When a dryer dries wet clothes it uses not just heat, but motion. The turning of a dryer aerates the clothes, making sure the hot air can reach all the clothes and the moisture that is coming off them can be ferried away. If you have ever tried to dry clothing with just heat alone in a dryer, you will find that is can be done in very small loads, but having motion makes things much more efficient.
This means if your tumble dryer is no longer tumbling, you will really want to address the issue before running it again. Unfortunately for you, the cause of this common issue can be a wide variety of things. You simply need to examine the symptoms, line up the most likely culprits, and start working your way down that list. If your dryer won’t turn, here are some of the reasons why.
Before You Begin
As with any appliance repair, before you begin you want to take the proper precautions. You will want to make sure it is disconnected from its electrical source to prevent a shock. To troubleshoot this particular issue, you will also want full access to the appliance. This may mean removing it from atop your washer if it is a stacked dryer. This should be done to prevent any falling that can cause great injury to you or the appliance.
Before checking anything else, you will want to confirm that your dryer actually is working to some degree. If you try to start your dryer and nothing happens, you will want to check that this is not caused by some electrical issues. Make sure the dryer is still connected at the circuit breaker or plugged into the wall. You will also want to check the plug and cord for damage. If you spot nicks or cuts in it, the cord will simply need to be replaced.
If you do turn your dryer on and find that it runs and produces heat, but just isn’t turning, then you can cross any electrical issues off your list.
Faulty Drive Belt
When everything else appears to work except for the drum of your dryer, the culprit is typically the drive belt. In order to spin your drum, the dryer uses the drive belt and a drive motor. Like most belts found in appliances, the drive belt is sturdy rubber but not impervious. Over time, the rubber grows old and worn. It may become stiff and brittle or loose and stretched. Regardless, either issue can see it slide right out of the pulley system. When this happens, the drum will not turn, but everything else will work as designed. You may even notice the dryer struggling to turn right before it happens as well.
While you can open up your dryer, slip the belt right back on, and call it fixed, it is best to just replace a drive belt that has slipped off. While a snapped drive belt demands it, a slipped drive belt can be something some appliance owners may shrug off. Unfortunately, if it happened once, it will happen again. It is best to just replace it since it is a relatively cheap part and easy to install.
Faulty Drive Motor
In the same vein as the drive belt, the drive motor can also go faulty. When this happens, it will not engage the belt to turn the drum. If it is the belt that is the problem, you will likely still hear the motor running. However, if the motor is the issue, you will likely hear less noise coming from the dryer than you are used to. You may even hear typical motor struggling noises like grinding instead. Unlike the belt, a malfunctioning motor has no choice but to be replaced.
Tripped Safety Thermostat
All dryers come with a safety thermostat or hi-limit thermostat as it is also called. What this part does is if it senses that the dryer is getting too hot and may cause a fire, it trips and stops function. In some models, this simply cuts power to the heating element. This means the dryer will turn, but no heat is produced. In other models, this means the dryer will cease to function at all. If your dryer is not turning or producing heat, it is worth checking this part as it is something that, once triggered, must be replaced in order to get your appliance working again.
The safety thermostat is typically located just above the exhaust vent hose of your dryer so it can accurately keep track of the temperature of the air inside the dryer. As it is a part that needs replacing once triggered, it is always really quite easy to get to. However, once you find this is the problem, you will also want to address the reason it tripped as well. Most commonly, you will find the exhaust hose or dryer vent in your home is clogged with lint. This can cause overheating and is typically the cause of dangerous dryer fires if ignored.
Worn Drum Rollers / Glides / Axles / Bearings
The final source of a dryer drum not spinning during its cycle is all the small parts that help a drum spin. Your dryer is not just a drum spun by a belt and motor, but the drum sits on axles, bearings, glides, and rollers. Over time, these parts are prone to wearing out from motion. When this does happen, they can interfere with proper spinning. Before the drum stops spinning completely, you will notice if these parts are wearing down. The dryer will become much louder and may spin unevenly. If you ignore these symptoms long enough, the worn parts will begin to impede the dryer from spinning. You may even be putting unnecessary wear on the drive motor by ignoring the issues, which can mean by the time it does stop spinning, you may have more than one problem.
As the dryer drum sits on so many parts and can be an unwieldy thing to work with, if you suspect these small parts may be the issue, it is typically faster to have a professional inspect and replace them.