The dryer belt is what rotates the drum, thus tumbling the clothes in a dryer. The U.S. Fire Administration says that 2,900 fires caused by clothes dryers are reported each year. So, if you smell something burning from your dryer, you should take measures.
While a burning smell coming from a new dryer belt is normal, it might require action. Sometimes, what seems like a burning smell coming from the dryer belt is actually a sign of a bigger problem.
New dryer belts produce a burning smell as the rubber is broken in. Replacing belts loosens lint/dust, which can burn on the heating elements. In both cases, the smell should disappear after a few cycles. Incorrectly-sized or breaking belts must be replaced to stop the smell. The smell may not be the belt.
New Dryer Belts Often Smell
It sometimes happens that even a brand new dryer belt will smell like something is burning.
Counterintuitively, the newness of a dryer belt is often the cause of its burning smell. When you run a new dryer belt for the first few times, you are spinning brand new rubber. So, you are most likely smelling fresh rubber that is taking shape with the help of heat-producing friction.
In a replacement dryer belt, a second reason could also be at play. When replacing a dryer belt, dust and/or lint are moved around. A lot of times, some of this dust and/or lint ends up on the dryer’s heating coils. When these coils heat up, they burn whatever is on them, emitting a smell.
After a thorough investigation of user experiences across the web, it seems the best way to get rid of the smell is to try running a hot cycle with the dryer empty.
In either of these two cases, there is little cause for concern.
The Smell Should Go Away Quickly
The burning smell caused by a new dryer belt shouldn’t last long. Most users report that the smell went away on its own after a few cycles.
During these few cycles, the rubber belt is changing shape. Once it’s in its final form, it will cease to smell. It’s easy to think of it as the dryer breaking-in the belt.
If the burning smell doesn’t go away after a few cycles, your dryer is likely facing a bigger problem and a more urgent one.
What Else Can Cause the Belt to Smell?
If after a few cycles the smell doesn’t go away on its own, it probably never will, and you will probably have to replace the dryer belt.
A dryer with a faulty belt requires action. Ignoring the smell at this point becomes dangerous. There are a couple of things that could be wrong with the belt.
Wrong Size of the Belt
A dryer belt of the wrong size is almost inevitably going to make a burning smell. It’s easy to imagine how a belt that is too big can slip off of its track.
If the belt is in contact with another part of the machine (most notably a heating element) while spinning at high speeds it will cause friction and melt. In this case, when it smells like something is burning in your dryer, it’s because something is.
If you can see the wear on your dryer belt, you need to replace it. If your drum isn’t turning because the belt slipped off, but there seems to be no wear, it’s worth putting it back in place and keeping a close lookout for burning smells.
Should you choose to replace the belt yourself, you can expect to pay $10-$20 for a new belt. If you choose to have it replaced professionally, the cost will largely depend on labor charges.
Damaged Dryer Belt
It is impossible for the dryer to turn the drum if the belt is broken. A broken dryer belt means that your clothes won’t tumble and will remain damp, rendering the dryer useless.
If you see that the dryer belt is already melting, there is no way around a replacement. It is only a matter of time before it breaks completely.
Moreover, melting rubber is toxic. You can think of the smell coming from a melting dryer belt the same as tires spinning on the asphalt.
With a breaking or broken dryer belt, the sooner you can get a replacement, the better.
There are times, however, when the burning smell coming from a dryer has nothing to do with its belt.
Burning Smell Doesn’t Always Come From the Belt
Other, more dangerous causes of a burning smell coming from the dryer include:
- A full lint trap.
- Blocked vent and ducts.
- Motor malfunction.
Considering that a dryer exposes lint (a highly flammable substance) to high heat, it is important to clear the dryer’s lint trap regularly. To cite the U.S. Fire Association again: an uncleaned dryer is the number one cause of dryer fires in the U.S.
A lint trap doesn’t trap all of the errant lint in a dryer, so it is important to check the ventilation hose for blockage. The lint that gets through the trap often finds itself in the ventilation duct, which blows hot air from the dryer out of the house.
If there is enough lint in the ducts to cause a blockage, it can literally burn due to the hot air.
A motor malfunction can also burn out, emitting a burning smell. In this case, there is little you can do, and it is best to get a professional to install a replacement motor or get a new dryer.