This should have been a simple repair, but turned out to be time consuming and moderately difficult. I hope these instructions will help anyone who encounters the problems described here.
After a period of the dryer not being used, the idler pulley wheel froze on the shaft of the idler pulley arm, so I needed to replace both parts. After mounting the new wheel and two washers on the new arm and securing with a retaining ring, I went to install this assembly by going in through the small access panel at the rear of the dryer. I slid the belt off the old idler pulley wheel and unhooked the spring from the idler pulley arm; the arm was mounted on a sleeve fastened to the motor bracket by one screw. All that should have been necessary was to back out that screw and replace the old idler pulley assembly with the new one.
That is where the trouble started. Backing out the screw with a socket driver, I found it would go a few turns, then start to bind. I tried turning it in and out to get the threads to engage, but it kept binding. Eventually I gave the screw a hard turn, and then it would turn freely but not move in or out.
Looking on the internet for advice, I found a video that asserts for another model Maytag dryer using the same type of mounting for the idler arm, that there is a design flaw. You can find the video by searching for “Maytag dryer idler pulley defect”. According to the video, the sheet metal screw used to mount the idler pulley arm can gradually loosen due to the pressure and vibration, and begins to “waggle” which eventually damages the threads. I believe this is what happened to my dryer. The video suggests replacing the sheet metal screw with a machine screw and nut for a more durable union.
So now I understood how the screw could be stripped just sitting in the dryer, but that didn’t help me get the screw out. Working through the rear access panel, I tried pulling on the screw head with several types of pliers, pushing the point from behind with a piece of wood while turning the head with a socket driver; eventually I was able to use a pry bar under the screw head and sleeve to apply pressure while turning the head, and with that method the screw backed out. With the screw removed, it could be seen that the threads in the middle part of the thread length were almost completely worn away.
The screw sleeve got somewhat deformed in this process so I ordered a new one, along with an exact replacement sheet metal screw, hoping the threads in the hole were still intact. With the old idler pulley arm now removed, I could transfer the old idler bracket spacer to the new idler pulley arm. When the ordered parts arrived and I tried to mount the idler pulley arm, the new screw would go in only a couple of turns before binding. Rather than risk winding up in the same situation by forcing the screw, I decided to use a machine screw and nut instead.
The original sheet metal screw was a #10. A machine screw the same size would not fit through the hole, and I could not fit my drill into the dryer cabinet in a position to enlarge the hole, so I used a #8 machine screw with a nut and lock washer. First I put some grease on the contact areas of the screw sleeve and idler bracket spacer, then inserted the machine screw through the hole and put the lock washer and nut on the other side of the mounting. The space around the nut is very limited, and most of my tools were too large to hold the nut while the screw was tightened. It was too small for a socket or adjustable wrench, and the clearance from the exhaust duct was too small for the handles of most tools. Eventually, I found a needle nose pliers with short handles that did the job. A thin open end wrench might also work. Then I reconnected the spring and belt to the idler pulley assembly, and closed the access panel. So far the dryer works, but if the #8 screw turns out to be not strong enough, I could get an extension for my drill and enlarge the hole to fit a #10 machine screw and nut.
Looking back on the job, the most difficult part of this repair was removing the damaged screw. This and several other steps might have been a lot easier if I had removed the motor bracket (where the idler pulley arm is mounted) from the dryer and worked outside the cabinet. Part Select has an excellent video “Replacing the Drive Motor” that shows how to do this. It would be a lot of disassembly work, but for someone with good assembly skills could be easier in the long run.
Hopefully most folks out there who replace the idler pulley arm on a dryer will find an easier situation than I did. But for any who have to deal with a stripped mounting screw, I hope this summary will help you resolve it.
Other Parts Used: