The Achilles’ Heel of Any Treadmill
Just like the Greek myth that illuminated that there can be a major weakness in a god, even for those who posses a magic power of invulnerability, products tend to have a weak point as well. On a treadmill, the Achilles’ heel is the motor controller. For home models, this is typically a board that takes the AC power coming from the wall outlet and converts it into DC power for the motor to operate.
Some factories call these controllers, PWM boards, SCR boards, DC motor controllers, servo controllers, circuit boards, or combo boards. For our discussion, we are going to call them motor controllers.
You might ask, why does the motor controller have to be the weak point? That would be a good question and the simple answer is that we ask it to carry a heavy burden. Not only must it covert power, but it also must monitor the amount of voltage input into the motor, compare that with the belt speed, and then adjust the voltage to keep the motor moving as consistently at the speed set as possible.
Additionally, it tries to prevent overloads, overspeed conditions, power spikes, and the torque output of the motor; all the time it is making these adjustments and calculations in milliseconds!
I get tired thinking about it! So, if the motor controller is the weak point on any treadmill how often do you have to replace this component? The answer is also very simple…you don’t! As a rule, most of the factories don’t want you to know this but it is true…you should never have to replace this component.
So why are thousands and thousands of replacement motor controllers sold every year? The main reason is lack of maintenance, specifically not keeping the treadmill clean and lubricating the walking belt regularly. If you use the right lubricant, this doesn’t have to be a tedious process. I have had my latest treadmill at home for a bit over 3 years and I just lubricated the belt last night for the first time in 2 years. At the risk of sounding braggadocios, our World Famous Lube is the best on the market, simply because you don’t have to lubricate frequently. It also repels dirt from the belt area so it cuts down on needed cleaning too.
Additional wear items to keep your eyes upon are the deck surface that is stationary below the walking belt. Eventually the walking belt will have to be replaced but with quality machines, you can typically use the deck for more than one belt and on some higher priced units, the deck can be flipped over when the first side wears out. Another wear component I replace when I replace the belt is the motor drive belt. Although it typically can also last for more than one walking belt, while you have it apart, it is very easy to replace the motor drive belt and they are cheap components to replace.
Other far less common reasons for motor controller failure include problems with the drive motor and wall voltage. If you keep your treadmill plugged in a good single outlet surge suppressor is highly recommended. If you are going to not be using the treadmill for an extended period, we always recommend unplugging it. Motor problems are the least of the common reasons for controller failure but shorts, brush arching, and bearing issues can also overload the controller.
So if you have to replace your treadmill’s motor controller, remember there is always a reason why the device failed. It is extremely rare for one of these to just fail on its own.