, one is that the same size load that took forty minutes yesterday is now taking much longer or secondly the dryer is not heating up at all. Not counting installation costs, a typical heating element costs from $25 to $200 with the usual range between $35 and $60.

3 – Frayed Electrical Cord: Most of us are aware when the electrical cord either from a phone charger, lamp, or other small appliance fray. We immediately tape it with electrical tape if the cord is salvageable or order another charger from Amazon. Wouldn’t it be worthwhile for us to actually check the cords of our most expensive appliances such as the stove, the washer and the dryer? You would think that appliances that could cost not just in the hundreds but in the thousands would be well taken care of. But I’m as guilty as you are with leaving the back of my dryer in peace. Besides all the lint that accumulates back there, there is a chance that the cord gets frayed from high temperatures or water that somehow gets splashed on the cord.

We know from our own lives that we would never plug in a frayed cord and yes, our electrical circuit may have a safety feature that will not allow the outlet to work if there is something wrong with the appliance. However, we cannot count on this for the safety of our clothes dryers. Even if the cord is still workable when it begins to fray, that is the time to have it fixed. It does not make a difference if the dryer is gas or electric because a gas dryer has the same method of starting- an electric plug.

4 – Igniter Problem in Gas Dryers: One of the first areas that a professional will check is if the igniter is on or not. Sometimes you may smell a gas odor, but it may have just begun, and you have not picked up the smell. Some folks reignite their gas appliances themselves, but I would advise calling a professional to make sure it’s done right.

5 – Dryer Venting Issues: We left venting issues for last for two reasons. First, it is the most common problem that can be dealt with fairly easily, whether it is giving the lint trap a good washing or the outside vent needs to be cleaned or replaced and the second reason is that you want the dryer to perform its best and dry the clothes in a shorter run.

Final Words

Like anything else in life no one can predict the lifespan of a family’s clothes dryer. I have known families with many children and their dryer is still working and they bought their home over ten years ago. Another couple loves their 20 plus year-old dryer and admits to paying for repairs and parts many times. These people are of the opinion that, “they don’t make them the way they used to.” This is not too far from the truth as cars don’t last as long as they used so why are dryers any different?

Tackling an obvious issue immediately is one of the most important ways to keep your dryer going as long as possible. A person could be too busy and as long as the clothes are drying they may ignore lint, noise or the longer time it takes to dry the same load of clothes. These are internal warning signs that should be addressed and not passed by.

Even those who are meticulous when it comes to cleaning and organizing their homes, can also be at fault by not keeping up with their clothes dryer’s maintenance properly. Although no one can predict how long a dryer will ultimately last, checking the above five points regularly will certainly help not only for the safety of the dryer in question but for the safety of the family living in the home where it is located. We have all unfortunately heard about fires and tragedies that came from faulty appliances causing major fires and dryers have the distinct character of being one of those appliances that can cause a fire.

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