Dryer Keeps Tripping Breaker? 5 Essential Things To Check

If your dryer keeps tripping the breaker, a few things should be checked first. In most cases, it’s either a problem with the motor, heating element, a faulty wire or termination, worn-out breaker, or circuit overload. We’ll take a look at the most common (and not-so-common) causes of a dryer that keeps tripping the breaker.

Why Your Dryer Keeps Tripping The Breaker

Finding the source of the problem will dictate the best way to repair it. But before we go too far, take a look at the circuit breaker in your home electrical panel. The breaker for the dryer should be a 30 amp, 2-pole breaker. That means it has two, or the equivalent of two, handles (usually tied together with a bracket or pin).

If your breaker is smaller than 30 amps, this could be your problem. However, DO NOT SWAP OUT THE BREAKER FOR A LARGER BREAKER unless you know for sure that your copper wire is 10-gauge or larger (8-gauge minimum for aluminum).

If you’re in doubt, have an electrician or other experienced individual take a look at it. The breaker is sized according to the wire size to keep it from melting. If you have a 30 amp breaker, great. You can check that off the list and move on.

Dryer keeps tripping breaker - 30 amps

The following are some common things that may cause your dryer to trip a breaker:

Circuit Breaker is Weak

Over time, circuit breakers can weaken, especially if they have tripped and been reset many times over the years. And, even if the amperage draw of the dryer is below the breaker’s original limit, it can cause it to trip if the breaker is getting tired.

However, a weak circuit breaker is not what I would call a common problem, except in older homes. Generally, breakers are quite reliable and have a good longevity to them.

But if your circuit breaker is 15 to 20 years old, it can weaken and start to trip occasionally. If the breaker is on the newer side, chances are good that your problem lies elsewhere.

One way to test is with a multimeter that incorporates an amp clamp or jaws. As the dryer runs, you can measure the amp draw on the circuit.

As mentioned above, a typical dryer is wired to a 30 amp breaker. So if you measure the amperage while the dryer runs, and it draws anywhere near 30 amps before the breaker trips, you can bet your problem is not the breaker.

In normal operation, a typical dryer will not exceed 21 amps. So if you get much more than that, it indicates an overcurrent problem at the dryer. Keep in mind that all dryers are different and I’m giving you general information here.

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If the current (amp) draw is staying under 21 or so, and the breaker trips, then it could very well be a weak breaker. But pay attention to the precise spot in the drying cycle the breaker trips.

If you repeat the test, and it happens again at the same spot, the issue could still be inside the dryer itself.

Replacing a breaker is a fairly easy task for someone with a little experience. In fact, chances are, you have another 30 amp, 2-pole breaker in the panel (for a water heater or heat pump, for example). You can borrow that temporarily and test the dryer circuit on it.

Be sure to turn off your panel main breaker before you work on swapping around breakers. And again, if you’re not confident in your own abilities, get help.

If you determine it’s not a breaker problem, put it back together and move on to the next section below.

Heating Element or Heating Element Assembly Failure

The heating element might have failed in your dryer.

If this occurs, it can short out against the housing, and trip the circuit breaker. A key indicator is when the breaker trips at the same point in the drying cycle each time.

Dryer heating element grounded

To check the heating element you’ll use a multimeter and test each terminal for continuity to the case (metal body or frame of the dryer).

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If continuity from either terminal to the case is present, the heating element has probably shorted out and needs to be replaced.

However, it’s also possible that the heating element assembly is at fault. You’ll check it similarly to the heating element, using a multimeter to test the terminals for continuity.

If it’s shorted out, you’ll have to replace the assembly.

Note: In most modern dryers, the heating element and assembly are packaged together so that you cannot replace them independently.

Internal Short

If the problem isn’t with the circuit breaker or a heating element failure, it might be an internal short that’s causing it to trip. Several issues can cause this including:

  • A bad door switch
  • Defective Timer
  • Burnt motor windings
  • The on/off switch isn’t operating correctly

To check each of these areas, you’ll use the ohmmeter setting of your multimeter. This will help determine if there is a short in one of the internal components of the dryer.

If so, you can replace or repair them, and this should likely resolve the tripping of the circuit breaker while the dryer is operating.

Terminal Block

Power cords on electrical dryers attach at a terminal block. If there are loose wires on the terminal block this can cause them to arc and ultimately disrupt the power source.

This can cause the wire to short against nearby grounded metal, and causes the dryer breaker to trip. Although not common, I have witnessed it myself.

What’s the solution? Check the terminal block. If wires are loose, tighten them. Screws or nuts should be nice and snug. Don’t overtighten.

If you notice signs of arcing ( soot and discolored or melted portions), you might have to replace the terminal block.

Pigtail Connection and Outlet

Having tight connections doesn’t help us if the wires are connected to the wrong terminals. So take a minute to make sure the pigtail is attached correctly at the terminal block. Make certain that all four (three in some cases) conductors are connected to their proper terminals.

Most dryers have color-coded terminals: Black, Red, White, & Green. Match color for color on the pigtail. Typically, the green conductor on the pigtail will attach to a green screw mounted to the sheet metal frame of the dryer.

dryer pigtail hookup
Courtesy of Jade Learning

Once you’ve verified the proper connections, test the voltage of the wall outlet. this is easy to do and will rule out the possibility of a circuit issue.

With your multimeter set to AC VOLTS, you should get the following readings:

  • Black to Red: +/-240 volts
  • Black to White: +/-120 volts
  • Black to Green: +/-120 volts
  • Red to White: +/-120 volts
  • Red to Green: +/-120 volts
  • White to Green: 0 volts

Ideally, voltage readings should fall within 10% below, and 5% above the numbers above. In other words, between 218 and 252 volts, or between 109 and 126 volts.

If your voltages are within range, great. Even if they’re slightly outside the range, it’s still okay. Your tripping problem lies elsewhere.

Drive Motor

If the drive motor has failed it will short out internally. This can cause the dryer to trip the circuit breaker.

Like other parts, you’ll want to use a multimeter to check if there’s continuity in the drive motor.

If the windings are shorted out, you’ll need to replace motor. See the video below for tips on testing and replacement.

Dryer Keeps Tripping Breaker after 10 Minutes

Weak Circuit Breaker

In many instances, this is caused by a weak breaker. Your breaker should have an amp rating of 30, but your dryer likely only draws a maximum of 21 amps. To test the load draw of your dryer, you’ll use a clamp or fork-style amperage meter around the wire (while the dryer is running).

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This will require removing the electrical panel cover or the dryer terminal cover. This test is done while the circuit is live, so be sure you are competent with basic electrical knowledge before attempting.

If you measure less than 30 amps, yet the breaker trips, the breaker is weak or defective and needs to be replaced. If the amp draw goes above 30 before the breaker trips, the problem is at the dryer, and the breaker is fine.

Heating Element Check

A second problem might be with the heating element if your dryer trips after 10 minutes of operation. This is different from the short-circuited element discussed above.

In this case, it is not due to direct contact between energized and grounded parts of the system. Rather, there is an improper resistance present that is causing the delayed breaker trip.

To test the heating element, remove both lines so that it has no reference to any part of the circuit. Using an ohm meter, check the resistance reading.

This number should fall between 7.8 to 11.8 ohms of resistance.

If the reading isn’t between these numbers, you might have a faulty heating element. If this is the case, replacing it should resolve the problem.

Too large of Laundry Load (Dryer Keeps Tripping Breaker)

Usually, if you overload your dryer with too much clothing (or blankets, or curtains, or… ), the built-in overheat protection device will shut your dryer off before it trips your breaker. However, if that overheat sensor fails to work properly, the dryer could potentially overheat and trip the breaker.

This is rare and I have never personally witnessed such an occurrence. But it is worth noting, just in case you happen to relate to that statistic.

Read this article on Why A Dryer is Overheating

Conclusion

The above steps should help you figure out why your dryer keeps tripping the breaker. Taking a logical, patient approach will almost always yield favorable results.

Remember to always consult the manual for your specific dryer model. Parts and their locations vary from model to model.

Related: Dryer Moisture sensor Problems

Reader Comments (9)

  1. BOUGHT A BRAND NEW WASHER AND DRYER FOR MY BRANDE NEW HOME GOT IT DELIVERED AND SET UP AND THE DRYER TRIPS MY BREAKER MATTER OF FACT IT TRIPPS INSTANTLY LENNAR HOME IS TRYING TO BLAME CONNS AND I TOLD THEM NO ITS THE LENNAR ELECTICIANS THAT PUT IN A SMALL BREAKER BOX THAT DOESNT HOLD ENOUGHT AMPS FOR A DRYER THEY GIVING ME THE RUN AROUND NOT TRYING TO TAKE THE BLAME BUT LENNAR IS A DAMN LIE NEVER PURCHASE A HOME FROM LENNAR HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE GETTING THE HOME AND STILL AFTER GETTING THE HOME FRUSTATED!!!!!!1

  2. I have a whirlpool electric dryer. Breaker trips after running 5-10 min. It trips on heater leg of 110. Motor will run thru complete cycle with that wire off breaker. Have replaced heating element. Ran several cycles with dryer empty and everything seemed ok. Put in clothes and it tripped breaker after 10 min. Any ideas? Thank you.

  3. I have a problem of a resin dryer that keeps on striping due overheating while the parameters are still within specifications .

  4. Bought a new Speed Queen washer and dryer GFI seems to trip after dryer cycle. Receptacle worked fine in front loader GE I replaced. Any thoughts

    • One of the reasons why GFCI tripped is when there is a spark developed in the circuit. Who knows, if it’s relay contacts or motor’s brushes creating a momentary spark. IDK

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