Brad, the dryer is running but it isn’t heating.
That’s the way I ended my Friday night. Like most people (er, men maybe), I had a series of thoughts that went through my head. The first was, "What did you do to it?" See, that just wasn’t right. Why was that my first thought? Why is that my first thought when anything goes wrong? Perhaps I need someone to blame. My second thought was, "It doesn’t matter what happened, what am I going to do about it?" Followed shortly by, "I can’t afford a new dryer right now and I’m certainly not going to pay someone to fix it." That’s when handy man Brad swings into action.
A few weeks ago my brother was walking to work and got his socks wet. I don’t recall if it were raining or if he was just revisiting his childhood and stomping in puddles. At any rate, his socks were wet and he was unhappy. He decided that he was going to invent some type of microwave safe contraption that would dry socks in just a few seconds. When the ventilation problem was realized, he decided he would make a bread shaped device that would go into a toaster and "pop", your socks would be dry. It turns out that a dryer is actually just a toaster with a fan blowing over it. Granted, it could toast one large piece of bread, but it would probably burn the bread before you get a good toast out of it (similar problem occurs when drying one’s socks in the microwave).
As it turns out, electric dryers are incredibly simple devices. Heater coils with a fan blowing over them, big barrel to spin the clothes so the warm air can get around them, lint screen to catch all the little pieces of clothes that are cooking off, and a series of three or four thermostats. Turns out dryers are not supposed to heat higher than 250 degrees but are capable of heating much, much higher. The series of thermostats is the mechanism that keeps this marvel of modern convenience from burning a hole in the floor and landing on my children in their beds on the floor beneath. It was one of these cute little devices that had failed and caused my dryer to quit working. I really mean little, too. In fact, except for the drum that the clothes take a tumble in, there is only a few feet of wire and a couple quarter sized thermostats in this huge thing that required a slight remodel to our stairwell to get it in when we moved in here.
A quick glance online told me that the parts were easily accessible within a couple days shipping from Sears. Seeing the little button that said "Need this today?", I found it available at a Sears repair center about 8 miles form my house. While this may seem like a nice Saturday morning drive, the eighth mile placed the center just outside the beltway off of 395. For those of you non-D.C. folk, driving down 395 to get outside the beltway is sort of like playing Russian Roulette. There is a chance that you can make the drive in about 10 minutes. There is equally as good a chance, however, that you’ll hit terrible traffic and it will take you an hour get make the same drive. Just for fun, here’s a map of the D.C. area.
I made the drive to the center and back in 30 minutes without speeding. It was the perfect traffic day! Good thing, too, because when I got to work I learned that the thermostat I was replacing was in fact a back up thermostat to the main one that had failed. Lucky for me, that other part was also in stock at the repair center. Unfortunately, that meant another risky venture down 395. This one was even better than the last, so in about half an hour I was back home. A few twists of a socket and the replacement of a burnt connector later, we have an operating dryer. Total cost: $35, 20 minutes of labor, and 1 hour of driving. A bargain compared to what the repair man would want.
Now, I just hope it doesn’t melt through the floor tonight.