Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dryer DIY Just Barely

I have been led down the primrose path by the internet and survived to tell about it. Not only that, but the dryer that I set out to fix (yes, this is my boondoggle though Terri got me out of it) is now fixed.

Our dryer had over the past few months developed a horrible squeaking/squealing sound and I innocently googled it and found a whole lot of squeaky dryers out there, but I also came across this page:
which has someone correctly diagnosing the problem as worn out "rear drum bearing" and he then continues on to explain in some detail how to fix it. What follows is many posts telling him thank you and that it wasn't all that bad and if you have two people it takes about an hour to do. This made me brave and even though our dryer is a little different I went ahead and ordered a "rear drum bearing" kit.

One hour turned into a week in our case.

Dryers are conceptually pretty simple beasts. They are basically a heated barrel that spins around on a post. This post or bearing had worn scores in it and was now howling. So knowing that and knowing that everyone else said it was doable even though it involved pulling that barrel/drum out completely, emboldened me. Such is how such misadventures start. What no one warned us about because our 15 year old dryer is likely just a little different that everyone else's is that while we could pull it all the way apart and replace the part and even find the little E-clip that went flying off when we pulled it off (**) (and of course was the one thing that wasn't included in the replacement kit), putting it all back together was well, just hell. One person said without any detail that putting their's back together was tricky, No one said anything about having to line 4 layers up blind. One of those layers, a disk of metal about 6 inches in diameter, would fall down at the smallest provocation and we learned later all the layers would only go back together in one orientation.

This is a photo of the dryer just before we pulled the drum out.

I don't have a photo of the drum out of the dryer. Too bad as it was pretty funny looking to be rolling around this drum outside of the dryer.

Once the drum was out you could see the bearing here:
It's hard to see but the mishapen disk thing is actually the bearing.

Here are a couple of photos of the older one where you can see it better. You can actually see the scoring on the shaft which is what was causing all the screaming.

The nearly impossible part was that the dryer drum had to bolt back into those little holes on the disk of the bearing (you can see them on the left photo.) If it had just been a matter of lining up the drum with the bearing that might have worked fine but the other layers involved that you couldn't touch while trying to get them lined up made me give up twice. Terri saved the day/week (not a joke). She figured out that you needed something to insert into the holes and then place the drum so that what you have inserted keeps everything lined up. We first tried dowels which weren't sturdy enough so she figure out that a bolt big enough to stay in the bearing holes would go through all the other holes, but she asked: if only I could get a bolt without a head on it.

This is one way our skills dovetail nicely. I am something of a dremel queen. Cut the head off a bolt? No problem, me and my dremel's cut off wheel only need about 5 minutes.

Then it was a matter of getting brave and trying to get the drum to line up with these three little bolts. I was the one who had been doing the lifting, but it was actually Terri who got it miraculously lined up and then I got to do the honors of one at a time pulling out the headless bolt and getting the actual bolt in there. It felt so strange to be able to accomplish something that you had given up on two days ago. I had even picked out what shop I was going to call and say "Hi, we can't get our dryer back together. No we don't need it fixed, we did that, but we can't get all the pieces lined up correctly." And each one one lined up perfectly as Terri who can be quite methodical when it's important, had taken the time to figure out exactly which orientation was the only one that would work and to carefully mark it. I'm very impressed and it's not something I would have thought of on my own.

Then we couldn't quite reach the belt to get it back on the pulley. I couldn't visualize how it was supposed to work, but we found an internet diagram and then Terri was able to draw it out for me. The only problem was that I was still having a lot of difficulty actually reaching the belt and after struggling with it for a while I finally realized that there had to be another way since my hands are smaller than 90% of appliance repair people and sure enough there was a way to it from the back of the dryer which made life much easier.

Of course when we finally finished we had to face the possibility that it might not work so with much trepidation we turned it one and No More Squeak! Ahhh. Of course we have parts left over but that's because the shaft wasn't an exact replacement so we had a couple of washers we had to omit but it's happily drying away right now and I'm hoping we'll get a few more years out of it before having to give up on it.

All in all it was worth it since it save us having to (a) buy a new dryer or (b) pay to have it fixed. The kit was about $25 with shipping. Having it repaired would likely have been over $100. But that said it was pretty high on the home improvement adventure scale and whether it is worth it to any one particular couple (2 people are required, domestic relationship optional) can only be answered by them. And if you don't have a solid relationship before you start you may not have one after it. At least it didn't involve water (washer's are way more complicated and I'm not sure I want to mess with one) and while we had most of the dryer in pieces, we never had to mess with the gas line going into the dryer, nor anything to do with the heating portion.

So we all survived and my laundry is getting done.

** And what sadist invented E clips? It took over an hour to figure out what it was called. Clamp? Nope. Cotter Pin? Nope. Got frustrated and took the dog on a walk. Came back and tried: "C clip" while not correct that got us far enough to be able to spot a picture of ours and then we were able to figure out it was called an "E clip" which given its shape makes sense.

Then we had to figure out how to get it off and the one internet person's idea of inserting needle nose pilers into the open end and then gradually opening the pilers worked. Their idea of using a plastic bag to then catch it when it releases and goes flying didn't work, and I found myself taking apart a whole 'nuther section of the dryer apart and sifting through a decade of lint, but I finally found it. In retrospect what would have likely worked is the always essential duct tape. Tape the part of the clip that you're not working on and anchor it to the dryer.


This whole experience was a whole series of unplanned side steps and in home improvement you just have to anticipate that at best things are going to go in a circuitous path. it didn't end that night, but continued this morning when Terri asked if the hot water heater was on. It wasn't as I had turned it off momentarily by accident last night and that killed the pilot. So this morning was about finding the long mechnical match and then remembering how to relight it even though the instructions were covered up by the insulating jacket (turn the dial to "pilot" and hold the red button down while placing the lit match onto what you hope is where the pilot light goes, then when the pilot lights, move the knob over to "on." My first time I got it lit then carefully moved the knob to "off." D'oh. It all finally worked out and I actually had a hot shower this morning to go along with my clean clothes.

After less than a month it started to squeak again.
Apparently there is a front support that we could replace also.
After the last go round we decided it was curtains for the dryer and we replaced it with a used one from a local dealer. Much better.


Elf said...

My dryer is 2 years old and has started squeaking. Not all the time, which sucks, because then when the repair guy comes out and says it just needs cleaning and lubricating (at 2 yrs old?!) and charges you yes $$$ for it, you have no way of proving that it's fixed (or not) until a couple of laundry loads later when it starts squeaking again. Do I call again with same results? Wait til it squeaks constantly? Try it myself (you have successfully just discouraged me from that course.)

Your story sounds much like my repair effort with my shower massage head. Came apart OK, cleaned OK, but needed fingers about 1/4" thick to be able to hold things in place blind while reassembling. Never did get it right.

Ellen said...

Isn't a 2 year old dryer under some sort of warranty?

Figure out the circumstances that it squeaks. Ours was it had to have clothing in it. Turning it on empty didn't sound too bad.

I'm so gullible that I would think: It's new, there's no way it could be as bad.

You might also want to tape record it.

I'm about to add one small section called "What sadist invented E-clips?"

Elf said...

Tape recording might or might not give the worker a clue as to what the issue is; it certainly doesn't help in determining whether the problem has actually been fixed. Warranty: 1 year. When: When it feels like it. If it's squeaking, I can stop it and restart it without doing anything else and that might stop the squeaking. Or it might not.

Ellen said...

There are two suspects when you have squeaking and luckily they are far apart from each other.

The one you want it to be coming from the pulley that keeps the tension on the belt. It's much easier to reach and fix and if you figure out that's what is squeaking you can pretty easily replace it in many cases. One way to tell is to spray it with WD-40 and see if the squeaking goes away.

The belt pulley's are usually on the bottom off to one side.

The problem we were having with the bearing is right in the back center.

When it's squeaking put your head down low in front of the dryer. If it's coming from there it's the pulley. Then lean over the top of dryer and place your head right over the center rear of the dryer. I hope the sound isn't louder there.