What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Trip on a Clothes Dryer?

Written by christie gross
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What Causes a Circuit Breaker to Trip on a Clothes Dryer?
A lint fire inside the dryer can cause a circuit breaker to trip. (Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Don't panic if one or both of your clothes dryer's circuit breakers trip. There are several reasons why a breaker might activate, and most aren't cause for concern. When a circuit breaker trips, electricity is cut to the dryer's component it serves until the breaker is manually reset at the box. If you reset the breaker only to have it trip again, it is best to have your dryer, and possibly your home's electrical wiring, evaluated by a professional.

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Circuit Breakers

A dryer requires about 220 volts of electricity, supplied by two 110-volt lines. Each line is protected by a circuit breaker. One line powers the heating element, while the other energises the drum. If a component related to the operation of one of these two main parts fails, it can trigger the circuit breaker to prevent further damage to dryer components. Determining which breaker tripped will help guide you to the faulty component.

Power Cord

A power cord connects the dryer to a heavy-duty 220-volt electrical socket. If the power cord is damaged, a short circuit in broken or frayed wires in the cord can cause one or both circuit breakers to trip. Inspect the power cord. If it's not in good condition, replace it. In some cases, you might also need to replace the outlet's terminal strip, which connects wires to the electricity supply. If the power cord has short-circuited, the terminal strip may also be damaged.

Faulty Home Wiring

If a portion of your home's wiring is corroded or frayed, that is a hazardous condition that can interfere with the power supply to your dryer. To protect your dryer from electrical damage and possible fire, its circuit breakers might shut down power to the dryer from the circuit box. Unplug your dryer, and reset the breakers. If they trip again with the dryer unplugged, the problem is with the home's wiring and not the dryer. Contact an electrician to inspect your home's wiring for defects.

Power Surge

A power surge caused by severe weather can send a jolt of power to your home's main electrical box. A dryer's circuit breakers might trip to guard against damage by the burst of power. After the storm ends, try resetting the circuit breaker to restore function to your dryer.

Safety Device

Your dryer has a built-in safety device called a thermal fuse. The fuse almost instantaneously will blow, shutting off the dryer's heating element and power to the dryer, if the air temperature in the drum is near the point of overheating. If this occurs, your dryer might continue to spin, though not heat, because the circuit breaker that controls the drum wasn't impacted. Replace the thermal fuse, and reset the circuit breaker for the heating element to "on."

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