Why Your Dryer Gets Hot When Not Running

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Dryers are the kind of appliances that run a little hot when you’re using them. That’s normal, considering it needs heat to dry the clothes that are tumbling inside. However, a dryer shouldn’t heat up at all when it’s not being used. So, why would a dryer get hot when it’s not running?

The top reason a dryer will get hot when it’s not running is that the heating element has become grounded. The heating coils are touching another metal part inside the dryer, causing it to generate heat even when it shouldn’t. The same could also happen if the motor’s heater switch is stuck in the ‘ON’ position, or if a faulty timer continues sending power to the heater. 

Let’s take a closer look at these three possibilities, the dryer components involved, and what you can do to fix the problem.

Related: 4 Causes Why Dryer Is Heating Up But Still Not Drying Clothes?

Initial Troubleshooting Step

First and foremost, it’s important to figure out whether your dryer is heating up when it’s not running, or if it’s simply taking too long to cool down after being used. If you’re unsure, give the dryer some time to cool down after using it.

Then, try to sense whether or not the appliance is actively radiating heat even though it’s been a while since you’ve used it.

If that’s the case, then that means the heating element is still heating up even when it shouldn’t. This could be caused by a grounded heating element, a stuck motor heater switch, or a faulty timer.

Grounded Heating Element

For a dryer to work correctly and remove moisture from the clothes inside, it needs to continuously generate heat. The heating element inside the dryer is responsible for that task.

Related: Why Dryer Is Overheating? 7 Common Reasons

Heating elements come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, depending on the brand of the dryer, as well as the design of the specific model.

Whirlpool Heating element is burnt

No matter what shape the heating element might take, the inside consists of coiled wires made of various metals that can generate heat very efficiently. The heating element achieves this by allowing an electrical current to pass through coils while also resisting it. 

As the heat is being generated, a blower wheel or fan forces that hot air through the drum and out the vent.

Along the way, the heated air will remove moisture from the clothes inside leaving them fresh and dry.

How it fails:

The most common reason for a dryer that gets hot even when it’s not running is a grounded heating element. Over time, the heating element’s coils might break and come into contact with other metal parts inside the dryer.

When that happens, the electrical current will continue to flow and heat up the coils, even though the dryer isn’t running.

A grounded heating element can be quite dangerous for the dryer and the house as a whole. So, if you discover that this is the cause of the problem, you must fix it immediately. Be sure to disconnect the dryer from its power supply in the meantime to prevent it from continuing to heat up.

How to fix:

The most effective way to solve this problem is to replace the heating element entirely. 

Caution!

Before performing this or any other repair on your dryer, you must disconnect the appliance from its power source. That will eliminate the risk of electrocution and also prevent injuries.

Related: How Much Does it Cost To Replace Heating Element in The Clothes Dryer

It also helps to keep your user manual and any technical sheet nearby for quick reference. Doing this will make it much easier to locate and identify the heating element.

  • To gain access to the heating element, you’ll need to remove the dryer’s back panel. The heating element is typically located near the blower wheel.
  • First, disconnect all electrical connections to the heating element.
  • Then, remove any bolts or screws that are holding the heating element’s housing in place.
  • Attached to the heating element is a high-limit thermostat.
  • You’ll be reusing this part with the new heating element, so remove it and set it aside.
  • Then, put the new heating element in place.
  • Attach the high-limit thermostat to it, and tighten all the screws or bolts.
  • Lastly, reattach the electrical connectors and reattach the dryer’s back panel.
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Stuck Motor Heater Switch

All dryers have a motor that is responsible for turning the drum. Doing that will allow the clothes inside the dryer to tumble freely as hot air passes through and removes any moisture.

Disengaged
Engaged

More importantly, dryer motors also have a switch on them that’s connected to the heater. That is sometimes referred to as a ‘heat switch’ or ‘heater switch’. Whatever it’s called on your dryer model, they all work the same: it’s a centrifugal switch that only sends power to the heater when the motor is on and turning.

Related: Why Do My Clothes Smell Burnt After Washing?

As soon as the drying cycle ends and the motor stops turning, the switch will disengage and stop sending power to the heater. As a result, the heater and the dryer will begin to cool down.

How it fails:

The problem with the motor heater switch is that it can sometimes get stuck in the ‘on’ position. So, even when the dryer cycle is over, and the machine isn’t running, the switch will continue to power the heater and keep the dryer hot.

You can diagnose this problem visually by inspecting the motor’s terminal block up close. But, of course, the dryer should be disconnected from its power supply before you do this for safety reasons. 

Stuck in the “on” position

When looking at the motor up close, you’ll see that some of the terminals remain closed even though the motor isn’t running.

Having a dryer that gets hot when it should be cooling down is a massive fire risk. So, you’ll want to get this sorted out as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can keep the dryer cool by disconnecting it from its power source entirely.

How to fix:

Unfortunately, you can’t fix this problem by replacing just the terminal block. Instead, you’ll need to replace the dryer motor unit as a whole.

Caution!

Before performing this or any other dryer repair, always make sure to disconnect the appliance from its power source. That will eliminate the risk of electrocution and also prevent injuries. Plus, you’ll want to keep the user manual and technical sheet nearby for quick reference.

  • To replace the motor, you’ll need first to remove the drum from the front of the appliance. Then, you’ll need to gain access to the motor by removing the back panel as well.
  • The dryer motor will be located behind the blower wheel.
  • Once you’ve removed the blower wheel from its shaft, you can then begin to remove the motor.
  • Start by disconnecting all of the motor’s electrical connectors, as well as any bolts that might be holding it in place.
  • Once that’s done, you’re free to remove the motor and replace it with the new one.
  • From there, you’ll need to work backwards.
  • First, secure the motor, reconnect the electrical connectors, and put the blower fan back on the shaft.
  • Then, replace the back panel and reinstall the drum as well.

As you can see, replacing the dryer motor can be a challenging DIY task. So, if you’re unsure about doing it yourself, it’s always best to hire a qualified professional to do it for you.

Problematic Timer

Many dryer models still rely on timers to manage their functions. These timers are located behind the control panel. They consist of a small motor and gears that help to turn electrical contacts on and off.

In simpler terms, the timer coordinates the dryer’s functions by sending power to specific components, such as the dryer’s heating element, only as and when needed.

Once the timer reaches the end of the cycle, none of the electrical contacts will receive power, and all of the dryer’s parts will turn off.

How it fails:

If your dryer gets hot when it’s not running, there’s a possibility that the timer is faulty. To be exact, the electrical contacts in the dryer that are connected to the heating element are stuck in the ‘on’ position even when the drying cycle has finished.

As a result, the heating element will continue receiving power and heating up even when you’re not using the dryer.

That poses a severe fire risk. So, you must get this matter resolved as soon as possible. But, to stay safe in the meantime, you must also disconnect the dryer from its power supply to keep the heating element from receiving power and heating up when it shouldn’t.

How to fix:

Fixing this will require a replacement of the dryer’s timer.

Caution!

Before performing this or any other dryer repair, always disconnect the appliance from its power supply. That will prevent injuries and eliminate the risk of electrocution. Also, keep your user manual and technical sheet nearby for quick reference.

  • To access the dryer timer, you’ll need to remove the back panel. With that removed, you’ll be able to see the timer and the bolts keeping it mounted in place.
  • Remove the mounting bolts and disconnect any electrical connectors attached to the timer.
  • Take a photo of the connectors so you can refer to them when you’re replacing them later.
  • Reconnect the wires to the new timer and mount the unit in place. Lastly, work backwards by replacing the back panel that you removed earlier.

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