Short answer: To test a dryer’s heating element, start by unplugging the dryer and visually inspecting the element for damage. If no visible damage is found, use a multimeter to check for continuity.
The heating element in your dryer is a critical component that plays a central role in ensuring your laundry gets efficiently dried. Over time, these elements can wear out or become damaged, leading to drying issues. Understanding how to test and evaluate the condition of your dryer’s heating element is essential for effective troubleshooting and cost-effective repairs. In this guide, I will explore the methods for assessing your heating element’s functionality, from visual inspections to electrical testing, helping you make informed decisions about whether it’s time for a replacement or if there’s a potential for extending its life.
What Is A Dryer Heating Element?
A dryer heating element is a crucial component in a clothes dryer that generates the heat necessary to dry your laundry. It consists of a coil or series of coils made from materials that have high electrical resistance, typically nichrome wire. When an electric current flows through these coils, they heat up, producing the heat needed to evaporate moisture from wet clothes, thereby drying them. The heating element is an essential part of the drying process in electric dryers and plays a key role in ensuring your clothes come out dry and ready to wear. If the heating element becomes damaged or fails, your dryer may not produce sufficient heat, resulting in damp or unprocessed laundry.
How To Test A Dryer’s Heating Element?
Step 1: Safety First
- Begin by ensuring your dryer is unplugged from the power source to prevent any accidents.
- If your heating element is still connected to the dryer, disconnect it or remove the wires connecting to it.
Step 2: Visual Inspection
- Examine the heating element closely for any visible damage or breaks in the coil.
- Gently wiggle each coil to detect any hidden damage.
Step 3: Identify the Heating Element Type
Count the number of wire terminals on the heating element to determine its type.
- Single coil elements have two wire terminals.
- Dual coil elements have three wire terminals.
- Triple coil elements have four wire terminals.
Step 4: Testing a Single Coil Element
- If your multimeter has a continuity setting, select it.
- Place one probe on each of the heating element’s wire terminals.
- Listen for an audible beeping noise; if you hear it, the element is good. No noise means it’s bad.
Step 5: Testing a Multi-Coil Element
- Find the common wire terminal where multiple coils join together.
- Perform a continuity test on each coil separately.
- Place one probe on the common wire terminal and the other on one of the other terminals.
- Repeat this process for all wire terminals.
- If any coil fails the continuity test, the element is bad.
Step 6: Checking for Shorts
- To detect shorts, place one probe on one of the heating element’s terminals and the other probe on the element’s housing.
- Repeat this procedure for all wire terminals.
- If there’s continuity between the terminals and the housing, your element is shorted, and the dryer should remain unplugged until you replace it.
Step 7: Using an Ohm Test (If Multimeter Lacks Continuity Setting)
If your multimeter doesn’t have a continuity setting, switch it to the ohm setting. For single coil elements, place one probe on each of the wire terminals.
- You should get an approximate ohm reading between 5 to 50 ohms.
- A display that doesn’t change or reads significantly differently indicates a bad heating element.
For multi-coil elements, repeat the same process on each coil.
- Each coil should show an approximate ohm reading between 5 to 50 ohms.
- Inconsistent readings suggest a faulty element.
Step 8: Purchasing a Replacement (If Necessary)
- If you find that your heating element is indeed bad and needs replacement, you can conveniently order a new one from our online store.
- Be cautious when shopping, as lower-quality aftermarket elements are available in some stores.
- Opt for OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) heating elements to ensure reliable performance.
How To Test Dryer Heating Element Without Multimeter?
Testing a dryer heating element without a multimeter can be a bit challenging, as a multimeter is the most precise tool for this job. However, if you don’t have one, you can try a simple visual and tactile inspection to get an idea of the heating element’s condition. Here’s how you can do it:
Step 1: Safety First: Ensure your dryer is unplugged or disconnected from the power source to avoid electrical hazards.
Step 2: Visual Inspection
Examine the heating element visually for any obvious signs of damage. Look for:
- Broken or visibly damaged coils: If you see any coils that are visibly broken or damaged, it’s a clear indicator that the heating element needs replacement.
- Burn marks or discoloration: Excessive heat or damage can leave burn marks or cause the element to change color. This is another sign of a problem.
Step 3: Tactile Inspection
Gently touch and move each of the coils on the heating element. Here’s what to look for:
- Coil flexibility: If a coil feels loose, brittle, or breaks easily when touched, it’s likely damaged.
- Coil movement: If you can move a coil easily back and forth, it may be disconnected or broken.
Step 4: Smell Check (Caution): In some cases, a burnt or unusual odor may indicate a problem with the heating element. However, this method is less reliable, and you should exercise caution when using your sense of smell.
Where Is The Heating Element In The Dryer?
The location of the heating element in a dryer can vary depending on the dryer’s make and model, but it is typically found in one of the following two places:
Behind the Drum: In many dryer models, the heating element is situated behind the dryer drum. To access it, you’ll need to disassemble the dryer. Here’s a general guide to finding the heating element behind the drum:
- Unplug the dryer and disconnect it from the power source.
- Remove the dryer’s top panel, which is usually held in place by screws.
- Once the top panel is removed, locate and remove any screws or clips that secure the dryer’s front panel.
- Carefully lift the front panel away from the dryer. You may need to disconnect wires or door switches, so be cautious.
- With the front panel removed, you should have access to the heating element, which is typically a long metal or coil-like structure positioned behind the drum.
In the Back of the Dryer: In some dryer models, the heating element can be accessed from the rear of the appliance. Here’s how to locate it:
- Unplug the dryer and disconnect it from the power source.
- Pull the dryer away from the wall to give yourself room to work.
- Remove any screws or clips securing the back panel of the dryer.
- Carefully remove the back panel to access the internal components of the dryer.
- The heating element should be visible and can often be found at the bottom or along one side of the dryer’s interior.
Is it worth replacing the heating element in the dryer?
- It can be worth replacing the heating element in a dryer, depending on several factors:
- Age of the dryer: If your dryer is relatively new and in good overall condition, replacing the heating element can extend its lifespan and save you the cost of buying a new dryer.
- Cost of replacement: Heating elements are generally more affordable than purchasing a new dryer, making it a cost-effective repair option.
- The extent of damage: If only the heating element is faulty, and the rest of the dryer is in good condition, replacing it is a reasonable choice.
Can you test the heating element without removing it?
Testing the heating element without removing it can be challenging because a proper test typically requires direct access to the element’s wire terminals. However, you can perform a visual and tactile inspection without removing the element to look for visible damage or loose coils. Keep in mind that while this may provide some clues, it’s not as accurate as using a multimeter for electrical testing.
How do I know if my heating element is bad?
Common signs of a bad heating element in a dryer include:
- Clothes take longer to dry.
- Clothes not drying thoroughly or remaining damp.
- A lack of noticeable heat in the dryer drum.
- An error code or warning on the dryer’s display (if applicable).
What causes a heating element in a dryer to fail?
Heating elements in dryers can fail due to various reasons, including:
- Normal wear and tear over time.
- Excessive lint buildup, which can overheat the element.
- Power surges or electrical issues.
- Physical damage or breakage.
- High-heat cycles, such as running the dryer on the highest heat setting consistently.
Can I replace the heating element myself, or should I hire a professional?
Whether you should replace the heating element yourself or hire a professional depends on your comfort level with appliance repair, your knowledge of electrical systems, and the complexity of your dryer model. Simple replacements may be a DIY task for those with some technical skills, while more complex repairs are best left to professionals to ensure safety and proper installation.
Are there any preventive measures to prolong the life of a heating element?
Yes, you can extend the life of your heating element by:
- Regularly cleaning the lint filter before each use to prevent lint buildup.
- Ensuring proper ventilation for the dryer to prevent overheating.
- Not overloading the dryer, can strain the heating element.
- Avoiding the frequent use of high-heat settings when lower settings are sufficient.
- Checking the dryer’s vents and ducts for obstructions to maintain good airflow.
Determining whether it’s worth replacing the heating element in your dryer depends on factors like the dryer’s age, the cost of replacement, and the extent of damage. While testing the heating element without removing it is challenging, visual inspection and common signs of failure can provide initial clues. Signs of a bad heating element include prolonged drying times, incomplete drying, or a lack of noticeable heat. To maximize the heating element’s lifespan, practice preventive measures like regular lint filter cleaning, proper ventilation, and avoiding overloading. Ultimately, whether you choose to replace it yourself or seek professional help, a well-functioning heating element is vital for efficient drying and should be addressed promptly if found faulty.