I have a GE electric dryer that came with the house and as I was sliding it to the side I could feel a good amount of heat coming out of the back and top. I opened the dryer and the inside of the drum didn't seem warm. There dryer hasn't been used in the last 18 hours.

I took it apart, removing the top, front, and drum and I can't tell if this broken heating element coil that is touching the back of the dryer is heating up the backing which is making the dryer hot, but this doesn't make sense since it hasn't been used in the last 18 hours. Also this broken coil is not wired to the motor while the other one is. When I unplugged the dryer it cooled down pretty quickly.

Is it another part of the heating unit that could be broken keeping it turned on and heating? How could I tell if so?

Back of dryer

broken heating coil, but is not wired at this end

Heating element

  • 1
    Have it repaired or replaced before plugging it back in. Anything that is supposed to be off, should not be warm or hot. Dryer is dangerous now. Broken heater coil might not be only problem, might have burned up from being on too long.
    – crip659
    Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 0:37
  • @crip659 Thank you for your comment, I definitely unplugged it right away. What would have burned up from being on for a long time? Thanks! Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 1:56
  • If you intend to try to repair this, you will need a multimeter. If you have one you will want to trace the path for the heating element. Generally it's pretty simple, the timer feeds the thermostat which feeds the heating element. There may be an interlock switch for the door. But something is allowing power to get to the element when the unit is off that that's not right.
    – jwh20
    Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 2:27
  • Heater coil burned up. Would check all switches/timers, something not working as it should. Think you got lucky.
    – crip659
    Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 12:31
  • @jhw single leg control of 240v is not uncommon and may be 100% right. I would order a new element and give it a try it will probably work.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 19:40

1 Answer 1


Depending on the heat control it is quite possible that only 1 side of the 240v is being switched to control the heat.

The broken coil and the touching ground on the other side would allow a return path and then create some heat.

Replacement of the heat coil will fix it if it is this kind of control.

  • +1, I think this is exactly what happened -- if you look close in the second pic, the heating element is broken, and appears to be touching the steel housing.
    – Nate S.
    Commented Jan 20, 2021 at 18:00
  • That does sound like a major design flaw. Stuff shouldn't be connected to any "hot" input anywhere, for this exact reason. Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 15:55
  • @carl witthoft , it’s broken the op moved it and did not get electrocuted so where is the flaw? when the coil is replaced the dryer will probably run as good as new. In Oregon electricity used to be dirt cheap. A majority of homes had cable ceiling heat and or baseboard electric heat. The same temp control was very common only 1 leg switched, if there was a double pole it was because there were 2 heaters in the room and each one had 1 contact. So yes there was heat but it was broken, welded contacts in a relay can do the same thing so if something is broken where is the flaw? It’s broken.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 16:12
  • @EdBeal he wasn't electrocuted but the possibility of a fire was clearly present. Any design which doesn't cut all hot wiring at a primary switch is a failed design. Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 19:12
  • @carl witthoft the all metal design would stop a fire. UL testing I believe they know more than both of us. Even with double pole relay failures this can happen. There is no way to prevent every problem and have a functioning electrical system.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 20:22

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