REBUILDING A MAYTAG LDE7500 DRYER
Our 20 year old Maytag dryer had been making an intermittent squealing/squeaking noise for awhile, and a couple of weeks ago it became an eardrum-rending screech that did not stop. I knew it was time to do what I'd been putting off...time to bite the bullet and see just what parts needed replacing. We bought the dryer (well used) in 2006, from a family with lots of little kids. When we bought it, the thing had the stench of way too many "perfumed laundry products" in it and there were bits of crayon and gum stuck all over the lint filter and its housing. We don't do strong-scented laundry soaps or products at all, we prefer things just smell clean without some overbearing scent, so I replaced the lint filter and housing with brand new parts soon after we bought it. This took care of the "stank" and also familiarized me with some of the innerds of the machine. Over the last five years, we've used the heck outa this dryer; this past year we noticed it had started taking longer and longer to dry the clothes, and so when it began squealing, I knew it was definitely time to give it some TLC.
This particular dryer was manufactured in February of 1991, a good while before Maytag's build quality and dependability took a nosedive. With vintage Maytags being the dependable and virtually indestructible tanks that they are, I knew I would end up replacing whatever parts were needed and we'd keep this pup running as long as we could. Since I just thought this was only going to need one or two parts, I didn't think of taking any pictures of the initial teardown process. Once I got the machine opened up and got things like the front bulkhead and drum out of the way, it was obvious that this was going to take more than just a couple of parts. But I knew, without a doubt, that when I was done we'd have a rock-solid machine that would last another 20 years, at the very least.
Once I was able to do a complete inspection, I saw that not only was the squealing idler pulley gone, so were both drum support rollers, the axles they spin on, both the front and rear felt drum seals on the bulkheads (main culprits in the longer drying times!), the blower housing seal, both of the "saddle" or slide bearings on the front bulkhead, and the belt. Once I figured out I was going to have to do all that, I decided I'd do as complete a teardown and rebuild as I could without removing the cabinet totally. I decided I'd clean everything as much as possible and when I was done, the machine would end up being just about as clean and tight as the day it left the factory floor. I also figured I should take a bunch of pics so that if someone else has a dryer that's similar and wants to know how to keep it running, they could have this little photo-essay as a guide. Maybe it'd inspire someone who'd never even think of working on their own dryer to take the plunge and do the repair themselves, saving them time and money (and maybe boosting their pride a little at having fixed it themselves), while keeping a marvelous piece of good old American engineering alive.
So that is the spirit in which this page is offered, and I hope folks find it interesting and useful.
The first step was making a parts list and then it was off to the Intertubez to figure out where to order from. I went to several sites and did price checks and comparisons; one site (appliancepartspros.com) was pretty consistently lower in price than the other sites (sometimes significantly so), and they had great reviews and ratings, so I decided to order from them. Parts took only two days to get here, even with "regular" shipping, everything was great quality and the order was correct. Gotta love it.
Parts List: Idler Pulley, Drum Support Rollers (order 2), Felt Drum Seals (order 2), tube of Maytag Hi-temp adhesive, Front Drum Slide Bearings (order 2), Belt, Blower Seal.
In all, the total expenditure for this project was less than $150. I figure that's quite a bargain, knowing that when it's done, it will last at least another twenty years, and will still be running long after ANY dryer being sold "new" today has been tossed on the scrap heap!
The tools needed for installing these parts are pretty common, and the ones I didn't already have I was able to find on the cheap at Harbor Freight Tools. A typical reversible screwdriver will come in handy in more ways than one. You will definitely need a good set of SAE (American) Nutdrivers. This dryer is totally put together with at least three or four sizes of little hex-head screws (starting with 3/16"), so nutdrivers are essential to save your sanity. Also essential are snap-ring pliers (for the support rollers and the blower). If you don't have some, break down and get a pair. I got a nice little set with interchangeable heads for five bucks at HFT. You'll also need a riveter for installing the two new saddle-pads on the front bulkhead. You'll definitely need a 9/16" box-end wrench for the drum roller axles, as well as some regular pliers. Not shown, but necessary, are an electric drill and a 1/8" drill bit to drill out the old rivets on the front drum slides. Of course, you'll also need a small vac or shop vac as well as a small tub of warm soapy water for cleanup.
And DON'T FORGET: a see-through plastic container with a lid that you can put all the screws, washers and snap-rings in as you remove them!
First, I'll run through the steps I took to disassemble the dryer, even though I don't have pictures of them. Hopefully the descriptions will be enough to get someone through the process.
First off, you want to unplug the beast, of course. Take the Philips end of your reversible screwdriver and remove the two screws near the bottom of the front panel. Swing the bottom of the front panel out a bit and pull down to dislodge the clips that hold it in on the top. Next, note that the door-switch wires are clipped in two places: once on the front panel and once on the body of the dryer. Unclip from both, and then remove the wires from the switch. Remember how they're hooked up: yellow on the inside terminal, white on the outside. Set the front panel aside and route the wires to the side as well.
There are four hex-head screws that hold the entire front bulkhead assembly on. Take these off and remove the whole assembly. Note what sort of condition the front felt seal is in. Ideally, it should be whole with no rips or tears or worn-through places in it; ours was smashed flat as a pancake and starting to wear through in several places. Also check out the two drum slide bearing pads at the bottom of the bulkhead. These will be probably be cracked, or nearly so, and worn down. Also check the condition of the lint filter and the housing which attaches to the bulkhead. It will probably be a good idea to remove the housing (four hex-heads that are obvious and visible, and a tiny Phillips screw, under the felt seal), give it a good scrub and allow it to air dry.
Next, reach your left arm to the left of the drum, and your right arm near the blower housing and push the idler pulley up enough on its spring to loosen and remove the belt. The belt on this machine was beginning to shred. Bits of black dust all over the pulley and a pile of black belt dust on the bottom pan beneath. Replace it, most definitely.
Now reach into the drum itself with your forearms, lift, tilt and pull the drum free of the cabinet and out. It's fairly heavy, but easy to maneuver once it's free of the cabinet. It was then I saw the worn spots in the porcelain, and decided to remove the three baffles and clean them as well. The baffles are each held on with two long hex-heads with large flat washers attached...quite a simple thing to just unscrew them and remove.
At this point, you're staring at the blower housing at the front left, the heating element on the right side of the pan, and the rear bulkhead assembly. If yours is like mine, there will also be tons of lint and dust and dirt throughout the cabinet. Always a good idea to vacuum things out as you go. After that, an inspection of the rear bulkhead revealed both rollers were really fried, and the rear felt seal was completely shredded; it was obvious that the seal itself was so far gone that it was the main culprit in the longer drying times, as well as a major source of fuzz.
While you've got your head in there, look down at the idler pulley at the rear of the motor and go ahead and pull it out. Yank the "E-clip" and just slide the pulley off the shaft. There is a washer on it, so keep track of it and put it in your plastic container...you DON'T get a new one with the new part, and all the parts houses charge outrageous amounts for small parts like washers and such things.
Take your snap-ring pliers and remove the snap-rings, washers and drum support rollers. KEEP the snap rings, but discard the rollers and washers (you DO get the washers for these in the new parts kits...go figure...). Now you can see just how scorched and rusted those roller axles are! So grab that 9/16" box-end wrench, and put it on the nut behind each axle to hold the nut, and use pliers to remove the old axles. You might need to squirt the BAREST AMOUNT of WD40 on the nut on back and let it sit for a minute if it's really rusted. Toss the 9/16" nuts in your plastic container, toss the old roller axles in the trash pile.
While I was waiting for the parts to arrive, I did as much additional teardown and cleaning as I could to get ready for the rebuild. Since the three "vanes" (or "baffles" as Maytag calls them) inside the tub had some baked-on bits of gum/wax/etc near the bottoms where they meet the drum, I removed them and scrubbed them in a tub of warm water and Dawn, with a little Borax and Baking Soda mixed in. Got all the goo off of them and then scrubbed the inside and outside of the drum with the soapy water. Got everything off it that I could, the only residues left seemed to be baked-on or "not water soluble"...mostly a brown streaking from the front drum slides that even Goo-Gone wouldn't budge. Wasn't aware of it until I removed them, but the baffles are of two different sizes: two are "tall" and "fat" and one is "shorter" and "thinner". I marked where each went on the outside of the tub with a Sharpie but it really wasn't necessary, as the outline of each was basically etched into the porcelain of the drum. The only spot where the porcelain was worn through was at the spot where the front slide bearing pads contact it. Smooth as glass, and no rust, just the brown color of the slides rubbed into the porcelain, so I decided I'd just clean it as best I could.
Here are the baffles after scrubbing:
Interesting to note: inside the little compartments on the underside of each of the baffles I found a multitude of perfectly formed little spheres of felt or lint. I suppose all that centrifugal force over all those years made them form! Anyway, I thought they were a hoot of a surprise.
Next on the teardown list is the blower assembly. First, remove the little galvanized metal shield that covers the electrical bits on the front of the blower housing. Two hex-heads and done. Peel or tear off the blower seal as best you can...it will be glued on quite well with the old hi-temp adhesive. Now, remove all the little hex-heads that hold the blower cover onto the housing. You should be lookin' at something like this:
Next, remove the four TINY hex-heads that hold the two electrical doo-dahs onto the front of the blower cover. Don't pull any wires, just remove the assemblies from the cover whole. Route them aside with the door-switch wires. You can now remove the blower cover completely and see what lurks behind. Probably something pretty dirty like this:
This blower was covered with a fine white powdery residue, and there were a couple of small rocks in the bottom of the housing. Take your snap-ring pliers and remove the snap-ring holding the blower in, then take the regular pliers and remove the clamp holding pressure on the blower. Put these both in your plastic container. Now gently pull on the blower squirrel-cage and remove it from the motor shaft. There will probably be a bunch of gunk behind the blower that looks something like this:
Clear away as much of that stuff with the vacuum as you can, and you'll see there are actually four shiny hex-heads underneath that hold the blower housing onto the motor mount. Get those pups off and you can pull the blower housing out completely. Keep that vac handy, you'll need it to get all this junk:
In order for me to be able to get easier access to the rear bulkhead, I removed the two large hex-heads holding the top of the cabinet on at the front corners. Easy enough to slide the top back a couple of inches, then lift and tilt it back so that the back of the control console is resting on the back edge of the cabinet, and the rest of the top balanced against the wall behind. Now's the time to get in there and inspect that rear felt seal. It will probably look like this, or worse...no wonder it was taking forever to dry the clothes:
Now let's take that felt off. First, NOTE THE DIRECTION IN WHICH THE FELT IS OVERLAPPED! This is very important! The drum revolves clockwise, so you MUST install the rear seal so that the overlap goes left-over-right on the rear bulkhead AFTER the felt is folded back into position. Carefully peel the overlap apart, and you'll see the amount of hi-temp adhesive that holds it together (not much at all!). To remove the felt, lift the folded portion and you'll see that it is held in by small metal tabs the entire way around the bulkhead. If you can, just slide the felt out from under the tabs as carefully as you can. If they're too tight, pull your reversible screwdriver shaft out of the handle, take the straight blade side and VERY carefully and VERY gently bend the tabs up ever-so-slightly until the old felt comes out easily. THESE METAL TABS ARE FRAGILE! Be careful not to break them off!
Once the rear felt is removed, vacuum any fuzz left on the bulkhead and swipe it with a damp soapy cloth until it shines. That odd streak to the right of the heat outlet on this one wouldn't come off, no matter what I used. Tried Goo-Gone and isopropyl alcohol, but to no avail. No biggie...if it hasn't come off for all these years, good bet it won't in the future. Here's a shot right before I got the last clip un-done.
Now turn your attention to the front bulkhead. If you haven't already, remove the four hex-heads (and the one Philips screw under the felt!) that hold the lint filter/blower duct on and remove it completely. Put the duct and filter into the pile of "parts to clean". You're then left with just the metal bulkhead itself. Take a look at the two front drum slides or saddle bearings. They will probably be worn out. Take your drill and 1/8" bit and just drill through the four rivets that hold them onto the bulkhead. Here's a shot of the old ones after removal, and comparison to the new parts. Note the difference between the old and the new, but don't worry. The new ones work marvelously.
Next, remove the front felt drum seal in the same manner as the rear...VERY carefully! Pay attention once again to the direction of the overlap in the felt, and you'll see that the front one overlaps in the OPPOSITE direction that the rear one does. When you're done, the bulkhead will be ready for scrubbing and installing the new parts:
Note that there are just going to be some things that won't come off or come completely clean. The old brown pads left residue all over the outside of the drum as well as the portion of the bulkhead where they were mounted. This really is OK...these parts never come in contact with your clothes.
That pretty much completes the teardown portion of this project. At this point, you oughta have a pile of nasty old parts and another of shiny new parts in plastic bags:
Here's a comparison of the old and new drum support roller axles...see what I mean about "scorched"?
Now is the time for vacuuming and cleaning everything as best you can. I didn't want to go so far as to remove the entire cabinet, but a peek behind the rear bulkhead showed that area needed some attention. I was able to get the small round vacuum brush on a couple of wand extensions and get everything between the rear bulkhead and the back of the cabinet. Here's after just a couple of swipes with the vac:
And after getting everything...mo' bettah!
Of course, couldn't get behind the heater duct, but hey...it's a lot better than it was!
The floor pan cleaned up really nice after vacuuming and some hot soapy water...and BE SURE to use a crevice tool and vacuum out all the lint and fuzz from the motor vents as best you can, to keep it running cool:
When you're done, your floor pan should look something like this:
And take a minute or two and a damp cloth to clean the top of the heater element assembly. I removed that front shield and vacuumed it out, as well...be careful, that heating element wire is pretty fragile.
Once that was done, it was time to turn my attention to cleaning the rest of the parts: the blower parts, and then the lint filter/duct. The blower cover presented the biggest challenge, with its caked-on-baked-on adhesive for the seal. I laid it flat and then soaked the whole adhesive area with Goo-Gone for about fifteen-twenty minutes, and then started scraping. The Goo-Gone definitely softened the stuff, but much elbow grease was still needed to get the majority of it off. There was still some stubborn stuff that wouldn't let go, but a good soak and scrub in the kitchen sink with hot water, Dawn and Borax did the trick. Here's the clean cover...yes, some paint came off, but I'm pretty sure rust won't be an issue:
The blower itself took some scrubbing in the sink, as well...that fine white residue wouldn't just wash off...it required scrubbing:
The housing cleaned up fairly easily, not as much scrubbing necessary:
And it's all clean:
Now it was time to begin the actual rebuilding process. Decided to start with the thing that had me the most nervous, and that was the rear bulkhead felt drum seal. You see, I'd only seen the old parts before I ordered the new ones, and when the new seals got here, I saw they were a bit different. The old felt seals, as you've seen, were folded, flattened and completely smashed so that there was a distinct fold or seam that created a "tab" or "lip" that went under the metal bulkhead tabs. The new seals were completely flat pieces of felt. I was in a quandry as to whether I was supposed to bend them and seam them to match the old ones or whether they would just naturally assume the correct shape/position as I installed them. I posted the question to four different forums and only Jeff (Appliguy) of thefixitforum.com was kind enough to reply and give me the confidence I needed to go ahead and do it. And he was right. Turns out that you do have to "fold" things a bit, but it does basically go into the correct shape as you go.
Worked out a way to carefully pry each tab with the flat screwdriver blade just barely enough to get the felt under, and then gently push the tab back down once it was in place so the little pointed corners on the tab gripped the felt. When I first tried, I gave lots of "play" or "room" to the felt between the tabs. As I got nearer the end, it became obvious that if I kept doing that, I was going to run out of felt a good four or five inches too soon and would have no overlap! Here's a couple of pics of the "too loose" approach.
It was at this point I figured out I needed to go back and re-do from the beginning. THIS time, after pushing the first metal tab down, I stretched the felt as much as possible (without stretching it out of shape) before slipping it under the next tab. THAT is the way to do this...once you start stretching the felt tight between tabs, it begins to take shape. Once you're done, you should have an overlap that looks like this:
And now it's time to break out that tube of Maytag Hi-Temp Adhesive. Gotta be careful with this stuff...it flows pretty quickly out of the tube, and you DON'T want very much! I managed to get some smeared on one of the tabs, but it worked out fine. You put a dot of it on ONE of the felt pieces, and hold the overlap apart and let the adhesive sit for a minute or two until the surface gets tacky. Then mash the two together and hold for a few seconds. It works great, holds tight, and doesn't come apart.
Once it's glued and holding, you then can begin to bend the free end of the felt back slightly all the way around the circumference of the bulkhead. You don't need to bend it severely so that you put a crease, just bend it in the general direction it will be going when the drum is in. The actual shape of the drum itself will help put it into the correct position. When you put the drum in, you can then simply tuck any parts of the seal that are sticking out into the drum into position as you snug the drum up against the back bulkhead.
Now it's time to install the new drum support rollers and axles. Axles first, of course. Dig through your plastic tub and find the two 9/16" nuts that hold the axles on, and clean the threads on them free of any rust that's caked in there. The trick is to hold the box-end wrench and nut together against the back of the axle flange while you screw the new axle on. Get it as tight as you can, and then put a rag around the new axle and grip it with some pliers as you tighten the nut with the wrench. It's kinda tricky, but doable. Here's the new axles in place:
Once the axles are in, you're ready for the rollers themselves. Each roller comes with two flat washers. You should have saved your snap-rings from disassembly. The two on my rollers were too rusted to put back on, so I replaced them with fresh ones (also from Harbor Freight). The buildup sequence is, of course, the opposite of teardown: one washer, roller, second washer and then snap ring:
Simply repeat for the right-hand roller:
Last bit of build-up in the chassis at this point is to install the new idler pulley. Of all the repairs, this is by far the simplest. Just slide that pup into place and put the "E" clip back on. Voila. Done. (Don't worry about those wires...they will slump back into position once the top is back in place!)
And now is also a good time to take a rag soaked in as high a percentage of Isopropyl Alcohol as possible and clean the motor belt pulley. This one was quite sticky and gunky, and the alcohol took all that right off. Now the new belt will grip as it should.
Next on the rebuild agenda: putting the blower seal on, installing the front bulkhead felt seal and riveting in the new slide bearing pads. Felt like a shame to put goop on that nicely cleaned blower housing cover, but ya gotta do it. I put a fairly consistent 1/4" bead of the Maytag hi-temp adhesive all the way around the rim of the blower opening, like so:
Allow it to sit for a minute or two until tacky. Then CAREFULLY stretch and slide the new blower seal down onto the bead of goop, and then hold it down in place for a couple of minutes until the adhesive is dry enough to let go:
Yes, it's messy, but it you're careful you can avoid getting it all over everywhere...I was "semi-successful" in that department:
Now it's time to tackle that front felt seal...confident in having done the rear one, this one went a LOT faster and much smoother going in:
Remember to mind your overlap direction! Another dot of adhesive, another couple of minutes to make it tacky, and it's in...and yes, you DO tuck both layers of felt under that last tab:
The two slide bearings or saddles go in fairly easily, and the rivets to install them are included in the new parts package...here they are installed:
And here's what we're lookin' at as a whole:
Now the freshly-scrubbed lint filter and duct are put into place and screwed on tight:
Don't forget that little Philips head screw under the felt!
And the newly refreshed front bulkhead is ready to go:
The last bit of off-chassis buildup is putting the baffles back in the drum with the long hex-heads w/built-in washers:
Now, it's time to install all those nice, clean blower parts.
First thing, of course, is to install the housing with the four hex-head screws:
Next, slide the blower itself onto the motor shaft:
Then use your snap-ring pliers to install the snap-ring:
Then use your regular pliers to re-install the blower clamp back onto the shaft:
Next, get the blower housing cover into position, and then screw it back onto the housing with the little hex-heads:
Now it's time to re-install the two electrical bits on the front of the blower housing. Get them back into position first and then use the tiny hex-heads to secure them:
Now's also a good time to put the last hex-head into place: the one holding the blower housing cover to the floor plate:
Final task here is to install the galvanized metal shield back into position over the electrical parts. Screw it on from the outside:
Now it's time to flip the top back down, slide it forward to interlock it with the cabinet, and screw it into place. Once that's done, there's ONE more thing to take apart and clean, and when you're done, you'll be glad you did it. Remove the two Philips-head screws that hold the control panel in place, and flip the panel forward. You'll be looking at something that's probably full of fuzz and lint, like this:
Note the groovy original wiring diagram still taped into place!
A good vacuuming will get everything you see here clean. It's also a good idea to take out the two screws holding the temperature switch and start button, and vacuum those clean. A little swipe with a damp cloth is helpful, as well:
Like I said...when you're done, you'll be glad you did it. Good as new:
Believe it or not, we're ready for the drum to go back in. Take your time and be careful, and it will be fairly easy to get back into position. As you place it on top of the rollers, be prepared to tuck the edge of the felt seal back into the space between the drum and bulkhead. The shape of the drum lip will help naturally push the seal into position. Here's a shot of the drum in place, before the belt is on. Once the belt is on, the space where the drum meets the bulkhead becomes much more even:
Once the drum is in place, it's time for the belt. The belt can be tricky, but once you understand where it goes, it'll go on without much hassle. Best sequence of events: place the belt flat-side down on the top of the drum and drape the rest of it under, past the blower housing and into the motor area. With your left hand, locate the motor pulley and hold the ridged side of the belt against the motor pulley. Then (I used a combo of both hands for this) take the idler pulley and push it to the left, so that you can then wrap the belt around it from the back. If you've got everything in position, this step actually goes really quickly. One thing to look out for: Make sure the belt doesn't slide down into the channel on the drum that the rollers ride in! It goes about an inch and a half in front of that channel. Sorry, no pics of this process...both hands were busy! Here's a pic of the thing from the little peep-hole access in the back of the cabinet after it was done...ooops...gotta wipe the back of that motor bracket off:
Once the belt is in place, then the front bulkhead assembly goes back on. It takes a bit of maneuvering to coordinate the felt seals and drum, but once you get them tucked and in place, getting one screw in to hold things in while you finish is fairly easy. Make sure that the blower seal is in its correct position around the opening in the duct, and not crushed as you finagle the bulkhead into place. Once all four front bulkhead screws are in, there's a certain exhilaration that sets in, as it finally dawns on you that you're nearly done! Rotate the drum CLOCKWISE a time or two to ensure that everything is settled into the correct position. Marvel at how smoooooooth it is!
The final items on the agenda are the door switch wires and front panel. Clip the wires back onto the cabinet clip, and then the front panel clip. Reinstall the wires on the switch, remembering that the yellow wire goes on the inside, the white on the outside. Tilt the front panel out at the bottom to engage the clips into the top of the cabinet, swing it down, and install the two screws that hold the panel in place.
Believe it or not, it's done! Bask in the beauty of a brand-new-20-year-old piece of marvelous American design and engineering. Note the tight and clean junction between drum and bulkhead. This is really one of the most important points: the new felt seals make ALL the difference in the world, and are worth every single bit of trouble it may take to get them installed. I cannot emphasize this enough. I had no idea that the increased drying times might be connected to the seals, but it has definitely proven itself to me time and time again since this rebuild has been complete.
When I got the machine back into position and re-leveled, I plugged it in, turned the timer on and hit the "start" button.
I simply couldn't believe how quiet, how TIGHT, and how wonderfully smooth the whole thing ran. After less than a minute I turned it off and opened the door. Stuck my hand in and marvelled at how much heat was already in the drum, even after such a short time.
We spent the whole next day doing load after load of laundry, and not only did it perform flawlessly, it also got the clothes dry in absolute record time. Whereas the entire last year we were having to put the timer all the way to the last notch after "MORE DRY", we now can put it on the "dot" on the console for "automatic" to get the clothes dry. No more turning it back on after it's been running an hour because things are still slightly damp.
To say this project has been more than worthwhile is an understatement. While most folks would never go to the lengths I did, I am resting easy in knowing that I'll probably never have to buy another dryer as long as I live...as long as there are parts, I can keep this baby alive.
And that makes me one happy camper. I hope this little photo-essay will help someone else make a successful repair on their wonderful old machine, thus keeping something that has truly been lost alive, saving energy (and frustration!) in the future.