It’s the weekend before Christmas and I’m trying to get all of my grading done when Debi comes into the office and tells me that the clothes dryer is no longer working. It heats up, but it doesn’t turn. I was on track to have all of my grading done so I could relax a little bit on Christmas before trying to get everything I have planned for the break complete. Now this. The first thought that came to my mind: “How much does a new dryer cost?” Answer – at a bare minimum if you buy it new, about $300. On Craigslist in questionable condition – $75.00. A service call from an appliance repair person – $55.00. Well, crap! I didn’t want a new dryer for Christmas and I’m a sociologist, not an engineer. I can’t fix a dryer!!!!
Enter gender stereotype: I’m the man of the household, I should at least make a token effort to fix this thing. So, armed with a couple of screwdrivers, I venture into the garage and start unscrewing every screw I can find holding the dryer together. About an hour later I have loosened one of the side panels sufficiently that I can peek inside the dryer. I see something that looks loose, so I pull on it and it comes out. Once I get it out I realize it’s a drive belt and it has snapped. Aha! I have found a problem – a broken drive belt.
Enter gender stereotype insecurity: I have discovered something that is wrong with the dryer – a broken drive belt. But even having done that, I’m not sure I can fix it.
Re-enter gender stereotype: I am ‘the man’ of the household, I should at least make a token effort to try. So, I start searching on the internet for replacement drive belts for a GE dryer. I come across this site – partselect.com. I type in the model of our dryer and voila – up comes a list of replacement parts, including the drive belt – $14.00 ($22.00 with shipping). Great! Now I’m really going to have to put some serious effort into this and actually see if I can figure out how to fix a dryer. But my “male ego” is pretty low at the moment. Remember, I spent an hour unscrewing every screw I could find and in that time was only able to loosen one side of the dryer enough to peer inside and find a broken belt. I can order a replacement belt for less than 1/10th the cost of a new dryer, but I have no idea how to put the new belt into place.
So, more time on the internet… Luckily, on that same site there are some stories by people who have replaced the drive belt on their dryer. They mention that there are two screws in the door frame that loosen the top of the dryer, allowing you to remove it. Arghhh!!! If I had only known that before I started tearing the side panels off (bending one slightly in the process). I check my dryer. Sure enough – two screws right where they are supposed to be. I loosen them and voila – the top of the dryer pops off. Now I can see the drum, but I can’t get it out. I read a little more on that same site and someone mentions a couple more screws right inside the top that keep the front panel on. I check and sure enough, there they are. I unscrew them and off pops the front panel. I can now remove the drum and then I see the motor that turns the drum. Crap! It’s beginning to look like I may seriously have to repair this thing myself. I know enough now that I can probably do it. But, just to be sure that the only problem is this broken belt, I come up with an idea…
Enter duct tape: I carefully tape the belt back together then put it on the motor and around the drum. Hmmm… Problem! There is too much slack. When I start the dryer, the motor turns, but the belt is too loose. I’m doing something wrong! Back to the internet. I spend another 30 minutes trying to figure out how the belt is supposed to go on. I eventually find a diagram that helps me realize that I wasn’t putting the belt on the tension pulley correctly. I can’t explain it, but it’s very particular and is supposed to look like this (courtesy of this site):
It’s kind of strange how it is supposed to wrap around, but once I see it, it makes sense. So, with my duct taped belt, I put it on correctly (takes a while), put the front panel back on, and start the dryer. Everything works for about 30 seconds then the duct tape gives and the belt breaks. Verdict: The dryer needs a new drive belt; I can put it on correctly; and I have found one online for about $22.00. I guess I’m going to fix the dryer…
I order the belt and wait. Just a couple days later the belt arrives (super fast shipping). Worried that this isn’t going to work and questioning my “manly” abilities, I venture into the garage to see if I hold the solution to our dryer woes. Twenty minutes later, I have the belt on and start the dryer. It works! Another 20 minutes of reassembling the dismantled dryer (I really did remove a lot of screws) and the dryer is good to go.
Hail the Conquering Hero!
What have I accomplished? Hmmm…. My going rate as a college professor is about $25.00/hour (if I actually worked 40 hours per week; since I work close to 80 I guess I can cut that in half). I spent close to 4 hours on the dryer. Cost in my time – $100. Cost in parts – $22.00. Total repair cost – $122. We could have bought a replacement dryer on Craigslist for $75. A repairman could have replaced the belt in 20 minutes for probably close to $100. So, did I really save any money? Well, maybe, since I don’t work 24/7 (more like 16/7), but probably not.
But the real accomplishment is more impressive: I simultaneously boosted my male ego (probably not a good thing) and raised Debi’s future expectations that I can actually repair things (definitely not a good thing).
Hail the conquering hero indeed…