Thanks for all the help and suggestions everyone, this is awesome.
Well, I went back and took the heater coil housing off, and carefully took the coil out. Surprisingly good shape for its age. The ceramics are not broken, the coil is not bent or broken. I put the coil back in, tested for continuity between each contact and the case, and got no reading. I put it all back together, measured again, resistance across the coil is steady 10.3 ohms, and no continuity between the case and either of the heater contacts.
I did notice one thing though, maybe not an issue: when I took the coil housing off, the connection to the back plate, there was a little space there on one side. Like the housing had been pulled back slightly. I pushed it in where I thought it should go, bent the bracket on top, and screwed it back together. No space there now. Maybe that was contributing.
With the back off the unit I ran it for a while (fuse is bad so no heat) but get a lot of air flow, at least seemed ok. Did not find any lint build up anyplace. Im religious about cleaning the lint trap (although my wife forgets sometimes, I have to remind her that it could catch on fire if it builds up).
Ahh, just re-read your post Manden about the cycling thermo. OK maybe that failed closed (shorted).
So, the first time I replaced just the thermal fuse, not the high limit + fuse. That lasted like one load. I got the replacement and replaced both. (had to remind myself why I have an unused high limit thermo). The second repair lasted 5 or 6 loads.
So, if the cycling thermostat went bad, the high limit lasted a while but eventually dies and takes out the thermal fuse. Arrghh. Wish I knew to test the cycling thermostat.
Can I test the cycling thermostat by putting my voltmeter on AC, putting clips onto 2 of the contacts (not sure which 2 as there are 4), then turning the unit on? If the unit runs for a little while, 30 seconds, or something like that, I should see a voltage when the cycling thermostat opens?
How long should I let it run before I turn it off to be sure the cycling thermostat is not opening correctly. Is like 30 or 45 seconds OK? It must beat up those old coils pretty badly.
(just back from laundromat