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Thread: Dryer doesn't work, could it be the breaker?

  1. #1

    Default Dryer doesn't work, could it be the breaker?

    hi, guys... the dryer won't turn on, but the circuit breaker isn't tripped, so I checked for power to the dryer with my voltmeter and nothing... then I took the face off my panel box and used the voltmeter across the dual 30 amp Westinghouse circuit breaker, which has 4 lugs rather than just two. Wires to the lugs are (from top to bottom) red (hot), black (ground? a fat aluminum wire), black (ground? same), and grey/black (hot). I say "hot" because when I meter between this lug and the neutral bar, I get 120v. When I meter between the black "ground" I get no reading. Lastly, when I meter between the red and black or grey and black, I get 70v. If I turn the breaker(s) off, I get no reading red, black, or grey metered to neutral, or red or grey to the black lugs.

    I went to the house next door, which is exactly the same, and checked the circuit breaker. I think it registered zero when the power was on and I metered between the red or grey and the black lug. I think. Then I did the dumbest thing ever. I didn't check to see if the dryer in that house worked. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    I turned power off in both units and swapped the circuit breakers. Neither one works. I re-swapped them back, neither one works now. I feel terrible, and need your comments about why things aren't working at all.

    I think it unlikely that both dryers would have gone out at exactly the same time on their own. So maybe by swapping the circuit breakers (which are the same make and model) I destroyed the second one... but they never "tripped" or sparked or anything. All the wiring is upstairs (2nd and 3rd floor) so it isn't likely that it got wet and it doesn't look damaged. The distance between the panel box and the dryer outlet is about 30 feet, most of it hidden behind walls or in the ceiling.

    What do I do? go down and buy 2 new 30amp dual circuit breakers and install them? I guess I could check to see if the lines are intact by running a wire between the two ends and checking with an ammeter. I thought that the voltage between the red and black wire should be 240 rather than just 70volts. Is there any way to check a circuit breaker? I appreciate your guidance... sorry about being so long winded... Ed in North Carolina

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Welland Ontario


    A dryer breaker will only have two connections. I don't what you were looking at.
    Also ground is only green or bare. The black wire is a hot not ground.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    LaLa Land, NW Ohio


    Go to the dryer outlet. THere will be 3 or 4 prongs there.
    Take the cover off.. You should have a red, black, white, and maybe a bare or
    green. Measure between the red and the white, the black and the white. Should be 120V on each. Go from Red to Black, should be 240V. Red to green if it exists should be 120V, ditto with black to green.

    If you have that, the circuit is good. IF you dont, post a pic of this breaker.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Kent, WA


    It sounds like you have a quad breaker -- either two double poles, or a double pole with a single on each end. The voltage from each terminal of the breaker should be 120V from it to the neutral bus (the bus with all the white wires on it). This breaker should have 4 handles that look like switches. Each should have a number. Are they all 30's or a mix? The inner two should have a handle connecting them. Do the outer two have an connecting handle too?

    All the wires on the breaker should be "hot" wires unless its a GFCI or AFCI breaker (and those have TEST buttons). The neutral and grounds for the circuits go to their respective bus bars (and it may be the same bar if this is a main service panel). Look at the wires that attach to the breaker and follow them back to their sheathed cable jacket or conduit. Are they in one cable, two cables, or three cables? Where do the white and bare wires on those same cables go? Each cable probably goes to a separate outlet, one of which is your dryer.

    Numbering the breaker terminals from top to bottom 1 to 4 (1 is your red wire, and 4 is the grey/black wire), you should measure the following if the breaker is OK (and the wires need to be disconnected from the breaker when doing these measurements):
    1-2: 0 VAC
    1-3: 240 VAC
    1-4: 240 VAC
    2-3: 240 VAC
    2-4: 240 VAC
    3-4: 0 VAC

    From each numbered terminal to the neutral or ground bus bar: 120 VAC

    I suspect you'll find the breaker to be OK. There is probably something connected wrong or loose at the receptacle, or your breaker was tripped and you didn't reset it correctly. Turn all the handles to off (two or three of them), and then flip them back on.
    Kent, WA

  5. #5

    Smile Thanks for your help... I figured out the problem

    Thanks for your help in analyzing the problem... the problem was my not being observant enough... the outside circuits were not tripped... when I reset them separately from the inside ones, everything worked fine... I learned a lot from your replies... thanks, -ed

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