Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mrs. Fix-It

Last night Matt was away for the evening, but I had it all under control. Feeling more ambitious than usual I bathed the kids, scrubbed the kitchen, and vacuumed the house. I just needed to grab a load of laundry from the basement before I tucked the kids in bed.

I furrowed my brow and stared at the mostly wet laundry inside the dryer. I knew I had started that load last night before bed. A few of the clothes on top of the pile were dry, but underneath was a wet mass. I shrugged, reset the dial, started the machine up again, and turned to go up the stairs. Just at the bottom of the stairs it occurred to me that the motor was running, but the dryer wasn't tumbling. I opened the dryer door and checked: warm air, motor sound, but no movement. Then I did what any sensible person would do: spun the drum around by hand a few times, then lifted the machine up by an inch in front and let it slam back down to the floor a couple times. When that failed to make the drum turn I had only one option. I called my dad.

"I only spent $100 for it on Craig's List anyway," I reminded my dad. "Maybe I just need to get back on Craig's List and try my luck again."

"Well..." my dad thought out loud, "If there's warm air and it sounds like the motor's running it might be something simple to fix like a belt. That squeaking noise it's been making tells me the belt might have broken. Why don't you just take the back off and see if you can see the belt?"

Aren't those just famous last words? "Why don't you just...?" Now how hard could that be? Just pop a couple screws out and look. Sure Dad, no problem.

The back, however, was not secured by a few screws, but by nine tiny hex-bolts, and my ratchet set was missing. I fumbled with a mini crescent wrench while pinching the phone between my ear and shoulder. Toby busily worked beside me picking up the bolts as I set them down, and sticking a Philip's screwdriver through every slot he could find on the back of the machine. The bolts on the bottom presented a peculiar challenge as being six months pregnant renders it impossible to bend at the waist anymore. I ended up sitting on the filthy basement floor in a pile of lint and spider webs, but I finally got that stubborn back off.

Unfortunately, this profited me very little, since the dryer was apparently not supposed to be serviced from the back. I had gained access to the gas heat shield, the lint-trap shoot, and a mass of lint-covered wires, but no drum or belt was visible. I was about to give up when I remembered that the top had come loose when I was lifting the dryer up and slamming it on the floor. "I think the top flips open, actually, Dad," I said. "Maybe I can see from there." With two more screws removed I was able to flip the top up, but I had a hard time determining if the belt was around the drum since I have never seen a dryer belt before.

About this time I was completely covered in grime and Toby stepped on my last nerve when he climbed on top on a laundry basket, fell off, grabbed my shirt for support, and ripped the ties off the back of my shirt. I was dirty, defeated, had three itchy spider bites, and was ready to find myself a new dryer on Craig's List.

After a quick story, prayers, and a song, the kids were tucked in bed and my spirit revived enough to try Googling my problem. After twelve or fifteen web-pages I finally found a tutorial on how to replace the belt on my model of dryer. I had been on the right track with opening the top. Only two more bolts held the front of the dryer on. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that a drum full of wet laundry would come sliding out when the front came off.

But with my dryer in four pieces I was finally able to spy the problem. There, on the bottom of the dryer-shell lay a snapped dryer belt, and I was suddenly promoted to "Do-It-Yourself Genius." I called my dad, who congratulated me and instructed me on ordering a new belt. The online tutorial showed me how to reroute the belt, and advised me to also replace the idler pulley, which indeed looks faulty and probably caused the snapped belt.

Tomorrow I'll call the local appliance store to compare prices to the online stores, but one way or another I am only a few short days away from having an operational dryer again for about $30...if I can remember how everything goes back together.

Matt returned about 10:30pm and remarked, "Did you vacuum? Wow, I didn't expect that." That wasn't all he didn't expect.

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