By Simon Gould
There are many components in a treadmill that do different things. Like the motor which powers the belt, then you have an incline motor. The console is full of electrical circuits and buttons to control it. They’re not really designed to get wet. But what is important is what kind of wet we’re talking about and if a treadmill can handle it.
One thing that always happens to me when I exercise on my treadmill is sweat. There’s not much I can do about it. I want to get my workout in and jogging or running at any speed will cause me to perspire. I can’t stop it getting everywhere around me especially over the treadmill. I have to wear thin sports clothing to stop me over heating and that’s why we sweat in the first place.
The treadmill has been designed to deal with this, the motor is covered, the console has plastic to protect it and the steel has a special coating to prevent rust. With all that you should still wipe your equipment down after every use. The moisture has probably been absorbed in the belt but still get rid of it there if you can. Sweat is not enough to damage a treadmill.
An example is, if you think of a busy gym where the treadmills are used all day, they don’t stop working due to sweat. They are cleaned everyday with cloth soaked in detergent. Don’t spray anything onto your equipment and wipe with a soaked cloth instead. Sweating is a bit horrible but a natural part of exercise and a treadmill can take it.
This is where problems and damage could start happening. It all depends how much you’ve spilt and what part of the treadmill you’ve spilt it on. Hopefully the liquid is mainly water or some other drink, maybe it’s from a water bottle. If it’s another substance or chemical in nature then other considerations may need to be taken. You will need to use your own judgment a lot in the action you take.
Stop the belt immediately as you don’t want any liquid to go near the motor if it’s only fallen on the belt. Unplug the treadmill, soak up all the excess liquid with a towel and it may just be a case of letting it dry overnight. When you’re certain it’s dry and no electrical parts got wet then try operating it in the morning at a slow speed for a few minutes without anyone being on it and see how it works.
If you spilt some water on the console you should be ok but I would still stop the machine, soak up the excess and let it dry. The console is over the belt so no doubt some may have gone there as well. The problem comes if you spill any where the motor is. The motor is usually at the front and has a cover over it. There are wires that carry the power to it and they and the motor itself don’t really like getting wet.
If you have the tools you may want to see if you can remove the motor cover, it’s quite straight forward and will help you with an initial diagnosis. Otherwise allow it to dry and see if it still works. If it doesn’t you may need to call a technician to come and look at it. If it’s under warranty you might want to get in touch with the manufacturer, although accidental damage like this will almost certainly void the warranty.
A treadmill shouldn’t be kept outside and no manufacturer recommends it, even if it’s under cover. The humidity will certainly reduce the life span of the machine. They also recommend you don’t have one in a garage for the same reason. Having said that, there are special plastic treadmill covers that cover the whole machine to help prevent it getting wet. But what if it’s been out in the rain?
For any damage from rain you will need to determine how long it’s been outside for. If it’s a long time the belt may stop working and may start rotting from the moisture. As with any possibility of water damage let it dry and test it afterwards. You or a technician will need to determine if it’s been compromised. Sometimes just a belt might need to be changed or lubricated.
Do what you can to keep it out of the rain. Even if you’re transporting it to a car or elsewhere then do it on a day when no rain is forecast. Even though everything is covered in plastic, water can seep through gaps. Do the same as the spillages section for the motor and all this is the same if a hose or sprinkler got the treadmill wet.
Your home has been flooded and the treadmill is on one of the affected floors. You want to salvage everything you can in this situation but is your exercise machine one of them? It depends how high up the water has got and what you’re willing to do to get a repair if needed. There could be some work involved on your part to try and get the machine up and running.
Ultimately the prognosis is not good and your best bet is to try and prevent your treadmill getting flooded in the first place. Put something underneath it or put it on higher ground in your home. They can be heavy so moving one about may not be an option. The steel frame is what touches the ground first and although it’s powder coated it could still rust internally.
I know of one repair company who will not touch flooded fitness equipment. They won’t allow their name to be put on a repair when serious injuries could occur due to water damage. They are willing to do an inspection of the machine and write a report for your home insurance, but will not consider a repair attempt.
I’ve heard a lot of theories like putting the treadmill on it’s side and letting the water drain out. Then leave the unit to dry for about a week and then perform a test to see if it works. However, even if it does work the machine may not be structurally sound and the unit weakened. I would not advise a repair and consider a replacement instead.
Cost effective to repair?
Even if you successfully get your treadmill repaired, it’s likely not to last as long than if it hadn’t had water damage in the first place. So if it is repaired and then in a year or earlier, something else goes wrong and you get that seen to, where do you stop? At some point you have to think, is it cost effective to keep repairing?
You could spend so much on your damaged treadmill that you may as well have replaced the whole thing when it got damaged. This is the first thing to discuss with a technician or even just email a repair company. Think about your interest and safety and get an honest and thorough opinion before any work is done. Treadmills can be replaced and your health can’t.
How to fix a water damaged treadmill
I will repeat that I don’t think a water damaged treadmill is worth repairing. This is mainly for safety reasons and so you don’t waste money on repeated repairs. However, if you wanted to see if you can get your treadmill working again, there are steps you can take to get it back in working order.
This is worth doing when you immediately notice it water damaged. Rather than let it sit there, you may want to do these steps while you wait for a technician to come out to evaluate it.
1. Unplug the treadmill from the wall socket taking care of your safety while doing so. Especially if there is standing water.
2. Wipe any excessive moisture you can see with a cloth or towel. Pay special attention to the console and motor. You may need to remove the motor cover to accomplish this.
3. Turn the treadmill onto its side. Some are heavy, so you might need some help. This will ensure any remaining water is drained away.
Leave it like this until your fitness equipment repair technician can come and decide if the treadmill is salvageable and can be used again.
4. You may be tempted to switch it on again and see if it’s working yourself. But I would be very apprehensive about doing this.
Electrical appliances and water really don’t mix. Mild spillages are one thing, but enough water so that your treadmill needs to be drained is something else.
Despite the fact that a treadmill can take an immense pounding from our running on it, it’s weak when it comes to excessive water and moisture. It’s actually a sensitive piece of technology and should be taken care of. It needs regular maintenance and it shouldn’t get wet. Sweat won’t affect it but a regular spill or rain will do it harm.
A good treadmill can last around 10 to 12 years if well looked after and water damage can severely limit this. Take care of any water bottles around it and don’t spill any liquids on it. You can spend a lot of money on fitness equipment and it can do wonders for your health, so keep it dry, then it can continue to benefit you for years to come.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked*