If you’re a new owner of a food dehydrator, you are probably looking forward to eating dehydrated fruits, meats, and vegetables all winter long! However, nothing’s worse than opening it up to see your food still wholly hydrated. But why did it stop working? And how can you fix it?
Some common reasons why a dehydrator has stopped working are because the heating elements and the fan broke down. It’s possible to fix most heating and fan breakdown issues on your own, though the method required often varies based on the make and model of the dehydrator.
In the rest of this article, I will discuss 11 common problems with dehydrators and how to fix them. We’ll talk about issues with all the elements of a regular dehydrator, including the fan, heating source, trays, andwiring. Plus, I’ve provided tips on finding replacement parts and how to decide when it’s time to buy a new dehydrator.
Troubleshooting Your Dehydrator
A food dehydrator consists of several components: the fan, the heating element, and the food trays. Generally, what breaks is a segment of the heating element or the fan itself. The wiring on these can be faulty, or a fuse can blow.
The first step in troubleshooting is always to look at the manual, as you can find a few answers to commonly asked questions about the dehydrator. Another great resource is the manufacturer’s website, which might have a helpline or chat function.
Unfortunately, food dehydrators are notoriously tricky to fix. For some problems, the only solution is a part substitution or a total appliance replacement. However, there are some easy fixes to jumpstart your dehydrator and get your food drying again!
Always stay safe while you are troubleshooting your faulty appliance. Ensure that it’s unplugged and completely cooled down before you look into any of the wirings, and don’t rewire anything if you’re unsure how to do it.
Reasons a Dehydrator Stops Working (and How To Fix It)
Here are the most common reasons a dehydrator stops working and what you can do about it. Keep in mind, if you try these troubleshooting methods and your dehydrator still isn’t working, the next step is to contact the manufacturer. Most dehydrators come with a warranty, but even if yours doesn’t have one, you might be able to find a replacement.
1. Food in the Fan
The fan on a dehydrator does most of the work – by blowing air across the fruits and vegetables, it naturally evaporates the moisture inside and begins the dehydration process. In some cases, the machine doesn’t have a heating element and only has a fan. Although this process takes longer to dry food, it saves energy and doesn’t overdry the fruit.
Whether or not your dehydrator has a heater, it has a fan. If the fan breaks, the appliance won’t work. However, most fan issues are relatively easy to fix.
The most common fan issue is excess food dropping into the fan and blocking it or jamming it. To solve this problem, ensure that your dehydrator is clean and you aren’t overloading the trays.
2. Rubbing Noise in Fan
If you hear a rubbing sound when the fan is turned on, you might need to remove the bottom screen inside your dehydrator and manually adjust the fan. This sound could happen because of food blockage or a misplaced fan blade rubbing against the bottom of the appliance.
To check the fan, take the trays out of the dehydrator and remove the bottom screen (some models are screwed in, and you can just pull others out). Make sure the fan is clean and lying flat. You can usually adjust an unevenly placed fan pretty easily. To test it, reinsert the screen and see if any of the fan blades touch it.
3. Appliance Overheated
It might seem like an overheating problem would be an issue with the heating device. Sometimes this is true, and the heat regulator doesn’t work. However, the majority of overheating issues come from a broken or jammed fan.
The fan circulates air throughout the dehydrator to keep the stable temperature while drying out the food.
There are several ways to tell if your appliance is overheating and overdrying your food. If your dried food is significantly smaller than usual, tastes terrible, or falls apart when you pick it up, it is probably overdried. Inspect your fan for issues, and watch the machine closely next time you run it to make sure the fan is turning on.
Once you’ve determined your fan isn’t working at all, you can check the fuses inside the dehydrator. If they are open or blown, replacing them with new fuses (available online or at select hardware stores) could solve your problem. Follow the instructions in the manual or online to open the dehydrator and replace the fuse.
If your fan still isn’t working after cleaning it, changing the fuse, or adjusting the blades, you probably need to replace the fan. The model varies with the make of the dehydrator, but several websites sell dehydrator parts. A broken dehydrator is hard to fix, however. If you aren’t confident in your ability to repair the appliance, it might be time for a new one.
4. Heating Element Broken
The heating element is the other essential part of a food dehydrator. The heater keeps the food at the right temperature with the internal thermometer so it doesn’t burn or stay wet. The heat dehydrates the items more quickly by evaporating the moisture within the fruit or vegetable to dry it out.
If your heating element is broken, it could be one of several issues. If it’s a fuse, a breaker, or a wiring issue, these are relatively easy to fix. However, if the element itself is broken, you might need to buy a replacement part or a new dehydrator altogether.
The price of a new part depends significantly on your make and model. For less expensive dehydrators, it might just be easier to buy a new one. However, pricier models tend to have more availability and support, especially if you have a warranty. If you think that your heating element is nonfunctional, contact the manufacturer.
5. Heater Wire Open
Sometimes the wire that connects the heating element to the fuse opens. When this happens, the heater stops working, and your food doesn’t dry. To fix this issue, you’ll need to take out the heater wire and replace it with a new wire. Wiring can be dangerous, so ensure that you know what you’re doing if you are trying to replace a wire.
The heater wire is a small silver nichrome wire inside the appliance. If it’s frayed or out of place, it needs to be replaced with a new one. The nichrome wire is easy to find online. If you’re unsure how to replace a wire in a small appliance, you can hire someone or send a repair request to the manufacturer.
6. Safety Device Opened
Another common reason that a dehydrator stops working is that the safety device gets tripped. When this happens, the dehydrator automatically shuts down to prevent a fire or electrical hazard. Although it’s an essential part of the appliance, the safety device can sometimes trigger without danger.
Open your appliance to check on the safety device. It is remarkably similar to the heater wire, so it’s easy to get the two confused. Instead of a silver nichrome wire, you’re looking for a small silver cylinder. It narrows to a point at one end and should be placed near the heating element.
If the safety device is opened, it’ll be easy to spot. To fix this problem, just pop it back into place and turn on the dehydrator. However, it’s essential to make sure that the safety device is doing its job – if it keeps opening, you might have an issue with the safety of your dehydrator. At that point, it’s best to bring it to the manufacturer.
7. Dead Fuse
Another common reason for a dehydrator to stop working is that a fuse died. Even if your model doesn’t have a heating component, it has at least one fuse. A dead fuse will prevent either the heating element or the fan (and sometimes both) from working and will need to be replaced with a new fuse.
Luckily, most fuses are pretty easy to replace. Open your dehydrator and check the fuses. If one breaks, it will be pretty easy to spot: a dark streak in the glass section or a gap in the wiring means the fuse is blown. You should pull it out and identify the size and kind of fuse it is for replacement.
Although, it can be challenging to find a replacement fuse, and if you’re struggling, ask the manufacturer. Once you’ve ordered a replacement fuse, putting it back in is easy. Insert it the same way you pulled it out, and make sure the wiring is secure before you plug the dehydrator back in. After you’re done replacing the fuse, throw the old one away.
Here is a helpful video on how to replace a fuse on an Excalibur dehydrator:
8. Tripped Breaker
If the breaker inside your dehydrator trips, the dehydrator won’t turn on. It’s straightforward to fix the breaker; simply locate it and flip the switch back. Not all dehydrators have a breaker, though, so check your manual to discover if yours has one and where it’s located. Once the breaker resets, it should work normally.
However, if your breaker trips repeatedly, this generally means that your dehydrator is regularly overheating. Check the fan for blockage and the internal thermometer. If both of those elements are in working order, you might have to replace the breaker entirely. It’s more work, but similar to replacing a fuse.
Carefully remove the breaker from the appliance and inspect it. Look for dark smudges or dirty and frayed wiring – this is the best sign that it’s broken. Order a replacement on the manufacturer’s website or an electrical parts site, and wire the new breaker back into the appliance.
9. Broken Thermostat
If all your wiring, fuses, and breakers are in order, but your machine still keeps overheating, your issue might be a broken thermostat. The thermostat sits inside the dehydrator, monitoring the heat levels and ensuring that the food doesn’t burn or get overly dried. When it fails, the heating element doesn’t know when to stop and overheats the appliance.
To determine whether your thermostat is working correctly, keep an eye on it while your dehydrator is running. If it stays at the same temperature (whether hot or cold), you know that it’s busted. You’ll need to find a replacement thermometer and connect it to the heating element and thermometer dial.
While it’s relatively easy to find a thermometer, it is not easy to wire it up correctly and depends on your model. Here is a blog that lays out the steps to replace the thermometer in Excalibur dehydrators. Remember, however, that every model is different. If you’re uncomfortable with complicated wiring, hire a professional to do it for you.
10. Dehydrator Overloaded
Sometimes a dehydrator works, just not very well. If some of your food is drying better than other sections, make sure that you aren’t overloading the trays. If trays are too full, not all of the food will dry adequately (and sometimes none of it will).
When you load a food tray in a dehydrator, keep the pieces of food evenly spread out. Don’t pile the pieces on top of each other – even though the food will get smaller, it needs enough room to be properly dehydrated. Try to load your appliance with the same type of food every time – different foods take different amounts of time to dry thoroughly.
11. Dehydrator Loaded Unevenly
Loading a tray unevenly can also cause your dehydrator to malfunction. If one side is heavier than the other or has more food on it, the machine will overdry one side and under dry the other. It’s easy to prevent this problem by loading the trays properly and making sure you have the same types of food on each tray.
However, it’s not just how you load the trays. It’s also how you cut the food. If you have thicker strips or chunks mixed in with smaller pieces of food, the machine will not cook them evenly. Always cut your fruit, vegetables, or meat into similarly sized pieces for maximum drying efficiency.