Troubleshooting: Dryer Smells Like Burning -
Appliance Troubleshooting

Simply Swider’s Detailed Guide on Dealing With the Burning Smell Coming From a Dryer

Written by

Jason Carter

Simply Swider’s Detailed Guide on Dealing With the Burning Smell Coming From a Dryer


A burning smell doesn’t bode well for your surroundings. As such, your concern when your dryer smells like its burning is understandable.


I have enlisted the help of Andrew Cane, an appliance engineer who has been working with dryers for over seven years.

I compiled and refined his recommendations and thoughts in the guide below. Keep reading to learn more.

Dryer Smells Like Burning

5 Possible Reasons and Troubleshooting Procedures for a Burning Smell in a Dryer

To begin:

Disconnect the dryer the moment you notice a burning smell, because the quicker you act, the less damage your dryer takes.

Andrew comments, “You risk starting an electrical fire if you leave your dryer plugged and working when you notice a burning smell.” 

Having said that, here are some causes of a burning smell in your dryer.

Lint Filter$10 – $100
Thermostat$7 – $40
Drive Belt$9 – $40
Drive Motor$70 – $400
Heating Element$20 – $50

 1. Full Lint Filter

Understand this:

A lint trap keeps lint and debris out of the dryer tub. And as clothes fray over time, lint is unavoidable.

This Reddit user complains:

“…I go down to the dryer, and sure enough, it sounds like it’s running fine, but even after running it for a few seconds, it smells like something is burning.”

Another Reddit user suggests that lint has accumulated close to the blower and igniter.

Andrew explains:

“Most dryer models get hot after operating for a certain period. The lint caught in a lint trap will also get hot due to too much heat.” This results in a burning smell.


This burning smell is the best-case scenario. Andrew also points out that the lint build-up could start a fire if left unchecked.


This fix is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is locate the lint filter in your dryer and clean it.

Do this:

Use a hand vacuum to suck up all the lint and wash it with dish soap if necessary. You can also go the extra mile by cleaning the dryer vent hose as lint can sometimes build up there.


Be careful when working with the lint filter. Andrew explains that some filters can easily be damaged without care.

PartLint filter Lint screen
LocationThe lint screen is typically incorporated into the front door of a dryer. However, the location may vary depending on the dryer model.
Ease of troubleshootingModerate
Cost$10 – $200, depending on the model
RepairableYes – If it is clogged
No – If it is damaged

2. Faulty Dryer Thermostat

The dryer thermostat keeps close tabs on the temperature inside. Your dryer has been designed to operate within a specific temperature range and could get damaged otherwise.

To learn more:

I consulted Andrew, and he pointed out an interesting fact. “The thermostat is a failsafe. A faulty one could cause a dryer to overheat, leaving a burning smell.”


A loosely connected or damaged thermostat could lead to the burning smell you are experiencing. It could also be one reason your dryer has trouble heating.


He was also kind enough to show me how to test a faulty thermostat. He said to locate the thermostat and use a multimeter to check for continuity. A lack of continuity suggests that your dryer’s thermostat is damaged.

Note that:

The thermostat is usually tucked away behind the back panel.

Furthermore, Andrew advises, “Replacement thermostats are easy to find. It is better to replace the part than risk it getting damaged again. Enlist the help of your local appliance technician.”

LocationThe dryer thermostat is typically located at the back of the dryer. It may be hidden under the back panel.
Ease of troubleshootingComplex
Cost$7 – $40, depending on the model
RepairableYes – loosely connected
No – If it is faulty

3. Worn Drive Belt

Keep in mind:

Your dryer requires the drive belt to function. The rubber drive belt, motor pulley, and motor work together to create the movement that dries your laundry.

How could this part cause a burning smell?

Well, Andrew asserted that a worn-out belt could emit a burning smell due to the friction against your dryer tub.


This could also prevent your dryer from spinning. On the bright side, the smell and this problem disappear once you replace the worn belt.

Here’s how to go about it:

Replacing the dryer belt typically means you must disassemble your dryer to gain access to the dryer housing. Then, examine the belt for signs of damage or misalignment on the pulley.


If it is damaged, you must replace it.

PartDrive Belt
LocationThe dryer drive belt typically wraps around the tub and connects the driver motor.
Ease of troubleshootingModerate
Cost$9 – $40, depending on the type
RepairableNo – If it is damaged

4. Malfunctioning Drive Motor

Here’s the thing:

The drive motor is the heart and soul of your dryer. The dryer wouldn’t be able to agitate without the motor and the belt working together.

As Andrew understands it:

“A faulty drive motor could also emit a burning smell. Perhaps the part was overloaded, or a power surge affected it. Do not run your dryer if you suspect this problem.”

Fortunately, replacing the faulty motor should eliminate the burning smell.


The replacement process can be complex. Do not hesitate to contact an appliance technician or Whirlpool customer service if you own one of their dryers.


I asked Andrew to walk me through the process for a standard Whirlpool dryer, which requires a few tools and technical know-how.

He said, “Test the drive motor for continuity with a multimeter. And if it lacks continuity replace it with a functional one.”

PartDrive motor
LocationThis part is found at the base of your dryer, underneath the dryer drum.
Ease of troubleshootingComplex
Cost$70 – $500, depending on the model
RepairableYes – If it is due to loose connections
No – If it is burnt out or severely damaged

5. Damaged Heating Element


A Reddit user expressed problems with their Whirlpool dryer failing to heat after a certain number of uses. 

“I don’t get why the hi-temp fuse keeps blowing… I really don’t want to buy a new one. What else can I check?” They complained.

In response:

Another Reddit user asserted that the heating element was likely shorted. And Andrew agreed with that confidently.

He said:

“If the heating element is bad, you would be able to detect a distinct burning smell.” As such, to repair it detach the wires and check the part for continuity with a multimeter.

If the heating element tests negative for electrical continuity, you must replace it and change the fuses too.

PartHeating Element
LocationThe heating element is typically connected to the back panel of your dryer.
Ease of troubleshootingComplex
Cost$20 – $50, depending on the model
RepairableYes – If it is minor damage
No – If it is severe damage

3 Handy Simply Swider Tips for Preventing the Dryer Burning Smells

1. Clean the Lint Screen Regularly

I spoke to Andrew about possibly preventing issues like the burning smell from arising. He was keen on sharing some preventive tips with me.


He could not stress enough how important it is to periodically clean the lint screen in your dryer unit.

In his words:

“Lint accumulates as frequently as you use your dryer. I recommend you create a stable cleaning schedule and stick to it.”


Andrew explained that you shouldn’t use water to extinguish an electrical fire. He said, “It is better to avoid the lint catching on fire altogether; dealing with the problem could be dangerous after it has escalated.”

2. Connect Your Dryer to a Surge Protector


“A power surge could cause parts like the thermostat and the motor in your dryer to malfunction,” Andrew states.

Surge protectors are handy adaptors that can prevent electrical damage when the power in your home is unstable.

Andrew mentions consulting an appliance technician before buying a surge protector. “They often know the right one to fit any particular appliance.”

3. Do Not Overload the Dryer

You can quicken the lint build-up in your machine if you overload it. Always consult the dryer’s manual for the optimum laundry load amount.


Andrew explains that gradually overloading your machine will wear the parts quicker and create that burning smell.


We all know:

Different dryer models are susceptible to faults that can cause a distinct burning smell.

Nothing is more terrifying than the threat of a fire. Thankfully, here are some methods you can use to deal with the burning smell coming from your dryer.

  • Unplug the dryer
  • Replace the damaged thermostat
  • Clean the dryer lint trap
  • Change the worn drive belt
  • Replace the faulty motor

Simply speaking:

Andrew has helped so much with his expertise and experience on the matter. Be sure to keep the safety tips he mentioned in mind when working on this problem.

Remember that you limit the damage the sooner you act on the problem.


You don’t have to face the burning smell alone. Contact a technician, engineer, or expert if you feel overwhelmed by the troubleshooting steps above.


You can always share your thoughts, and ask for clarification using the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Dryer Smell Like Burning, and Is It Safe to Continue Using It?

You may have a dangerous amount of lint build-up in the lint screen, or the drive belt could be worn or malfunctioning. Unplug your dryer the moment you notice the smell as it is unsafe to use.

What Are the Most Common Causes of a Dryer Emitting a Burning Smell, and How Can I Fix Them?

The thermostat may be non-functional, causing your dryer to overheat and produce a burning smell. A power surge could damage your dryer’s drive motor, causing it to emit a strong burning smell. You can fix these problems by replacing parts.

How Can I Prevent My Dryer From Smelling Like Burning in the Future?

You can prevent the burning smell by regularly cleaning out the lint trap in your dryer. Create a cleaning schedule and stick to it. Also, connect your dryer to a surge protector to protect sensitive electrical parts. Finally, do not overload your dryer. This will wear out the parts quickly and may produce a burning smell.

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