Dryer Smells Like Burning? Here’s What to Do

Paradise Appliance
April 5, 2021
Dryer Repair

Most brands of dryers last a long time without anything going wrong with them. However, sometimes parts break down and need to be replaced. One of the most common problems people report with their dryers is that they start to smell a burning smell coming from them.

If you can smell a burning smell coming from your dryer, then you need to immediately turn your dryer off so you can investigate what the cause is.

Thankfully, it is quite straightforward to check out all of the main causes, such as a buildup of lint, a faulty thermostat, a broken dryer belt, or a faulty motor.

To find the specific cause of the smell, simply follow our step-by-step instructions below.

Look for Lint Buildup

The most common cause of the problem is when you get a buildup of lint in your dryer. It’s really important to not allow lint to build up, as it is one of the main causes of house fires in the United States each year.

To check for lint, you need to:

  1. Locate the lint filter and clean it out.
  2. Use a vacuum cleaner to vacuum up any lint that is around the door and inside the dryer drum.
  3. Unplug your dryer at the power source and remove the dryer’s panels (refer to the dryer’s manual if necessary). This usually involves removing the control panel/bar, top panel, and then the main housing/panels by removing the screws that hold them in place.
  4. Once you have removed the panels/housing, you will be able to access the inside of the dryer unit. Look for any signs of lint, and if there are any, vacuum or clean it out with a cloth.
  5. If you don’t find any lint inside the dryer, move on to the next component to check below. However, if you do find and clean lint from inside the dryer, you’ll need to reassemble the dryer, plug it back in, and then turn the dryer on (without clothes in it). Don’t leave the dryer unattended while it is turned back on.
  6. After the dryer has heated up to a high temperature, you should be able to determine if the burning smell is still present or has been resolved. If the smell has disappeared, then the problem has been solved, but if not, move on to checking the next component.

Check the Thermostat

If the burning smell is not the result of lint building up inside your dryer, then the next component to check is the thermostat. The function of the thermostat is to measure and control the temperature inside your dryer. When it stops working, your dryer may overheat and not automatically turn off as it should, which can cause a burning smell to come from your dryer.

To check the thermostat:

  1. Make sure that the dryer is switched off at the wall.
  2. Locate the thermostat. If you haven’t already, you will need to remove the panels of the dryer so you can access the thermostat (see instructions above for how to remove the panels).
  3. Once located, use a multimeter to check the thermostat for continuity.
  4. If the thermostat has continuity, then it is working correctly and is not the source of the problem. However, if it doesn’t have continuity, then it is faulty and will need to be replaced. You should only attempt to replace the thermostat if you are qualified/trained to do so.

Check the Drive Belt

The next component to check if you can smell a burning smell coming from your dryer is the drive belt. Most dryers have a rubber drive belt that helps to turn your dryer drum around during a cycle. When it slips out of place, it can start to melt if it comes in contact with the heating element. This causes a burning smell.

To check the drive belt, you need to:

  1. Make sure that the power is still switched off to the dryer.
  2. Locate the drive belt in your dryer – it goes around the dryer drum.
  3. Make sure that the belt is wrapped around the drum correctly. It should be on reasonably tightly but not too tight.
  4. Check the belt for signs of wear and tear, such as any cracks or signs of melting. If there are no signs of damage, then the belt is probably not the cause of the burning smell, so you can move on to checking the dryer motor.
  5. If the belt is damaged, then it will need to be replaced. You can replace the dryer belt on most units quite easily – just make sure you get the correct replacement belt for your specific make and model of dryer.

Check the Motor

The final component to check is the motor in your dryer. The motor can burn out over time, and this will cause a burning smell to occur.

To check the motor:

  1. Put the dryer on a cycle.
  2. Check if you can hear an unusually loud noise coming from the motor while it is running.
  3. If so, then it needs to be replaced. You should only replace the motor if you are qualified/trained to do so.

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