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Dave's Repair Service
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How to Replace Your Whirlpool, 
Kenmore, Roper, or Kitchenaid 
Electric Dryer's Heating Element

Here's a common job that many folks are afraid of, but it's really quite simple. The hard part is 'proving' that the element is the problem, and that it's not the electrical supply, thermal fuse, thermostat, etc. Most folks suspect the element immediately, but in about 50% of the cases I see, it's another failed component, and the element's OK.

(For some help with that, and before buying an element you might not need, please see my article entitled 'The No-Heat Dryer').

Note: Always check airflow out the vent before firing up your dryer with its new element. A partially clogged vent can burn out an element - even a brand new one - fast! Just run the dryer on the 'no-heat' or 'fluff' setting, then go outside and check for a good strong flow of air from the vent hood. If there's any doubt, Whirlpool makes a cool little airflow test kit for their dryers that will tell you for sure, from inside.

There are basically 3 styles of heating elements in use for these dryers. 

1) Most common is the 'long' one, part number 4391960, accessed from the back of the dryer, and which looks like this:

#4391960 dryer element kit for Whirlpool & Kenmore

To replace this one, power down and pull the dryer out and remove the back cover. You'll see a long, vertical 'can' on the right side, with the element coil inside. To remove this can, simply pull the element wires (can be hard to remove; I use a long-nosed pliers), the limit thermostat wires just above them, and the thermal fuse wires if equipped (this is a little device mounted high on the side of the can, with two wires attached). One 5/16" hex screw at the top and a little strap holds the can in place. Remove this screw (You can look through the small hole that lines up with it, originally to poke a long screwdriver through), tip the can rearward, and lift it off its two bottom hooks. Once the can's out, one screw holds the element inside. Remove it, and the old element coil will slide out. Slide the new one in, reverse this process, and you're done!

2) The 'short' one, number 279838, is also accessed from the back, but is easier to change:

279838 Dryer Element

(note: this element doesn't ship with the thermal
cutout and safety tstat
shown in the above photo)

The replacement procedure for this one's very similar to the 'long' one, but even easier. With the dryer's back cover off (The dryer's power IS off, right?), leave the long 'can' in place and remove two screws, one on each side of the element, and the element ass'y slips off the bottom of the can. Move the high limit t'stat from the old one to the new, bolt the new element onto the can, reattach the wires, and you're done!

3) And the '27 inch' element, number 3387747,  which fits 27 inch wide cabinet models and is replaced from the front of the dryer:

3387747 Dryer Element

Of the three, this one's the easiest to replace, because you don't even have to move the dryer! After powering the dryer down, the bottom panel is removed by releasing its top clips with a putty knife, and set aside. Two wires are removed from the element, and the screw removed that holds the element in its 'can' (see picture below). The old coil slides out, and the new one slides in, screw reinstalled, wires pushed back onto the terminals, and you're done! (This one can really stick in its 'can'. Wiggling it from side to side as you pull helps 'persuade' it to slide out of there)

27 inch element mounting screw detail

I currently have a very inexpensive 'basic service manual' available for immediate download that covers this and most every other repair on the 27 inch machines.

Two Important Tips: 

1) As stated above, right after replacing a dryer element, always run the dryer on 'air fluff' / 'no heat', and go outside to verify there's plenty of air coming out your vent system. If the vent's clogged, that new element can burn out very quickly. (While you're out there, if there's a screen of ANY size over the vent, remove it - it WILL clog! See my Dryer vent screens article)

2) If there's plenty of airflow, run the dryer empty on high heat for 10 minutes or so before adding laundry. This allows any oil residue to burn off the new element and prevents any 'smoky' odor from getting into your laundry. 

I hope this has been of help to you in replacing your dryer element. Wasn't that easy?! Many common appliance repairs like this really aren't that tough. 

If you should encounter any problems, or have any questions about any of this, please don't hesitate to contact me.

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