The history of the world is shaped by the rivalries of great nemeses.

The Hatfields had the McCoys, Aaron Burr had Alexander Hamilton, Ali had Frazier, Nikolai Volkoff had Hulk Hogan, England had George Washington, President Taft had a bathtub, Grumpy Cat has fun, and even Narcissus had Nemesis herself.

A great nemesis can frustrate, intimidate, infuriate, incite deep emotions, and elicit a visceral response from its counterpart unlike any other. Whether a worthy opponent and archrival, or an unwitting foe in an existence, the actions of a nemesis can result in anything from utter defeat to unbridled exuberance.

We're all likely familiar with the scene from A Christmas Story where Ralphie's dad weaves his "tapestry of obscenity" in his fight with his nemesis, the furnace.

For reasons unknown to me at the time, this scene of the movie particularly resonated with me. The look on the children's faces, the tenuous and deliberate manner of their movement as they stared wide eyed at the basement door and smoke spewing from the grate. It was all a simple case of foreshadowing for what would one day be my life. "It's a CLINKER!!!!"

The actor playing a nemesis in the play of my life? Our Maytag dryer.

Several months ago in my most recent round in our human vs. appliance heavyweight bout, I had to wrestle with our most poorly designed dryer after a severed drive belt left our clothes in a wet heap. Some have even speculated that the dryer sabotaged its own drive belt to be given an opportunity to draw blood from my hands. I'd say this postulation is far from a stretch.

Though I emerged victorious in my battle with few casualties, the war, as was proven this week, is far from over.

After loading in a wet pile of clothes fresh from the washer, I started the dryer and waited the prerequisite indeterminate amount of time until the dryer decided, in its professional opinion, the clothes were sufficiently dry. At which time, the dryer chimed its lovely digital alarm to alert me to the fact the clothes, according to the genius of the dryer's deeply flawed artificial intelligence, are ready to be folded. In a classic bait and switch, of course the clothes are almost always still damp. In fact, I typically have to repeat this process at two to three times before the clothes are actually dry.

I'm convinced the dryer is having fun at my expense, simply interested in seeing how many times it can make me walk down the basement stairs. Each time I start the dryer, an accompanying fist shake and obscene gesture is never far behind.

However, in this instance, even after four attempts at allowing our dryer to do its only job, our clothes were no closer to dry than in the minutes they were plucked from the neighboring, and equally infuriating washing machine.

Confused by the situation, and the failure of our dryer to do its ONE job, I began my troubleshooting process. 

I noticed no heat. Odd for a dryer, wouldn't you say? As with pretty much any problem like this, I obviously had to take the whole damn thing apart.

I quickly disassembled the dryer to have a look at it's disgusting and morally objectionable innards. I couldn't immediately identify anything particularly amiss, but I dug a little further. Unplugging the dryer at this stage is a must. It's a 220V appliance, and knowing how it has it out for me, I'm certain it could attempt to electrocute me until I was dead.

Looking at the exploded diagram for the dryer, I began to understand the basic idea. Air is pulled into the drum by the blower, and as the air is pulled in, it passes an electric heating element to warm the contents of the tumbler. Then there's a whole bunch of numbers, panels, and parts floating around the device that each have an equal chance of drawing my ire due to catastrophic failure.

I removed a few other screws to gain access to this heating element and immediately found the culprit. It seems the heating element coils (like a very high powered toaster) had fallen completely apart. I can only assume this is due to the acidic vitriol coursing through the veins of this mechanical beast, slowly eating itself form the inside like a parasitic machine. That or it's poorly made crap and fell apart after several years of use.

The metal springs were no longer completing a circuit, no longer heating, and the only conclusion I can draw is that the dryer was attempting to dry our clothes using the residual flames conjured up from the depths of hell where this dryer likely originated.

Using the same diagram, I determined the parts I'd need to replace the heating element and ordered them from Amazon. $83 down the tubes, but I look at it as money spent on supplies necessary to assert my dominance over household appliances. A wise investment for any household.

The new heating element arrived just the other day, and last night, dressed in purple and magenta camouflage socks, a festive green sweater, and red plaid flannel pajama bottoms (we really need to do a load of laundry), I decided to launch my all out assault on this adversary of clothes heating.

Disassembly of the dryer has become a thing of child's play for me. I know this dude inside and out at this point, but that doesn't seem to make my efforts any easier. Instead, I simply grow more annoyed.

In order to unhook the existing connection, I had to remove the lower panel on the back of the dryer, which exposed a shocking truth.

It seems to be the result of our feeble attempts to dry feather down pillows after a feline, who will remain nameless, decided to vomit on not one, but two of the pillows on our bed. In an attempt to resolve this issue through laundering, before ultimately tossing the soiled pillows in the trash, it seems one or both of the pillows sprung a leak. It looked like we were adopting the new "goose feather down dryer" hipster phase I believe is sweeping the nation.

Though I thought my project was on its way, I just couldn't get the damn electrical connection apart. It seemed the plastic clips had somehow been fused to one another using the sticky hatred this dryer has for me and my clothing as glue. The "easy connect" male and female connections had to be coerced apart using pliers!

After removing the heating element from the dryer, I could clearly see the bane of my basement. 

The old heating element was destroyed, and the new one looked ready to go.

Installation of the new heating element was much more straight forward than the removal, and I also vacuumed out the possible feather down fire hazard lurking in the depths of the dryer. I took the opportunity to also clean the exhaust pipe of any lint that's been able to bypass what may be the single least effective lint trap in the history of laundry devices.

Upon reassembly I plugged the dryer in again, begrudgingly returning my arch enemy to life. Immediately upon activating the dryer the heating element began glowing bright orange-red, which in this case, did not represent the fires of hell reclaiming one of its own across the River Styx, but instead the color of victory.

I reassembled the various pieces of the dryer and relished in the spoils of battle by warming my cold hands agains the tumbling glow within. I had emerged from the treacherous grounds of basement warfare with a functional dryer, newfound confidence, and nervous anticipation that the next wet load of laundry could conceivably be rendered dry in under three and a half hours.

As I exited the basement in my outfit that made me look like a mentally unstable Scottish Christmas elf, I glanced over my shoulder and shot a knowing glance at my arch enemy. I know this isn't the last battle the two of us will have, or even the most eventful, but my ice cold glare told that damned dryer one thing and one thing only. It doesn't matter how many times we might battle, I will surely win the war.

When I materialized from the basement I was greeted by my trusty steed, Lulu. I had battled my clinker and I had won. She jumped on and licked me to welcome my return. Lulu knew that not only had I won my fight, but it meant she would be able to bury herself in piles of freshly warmed laundry once again. It's the little victories in life that make all of the difference.

Comments 12


Morgan Manor
12/12/2014 at 3:05 PM
Be prepared for more issues. You probably know that appliances are in a union. And never, ever remind an appliance how old it is, because it will almost certainly decide to retire. :-D
Franki Parde
12/13/2014 at 4:41 PM

Chalk up one for the GOOD GUYS!! franki

12/14/2014 at 8:08 PM

Whew, just be thankful you can do the repair yourself, unlike most of us! Glad it now works.

12/14/2014 at 11:21 PM

There is a point when a nemesis will come to cause some distractions on your usual pace of living. It's nice that you are very effective in handling your 'nemesis'. There are handy ideas that can really spare you from serious inconvenience.

12/15/2014 at 12:44 PM

LOL. I have fought the related battle of the washing machine. I had to call in reinforcements (in the form of my son and a large appliance dolly).

In my case, the winners were the metal recycling people and my sister (who no longer has an extra washer in her basement - when she moved in she had her set plus there was one there already).

Let's hear it for clean laundry!!!!

12/15/2014 at 2:33 PM

Such a well written post! We battled the our new and old dishwasher in an epic install contretemps this weekend - glad to report that humans triumphed over machines on this coast as well. Keep the good fight.

In a DC Minute
12/15/2014 at 2:40 PM
Love the angry cat photo in your post.
12/15/2014 at 6:37 PM

Congratulations on your victory, but I'm upset that we did not get a picture of that outfit.

12/16/2014 at 10:09 AM

<<"mentally unstable Scottish Christmas elf"

I just have to add that this mental image has stayed with me for over 24 hours now and I'm STILL snickering occasionally ........

My officemates think I'm deranged anyhow (who in their right mind lives in a 100 year old house with problematic plumbing?), and you are NOT helping, Alex.

12/17/2014 at 5:36 PM

You took a pain-in-the-ass dilemma and made it funny; thank you. Not that it's any comfort to you, but Maytag appliances sure aren't what they used to be. We have Maytag refrigerators bought 10-12 years ago and they're junk!

Our laundry equipment now (living like yours in an old house basement) is Kitchen Aid and I've been very pleased with it. Also we have a gas dryer which is definitely the way to go -- I believe it's simpler mechanically and also cheaper to operate than electric.

12/18/2014 at 7:23 PM

I just had the heating element on my 6 year old Whirlpool dryer replaced--$300.

While I know I would have been better off buying a new dryer, I could not face my typical appliance drama --installers not showing up as scheduled, damaged goods being delivered, door frames gouged, essential parts/tools forgotten, workmen stymied by old house peculiarities,more scheduled visits, etc.

I feel grateful for one visit and an immediate fix, even if pricey.

12/31/2014 at 3:46 AM

Amazing blog and very interesting stuff you got here! I definitely learned a lot from reading through some of your earlier posts as well and decided to drop a comment on this one!

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