I recently had a dryer hooked up to this outlet and it ran for 2 years without problem. I recently got a new (to me) Kenmore 400-series dryer that was serviced a month ago and was in perfect condition, though it traveled from 2 states away and was jostled a bit. The new dryer will not start, but I can hear the timer motor ticking when it's plugged in.

I used a multimeter to check the timer, the start switch, and the door switch. All of them were ok (according to what I was seeing from a YouTube tutorial by theapplianceman). I checked the cord. It's fine.

I checked the outlet. H1-H2 gives me 240v. H1-G and H2-G gives me 120v. H1-N and H2-N gives me around 50v.

I don't know what this means. Is this why the dryer won't start? Is it even an issue?

  • What voltage do you get N-G? Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 16:00
  • N-G measures at 0.1v... fluctuating (if I wiggle the probes) up to 0.7v. Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 16:12
  • Also, I just went and measured again to be sure, and I'm still getting 240v H-H, 120v H-G, but now I'm getting only 10v H-N. Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 16:13
  • With the dryer unplugged what readings do you get from the receptacle? Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 17:44
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    Lucky you. If this had been a 3-wire connection, your loose neutral would have placed 120V on the steel chassis of the dryer and electrocuted anyone who touched it and anything grounded (like the chassis of the washer right next to it). And people say this never happens. Anytime you see an answer on SE that says 3-prong dryer-range hookups are OK because neutrals don't fail -- link this question. Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


It's an open neutral.

The neutral wire has lost connection somewhere.

You are getting indeterminate readings because you are using a common digital multimeter (DVM). Those have very high input impedance - which is normally a desired feature in a meter. However on a long run of parallel wires, if a floating wire is near a live one, it will pick up a "ghost voltage" by capacitive coupling or induction. It doesn't exist in any usable amount of current (paying out 500' of wire under a high-tension line won't get you anything), but these meters are so sensitive they will pick it up as a varying voltage somewhere between 0 and the line voltage of the adjacent wire(s). It's common for it to drift around, that's a sure sign actually.

So that tells you that your neutral break is probably not right at the receptacle.

As a sidebar, 3-prong (groundless) NEMA 10 type connectors are still allowed for dryers and ranges. These omit ground, and ground the chassis of the machine to neutral. The logic is that these appliances are rarely moved, and neutral wire failures are extremely rare. Not so rare, apparently. When you lose neutral on a NEMA 10 connection, it electrifies the chassis of the machine. The washer next to it is properly grounded, touch both and BLAM.

So that 4-prong hookup provided a real safety dividend for you today.

  • Why the near-nil reading N-G then? I agree that an open neutral is possible here, but I'd expect the neutral to be floating with regards to ground as well... Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 18:44
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    I opened the receptacle and it has NO neutral wire connected. It just had some 10-2 wire coming in with white and black on H1 and H2 and the bare on G. The silver N slot was just tightened down with nothing in it. When we got out previous dryer 2 years ago, it was a three prong. The hookup at our new house was a 4 prong, so I got a 4 prong pigtail and hooked the dryer up. This new dryer actually requires all four, so that must be why it's not working. I'm going to just re-run the wire with some 10-3 and see what happens. I'm hoping it works. I've learned a decent bit today. :) Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 20:00
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    I ran the new 10-3 wire yesterday and hooked it up in the panel box. Dryer started right up. Thanks for the help! Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 20:16

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