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How to Replace a Dryer Ignitor

Gas dryers use a burner with an ignitor (also called an igniter or ignition system) to heat the air used to dry clothing. The ignitor provides the initial impetus to open gas flow and starts the heating process. It is also one of the primary points of failure when a gas dryers stops getting hot or if clothes take a long time to dry.

Dryers typically use one of two types of ignitors: glow ignitors or spark ignitors. As their names indicate, glow ignitors heat up and start to glow while spark ignitors produce a spark to create heat. Both are visually observable. If an ignitor malfunction is suspected, open the small panel in the front of the dryer and watch the ignition system with the dryer set to a high heat setting. If a glow or spark is seen, the ignitor is functioning normally. If a glow is seen but goes on and off or remains on without ever turning off as the dryer cycle progresses, the problem likely lies in another part of the burner assembly (either the ignition coils or flame switch) rather than the ignitor itself.

If no glow is observed on a glow ignitor, the ignitor should be replaced. If no spark is observed in a spark ignitor, the ignitor may be bad or it may be out of alignment. Either way, professional service is required for spark ignitors. Homeowners should never try to replace a spark ignitor themselves.

Most glow ignitors cost around $20-30. Many can be replaced by a homeowner with a screwdriver. The exact steps for removing and replacing an ignitor vary slightly from model to model, but dryers with a front access panel generally involve the following:

  1. Unplug the dryer.
  2. Turn off the gas to the dryer.
  3. Open the small access panel located in the front of the dryer (the exact location can vary).
  4. Shut off the gas valve.
  5. Unscrew the nut connecting the burner system to the gas valve.
  6. Remove the screws connecting the burner system to the dryer (generally there are two screws on the opposite side from the gas valve).
  7. Remove the screw underneath the burner system if there is one.
  8. Remove the burner system from the dryer.
  9. Disconnect the two-wire connector leading from the ignitor to the rest of the burner system.
  10. Loosen or remove the screw holding the ignitor into its bracket.

To replace the ignitor, reverse the removal instructions. Once the gas is back on, test for leaks by applying a solution of a half teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent mixed with a cup of water to the valve area. If the solution bubbles, the gas is leaking. Tighten all connections and try again. If the solution still bubbles, turn off the gas and call a professional for help.

Dryer ignitors break easily and require careful handling. According to John Sowden, Vice President of Purchasing and Technical Services at RepairClinic.com, "If you drop dryer ignitors, they'll break. If you knock them against something, they'll break." He even cautions that slamming doors near a gas dryer can reduce the longevity of a dryer ignitor.

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