“Hot-wiring your clothes dryer” and the return of the repair culture

Recently I had the inconvenience–and the opportunity–to have our clothes dryer stop working on us. It would tumble, but with no heat. It’s funny because I’ve been wanting to learn more about appliance repair, and voila! our appliances have been going down, in repairable ways no less. First it was the fridge (coils needed defrosting) and then the dryer.

My first realization when the dryer stopped working is that it’s a luxury. Our living room gets lots of glorious California sunlight in the mornings that could be put to work drying clothes. And our fancy washing machine has a timer mode, so we could set it up to wash in the early morning before we get up, so we can then dry by sunlight in the living room. At the very least we can dry the heavy things, like my Jiujitsu uniform, our jeans, and maybe even our towels.

But then I got to thinking about the dryer itself. We just bought the dryer a few months ago, bargained hard, and got a model with lots of electronics, features, bells and whistles. But now that we’ve had a chance to use it, I realize that most of the time we just use the “regular” mode. Granted, it does have a moisture detector which is useful for minimizing the operation time. But it also has a steam mode (which we don’t use), anti-static mode, anti-bacterial, and so on that we just aren’t using.

So what would I do if the electronics on the dryer stopped working? Well if it was out of warranty, and I didn’t want to buy a new “motherboard” for my drying machine (I’m only being slightly sarcastic) I’d be tempted to hot-wire the thing in such a way that I’d at least be able to turn it on and off. I have no idea how complicated a modification like this would be, but I think it’s possible.

I recently stumbled on the book How to Diagnose and Fix Everything Electronic which tells you which tools you need, and then how to use them to repair your seemingly hopeless electronics. Although I haven’t gone through it yet, I think there’s great promise in the (controversial?) idea of fixing, or modifying, appliances and electronics instead of just tossing them out.

And by the way, the dryer problem? It turned out that one of the power wires internally had burned out, although I don’t know why that happened. So luckily the heating element was fine, it was just the burned wires that needed to be cut back and re-attached, although this time with extra protection. This particular dryer will see another day.

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