Man versus Machine

Once again, man triumphs over machine!

Specifically, this man triumphed over the dryer. Again.

When we moved in here eight years ago (literally, like eight years ago today) the landlord mentioned there was a dryer in the shed and if We could get it working, we could use it. Tori watched a couple of Youtube videos, got it working, and we were off to the races. And not off to the laundromat.

It was already an old machine when we started using it. As near as I can tell from the serial number, it was built between 1978 and 1988, which is a hell of a ride for an appliance. It’s had problems over the years and I’ve had it open fiddling with this part or that or taking something out to check it on the multimeter. I’ve opened it so many time that I have thought about replacing the bolts with a zipper. I’ve replaced both thermal sensors – twice – the fuse, the thermostat, a couple of rollers, the belt – twice. And less than two months ago we – Tori and I, working together – replaced the motor. That was tricky, because while it was the same motor, it was wired completely differently. Tori had the patience to work that out. And the dryer was running. But then last week it went belly up again. It was turning, but not getting hot.

Now, you might ask, and reasonably so, “John, it’s a 32 to 42 year old dryer. It was never meant to last this long, and somewhere down the line you’ll have put more into repairs than the thing is worth, or than it would cost to just replace it. Just let it go, and get something that was at least made in this century.”

But I just can’t. It’s like the guy said on the Kenmore DIY video, when an appliance stops working, it’s like a detective story. It’s leaving you clues about what the problem is. It becomes a game.

So, turning but not warm. That means it’s not the motor, belt or rollers. I checked the thermal sensors, thermostat and fuse. All had continuity. So I closed up the back and opened the front. I have never worked on the part where the gas jet burns and I was a little nervous. I have replaced the heating coil of an electric dryer, that’s easy, but this is – you know – fire. had to do a little research to figure out what all those piece are and what they do.

I was stymied again by the fact that there have been some upgrades since this dryer rolled off the assembly line, back during the Carter administration and the coils looked nothing like the ones I saw in the DIY video.

Then I reached in and undid the screw holding the igniter in place and pulled that out. The fact that it came out in pieces was a pretty good sign that the thing was broken, perhaps it was THE broken piece. I called my favorite appliance parts store (believe me I know ’em all!) and the guy, when hearing about the age of my machine, said he didn’t have an original equipment version, but had several “generic” igniters of different shapes, one of which would probably work. Sounded like my best choice, so I went down, handed them the pieces of my old igniter, and he brought me back something that looked exactly like the old one, but in one piece.

I brought it home, installed it, put all the other pieces back and crossed my fingers. I plugged it in, opened the gas valve and stood back. And then, all I did for the next 10 minutes was stand next to the dryer and breathe deeply. Occasionally I’d bend down over the coils and inhale deeply. No smell of gas. OK. So I hadn’t made anything worse

I turned it on. The new igniter started to glow bright orange, and the gas jet lit up like a rocket. I watched it for a couple of minutes and it didn’t cut out, so I guess I fixed it again.

Hooray! Until next time!

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