When things break, I am always compelled to take them apart in an effort to find out what is wrong. Most of the time, I remove the top cover/back panel/what-have-you, glance inside and conclude that I am simply out of my league. I can see nothing wrong or even recognize anything that I am looking at. On a few occasions I have been able to identify potential problems but did not have the expertise or knowledge to confirm and fix the problem. Last night I was able to make that final step: identify the problem and find a solution.
Sunday was the first anniversary of the new heating element we had to get for our dryer last year. At that time the dryer was less than a year old but surprisingly out of warranty. Although a certain amount of blame lies with us for failing to check the warranty terms (90 days) at purchase time, I mostly blame Sears for selling such shoddy products that they can’t warranty them for a year or three. I suspect they have done this in order to push their extended warranty programs, or “maintenance agreements“, as they prefer to call them. As you might imagine, we were angry over the warranty issue and even angrier when we had to pay the Sears repair man over $200 to fix something we considered to be “new”.
So how did our heating element celebrate the end of it’s first year in service? It quit. It totally stopped heating the dryer and Tina had to take our weekend laundry to the nearest laundromat to dry it. Once again we were angry, but there was no way we were going to call Sears this time. After mulling the situation for a day, I consulted howstuffworks.com for any advice they might have about fixing dryers. Their article on clothes dryers was informative, but did not contain any advice for fixing broken dryers. They did, however, point to a link at RepairClinic.com which eventually led me to a section entitled “There’s no heat.” That article lays out a basic inspection plan for determining which electrical component has failed. With this knowledge and my multimeter in hand, I unplugged our dryer and removed the back with only a little hope of actually accomplishing anything.
What lay behind the cover was much simpler than I had counted upon. After testing the thermal sensors (as prescribed by the RepairClinic article) it wasn’t long before I narrowed the problem to a little box near the bottom. After removing two screws, the little box came off easily and revealed that it had a matrix of coiled wires attached to it. I had discovered the heating element! A quick continuity test confirmed that this was the faulty component and I even found the broken coil after a quick inspection. An online search for the model number yielded an average price of about $40 for the replacement part.
I can’t tell you how good I felt at this moment. Not only was I victorious in finding the problem, disassembly had been so quick and easy that I have full confidence in being able to install the new element. It is also reassuring to know that if the element breaks again, I can replace it myself relatively cheaply. And we won’t have to call the damn Sears repair man ever again.
Update 4/17: I found a little additional information about Kenmore appliances on Wikipedia. Most large appliances are manufactured for Sears by Whirlpool, who also manufactures under the brand names Maytag, Amana, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air and many others. In addition to Sears’ OEM business, Whirlpool also makes products for Best Buy, Home Depot and IKEA. Iowa residents might note that in 2007 Whirlpool shut down the Amana manufacturing plant in Newton as well as plants in Illinois and Arkansas. I’m guessing those jobs probably went to China and Mexico where Whirlpool does much of it’s manufacturing.