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The Fine Art of Home Improvement


Patti Dinneen 

The dryer was humming along happily, all the clothes dancing and spinning themselves into a dry little frenzy, when all of sudden… it stopped. Just stopped. Apparently my dryer decided it was having no more of this clothes- drying business and went on strike. Just when you think it’s safe to do laundry… you find out you're better off on a boat with Roy Scheider.

So I peered into the dryer. Using my swift powers of deduction, I quickly assessed it was dark in there. I closed the door and tried to gently coax the dryer back to life by using the ancient Chinese method of rocking it back and forth. I figured this technique, which is generally reserved for vending machines, would surely do the trick. No dice. The dryer still was not working. 

When I say not working, let me clarify by telling you that it sounded like it wanted to work, but it stopped short when it came to spinning. So I did what any single woman would do in this situation. I closed the door, shut off the light, and went shopping for some new clothes.

Okay, so I couldn’t ignore this problem forever. I knew without a doubt that the purchase of a new dryer was out of the question. Therefore, I decided that I would repair the dryer myself. Great day in the morning! All I needed to do was learn how. My first step was to identify the problem. I hopped aboard the information highway and began searching on dryer repair.

I plugged "Dryer repair" into the search field and immediately came up with 10,000 hits. Yeah, buddy! The first was "How to dry goat meat, fun with your dehydrator!" Not quite what I was looking for, but nonetheless informative! Eventually I did find a site that not only helped me identify the problem (broken dryer belt), but also gave me step by step directions on how to repair it. Complete with diagrams! This was going to be a snap!

So with my trusty new dryer belt ($9.00) in hand, I headed downstairs with my daughter to make the repair. I grabbed the two flashlights I had borrowed for the job and handed them to my daughter to carry. Because it’s deemed mandatory in the “Kid handbook” she promptly dropped one flashlight on the concrete floor, shattering it. Omen, you wonder? What do you think? 

So we’re down one flashlight. No problem. I got to work opening up the dryer. Not as easy as you would think. If you've ever wondered why the Maytag repairman is lonely, it's simple to figure out. It's because he's insane from working on dryers! I finally managed to get the top off of the dryer, so in celebration I dropped one of the screws I was holding into its bowels. My
daughter, ever the helpful one, took the remaining flashlight and shined it into the dryer in search of the lost screw. 

As if on cue, she promptly dropped the flashlight into the Purgatory the screw was residing in. With that, she turned to me and said, “Maybe we should get Mel to help.” Mel is my landlord. 

"Mel, Schmell," I said, "Are you doubting your wonderful mother's competence?" 

She looked up innocently and said, "I can check and see if he's home." 

So we spent some time fishing stuff out of the bottom of the dryer. It was a mother/daughter bonding experience. I then went to work replacing the belt. No problem. However there was a roller that came with the belt that I also had to replace, but I could not determine from any of the diagrams where the stupid thing belonged. The instructions said it was located right next to the motor. Easy enough, except as far as I could discern my dryer had no motor! I was certain that I owned the only dryer ever to run without a motor. 

Let me just tell you that when I mentioned to a number of different men at work my dryer troubles, they all knew exactly what the problem was and how to fix it. Is this kind of stuff imprinted on the double X-chromosomes or what?
When I spoke to one of my male friends about my inability to locate the dryer motor he quickly said, oh that’s on the bottom under the drum. Of course, I had been searching the top of the dryer. (However, as he spoke, I grew proud of my newfound ability to comprehend complicated technical terms like "drum.") 

“How do you know that?” I asked in amazement. “I did a dryer belt just a few months ago,” he responded. “You also should grease the coagulator, change the bearings and check the ventigular housing perspirator, while you’re in there.” A single hand gesture relayed my thoughts on his suggestions.

So I went home that night armed with the knowledge of where to find the motor. I got my friend, who had earlier given me all the helpful hints, on the phone to walk me through the rest of the process. He began by instructing me to remove the drum.

“No,” I said. "It says here you don’t have to remove the drum." 

“I would remove the drum,” he insisted. 

I said “Okay, but…” and as I started to remove the drum I began to hear a ripping sound, at which point I heard him yell, “DON’T REMOVE THE DRUM!” Too late. I frantically slid the drum back in. Eventually I managed to replace the belt without removing the drum, and connected it to the pulley. At this point I confirmed that my daughter and I do share the same DNA when I dropped the clamp that completed reassembly into the open top of the dryer. “Maybe I should get Mel to help," I thought. 

I had to disassemble the entire cabinet in order to retrieve the clamp. I then reassembled the dryer using a simple technique wherein I held the entire
weight of the dryer with one hand, while turning a screw with the other. The Doctor says the ligaments are only torn slightly. 

Okay, let’s give her a test spin. The drum actually turned. However the noise it made was a sound of which no sane man speaks. I quickly yanked the door open to turn off the dryer. It was then that I learned a valuable lesson about listening to a person who instructs you to remove the dryer drum to repair a broken belt. That lesson is, put a screwdriver in his eye. The reason you don’t remove the drum is because it rips the seal, which forges a bond between the drum and the rest of dryer world. The seal, which looked like black fuzzy duct tape, was now partly hanging INSIDE the dryer, allowing all the
clothes-drying hot air to escape into the cabinet. Fire hazard? You bet your lint-catcher!

So I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that I had to replace the seal. I know that you’d love all the interesting details of that endeavor, but I'm going to have to skip to the chase.

In the process of changing the dryer seal, I got to:

Go to two different Sears stores (one 25 miles away), get caught in a traffic jam for 1.5 hours, learn that dryer seals are three times more expensive than dryer belts, drop a knife into a part of the dryer which is inaccessible to all humans, and permanently bond three of my fingers together with “dryer seal adhesive." (Let's not talk about the adhesive that found a nice home in my eyelashes.)

But $32.59 later, I replaced the dryer seal! I reassembled the dryer (see above) and gave it another test drive. It actually worked! No kidding. I’m as shocked as you are. What’s best of all is that you can hardly even hear the rattling of the knife that’s trapped in there! Am I proud? Darn tootin! Will I ever attempt anything like this again? Only if I’m plugged into a morphine drip!

So what did I learn here, you ask? Okay, so you didn’t ask. In fact, you’re more than likely hoping I’ll wrap up soon, huh? No such luck. What I learned is:

No matter how much an appliance repairman asks it’s not enough. People who enjoy this type of home repair task must seriously question their sanity. The only thing I’ll ever pick up in Home Depot is a man to do my home repairs.

In conclusion the dryer parts ended up only costing $40.00. However, I calculate the labor at somewhere around $939.48, plus tax. What a deal.


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