A junk yard fool with eyes of gloom

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.

8 Replies to “A junk yard fool with eyes of gloom”

  1. I can so relate to that sense of accomplishment – I replaced my kitchen faucet and sprayer all by myself just last night! I totally rock!!! 🙂

  2. we won’t call sears or buy anything from that shit hole again. You do rock baby- and now I don’t have to go to the laundromat this week which makes me a very happy girl. You thought that was JUST the laundry from the weekend? You silly, silly man.

  3. Hmmm… My original washer and dryer are both Kenmore and are 18 years old. I just bought a new Kenmore washer, which came with a 1-year warranty, and I bought the 3-year extended. My lawnmower is a Craftsman, and is at least 10 years old or more. My fridge came from Sears – would have been a Kenmore, but they had an Amana in the “scratch and dent” section that was cheaper. Sorry guys…I like Sears…and have had great luck with their products. 🙂

  4. I agree with you about your Kenmore washer and dryer. The Kenmore brand used to be synonymous with quality and reliability. A quick google of “kenmore quality” will tell you that it is no longer the case. I hope you don’t have any problems with your new washer but I’m glad you got the 3-year extended warranty… er, “maintenance agreeement.”

    I did a quick check of their current line of dryers and all of them have a one year warranty. I have no idea why ours was only covered for 90 days. It’s not like we bought the cheapest one. We bought what we thought was a pretty nice mid-range model. We paid just as much for that dryer as we did for BOTH our washer and dryer back in 1993 (scratch and dent specials from now-defunct Incredible Universe). I thought paying more would get us more reliability but that was not the case at all. It only got us more features.

    What was more upsetting was that we had JUST purchased a new refrigerator from Sears when the dryer broke. We felt like we had been lifelong loyal customers and that Sears had essentially betrayed our loyalty by refusing to fix our dryer for less than the $200+. Unfortunately, the only avenue left to us is to “vote with our feet.” Goodbye, Sears, we used to love you but you no longer love us.

  5. BTW, “weekend laundry” means “laundry we do on the weekend” NOT “laundry we used on the weekend.”

    And when I say “we” I really mean “Tina”.


  6. I’ve heard that Kenmore quality has declined,too. But I’ve also heard that pretty much ALL appliances these days are not expected to last 15-20 years like they used to. I know people with $1,000+ appliances that were junk in less than 5 years. Sign of the times, I guess – everything is made to be thrown away. Maybe that’s why our mom refused to buy a new refrigerator…. 🙂

  7. Ya, we just “threw away” a regrigerator that we paid $1,000 for 9 years ago. Not a Kenmore, but a name brand that I expected to last another 5 – 10 years.

    Speaking of our mom… she made a comment to me just the other day about that coffee maker we made her throw away! haha But I wonder, did she really throw it away? Or, is it squirreled away somewhere in her kitchen?

  8. Kenmore is just a marketing brand owned by Sears. They haven’t made a single appliance. A quick search on Google for “sears model prefixes” will show who actually made your Kenmore.

    From my experience, it’s not a good idea to buy a Kenmore appliance because of warranty. In the hopes of making an extra buck from selling extended warranty, Sears standard warranty is usually for a much shorter period when compared to the actual manufacturer. For example, Frigidaire might offer a 10 year warranty on their washer tub, where same model sold under Kenmore brand will only have a year warranty.

    If you guys need repair help with one of your appliances, try http://forum.appliancepartspros.com. There are plenty of technicians, myself included, who don’t mind helping out.

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