The clothes in our Kenmore dryer became so hot during a load one day that we thought they were going to catch fire. I ran the dryer and watched the heater box. The heater element was glowing red hot and did not respond to box temperature or heat setting. Naturally, my first thought was that either the temperature sensor had blown or the high temperature cutoff switch was bad.
I pulled the dryer out from the wall and took the back off to access the controls. While running the dryer, I was able to determine that the switches were operating correctly, but the heater element was still glowing red. Next, I pulled the cover off of the heater element compartment and ran the dryer again. To my amazement, half of the heater element was turning on and off properly, but the other half was full on all the time.
The heater was coiled nichrome wire that was mounted on insulating porcelain standoffs. There were six lengths of the heater wire, about 18 inches long with an insulator at the ends only where the heater turned. After many years of use, and many heat cycles, the middle loop had fatigued and was curved toward the firewall between the heater compartment and the clothes compartment. Of course, this baffle was metal, connected to the rest of the dryer frame, and therefore, grounded.
The thermostat and over-temperature switches were both on the same, single side of the 220V line. Consequently, when the center of the element contacted the ground there was approximately 110V across that portion of the element all the time. Hence, there was always lots of heat being produced whenever the dryer was on, with no control. Fortunately, there was no power applied when the dryer was off, otherwise we would have been paying an excessive electric bill until it was repaired. We also would have been in danger of a fire.
Kenmore should have designed the heater layout with more support at closer intervals than 18 inches, especially since this was in an appliance that was constantly subjected to vibration and the thermal cycles that would tend to flex the nichrome wire.
This entry was submitted by Thomas R. Clem Sr. and edited by Rob Spiegel.
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