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What Are the Most Common Problems with Treadmills?

If you are new to treadmill ownership, you might ask “what are the most common problems that occur with treadmills?” This is a smart question to ask with any major consumer product purchase. Recently, I was buying a used car and more so than questions about the cost of the car, I had questions about how much the insurance cost, the gas mileage, and what the expectation for repair costs were.

Many times, owning a product can cost more than purchasing the product itself. Think about your smartphone. I know my first one cost around $500 which seemed like a bunch of money but when I figure how much I’ve spent on music, movies, apps, and other digital products, I’ve at least spent as much on those products as I did on the phone itself.

Owning a treadmill can be a similar experience, especially if the machine is not maintained properly. That’s the key to keep the costs of ownership low. Many of the repair expenses that many people experience with treadmills can be alleviated. If the treadmill is kept clean and the walking belt lubricated when it needs it, you can greatly reduce wear, stress, and repairs associated with a dirty, poorly lubricated treadmill.

I learned this lesson when I bought a house with a pool. If you don’t keep the pool clean and the water properly maintained, you can have expensive repairs to the pool equipment, the surface, and the plumbing of the pool. I learned this the hard way and after about $2,500 in repairs to the pool, I keep a much better eye on the water chemistry and am almost zealously religious about the cleanliness of my pool.

The same should be true for your treadmill. With very minimal work, you can keep the running area free of dust and debris and then regularly lubricating the walking belt with a non-petroleum based lubricant (best if you choose one that is specifically designed for treadmills), you will greatly reduce the need for repairs.

As with all machines designed by people, there are wear parts that must be replaced when they wear out but treadmills have surprisingly few and some of the ones that we have to replace on some machines, can literally last for the life of the machine if the cleanliness and lubrication of the machine are properly observed. For instance, bearings in the rollers and motor are thought to be wear parts but I’ve seen 30 year old treadmills that have been maintained religiously that have perfectly good bearings because belts and the deck have been replaced when they are worn out.

When friction builds up in the drive system of a treadmill, either from accumulated dirt and debris or by failing to follow a regular lubrication schedule, the additional torque and the associated heat, will cause bearings to wear much more quickly than in a properly maintained treadmill. The same is true for electronics, the electric part of the motor, and other drive system parts.

To sum it up, the most common problem with treadmills is due to too much belt deck friction, which can be eliminated by keeping a regular lubrication schedule. The parts that fail from this are the walking belt, deck, drive belt, rollers, motor, drive pulley, and electronics. The second most common problem is not keeping the treadmill clean which causes the failure of walking belt, deck, electronics, motors, rollers, and console electronics. If you tackle these two issues, you can vastly increase the lifespan and decrease the cost of ownership when compared with a person doing otherwise.