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By Simon Gould
Treadmills are like appliances, they have a motor, take up a lot room and can go wrong every once in a while. They are big machines that generate heat as well as movement through the motor. Nearly every item that uses electricity generates heat as a side effect even light bulbs. So what do you do if you notice a burning smell coming from the treadmill?
1. Think of safety first and locate the burning smell
Protect your home from going up in flames, this is the most important thing. If it is safe to do so, unplug the treadmill. In a room with a treadmill, you ought to have installed a smoke alarm. This protects your home while you’re around the machine or not, maybe one of your family are using it. Treadmills are powerful machines in the home and need to be taken care of.
Check there aren’t any actual flames or ignition points you can see around the treadmill. There usually isn’t but it doesn’t hurt to check. Check to see there’s any smoke that could indicate actual burning. You need to do this quickly to find the location of where any burning smell is coming from. It doesn’t matter if you can’t pin point an exact location, but a general area muight be useful.
2. Further investigate by checking to see if any components have burned
If the treadmill stopped working and then you discovered the burning smell, it’s a good idea to remember what happened. Were there any noises. If the console went blank and then you could smell burning. It could be the circuit board to the console has burnt out or one of the components has overheated. Without removing the console cover, there’s no way of really confirming this.
There are plenty of wires going from the console down the frame to operate the motor and belt. There could be any connection that has short circuited which could be your problem. The burning smell could come from the belt. It needs to be lubricated every 3 to 6 months. If it isn’t, the belt rubs against the deck causing friction. Too much friction can burn and cause a burning rubber smell.
The friction gets worse if your speed is high. So you may only notice it on an intense workout. This is a sign that the belt is the issue. The motor is a prime candidate for any burning smell too. It does a lot of work and generates heat as a byproduct. It’s easy to put it under stress, especially if it’s not powerful enough for what you’re doing.
Some treadmills are really designed for just walking or jogging at low speeds and so they have a small motor. If you’re sprinting for a period of time on a treadmill like this, then the motor is going to overheat. Whether that’s in days. weeks, or months. If the motor isn’t up to th job, it will eventually burn out. One way of inspecting the motor is too remove the cover and take a look.
You’ll see wires coming out of the motor to the motor control board and to other parts of the treadmill. Be careful in case it’s hot, but get down and have a sniff. Is the burning smell stronger down there? Unless you have electrical knowledge and are comfortable around motors, then I don’t recommend you trying to dismantle or fully diagnose the issue yourself.
Make a note of everything you’ve done and everything that’s happened. You may need to call out a professional and this information could be vital to help them solve the issue.
3. Repair it yourself
If you’ve identified that the smell is likely caused by the belt lacking lubrication, then this is something you could fix yourself. All you need is some treadmill belt lubrication, you can find that cheaply at Amazon*. Lubricating the belt is quite easy, I think most people could do it with some guidance you can find here. It only takes 15 minutes or so and you need the Allen wrench that came with the treadmill.
For any other problems it depends on your level of expertise. If you’re confident with wiring, you may want to see if there’s something you can do if the problem is obvious and simple. Bear in mind if the treadmill is under warranty, anything you do like that can invalidate it. If you feel you’ve solved the problem, you could always reset the treadmill if you need to.
4. Is the treadmill under warranty?
If you can’t find the or solve the issue yourself and the treadmill doesn’t work, then you need to call out a professional. The first thing to do is check if it’s under warranty. Motors, electronics and decks can all have different lengths of warranty. Then you have the labor warranty which is usually one or two years with good treadmills.
So you need to contact the manufacturer if you find it is under warranty. This should be available on the internet. If you bought it from a store you might want to contact them. some manufacturers have agreements with stores that mean the store would take responsibility of doing any repairs using the warranty.
5. Call out a professional
If the treadmill is not under warranty and nothing seems to stop the burning smell. It’s still there and may be the treadmill has stopped working. Now is the time to call out a professional to fix the problem. Don’t just go for the first fitness equipment repair technician you find. Do some research to find the best one near you who is recommended by others.
6. Is it cost effective to repair?
You may want to think about this before you call anyone to come out. If your treadmill is old or has had many repairs already, is it worth repairing it again. A good treadmill will last up to 12 year if it’s well look after and maintained. Repairs can be expensive. If the professional is there, ask if they think it’s worth repairing or replacing it with a new treadmill altogether.
How to prevent possible treadmill burning problems in future
One of the most important things to do is buy a treadmill with the right size motor. A 1.5 CHP motor will burn out very quickly if you’re running on it. Don’t go for the cheapest treadmill you can find. Look at the warranty and you should see one or two years for labor. This is a sign that it’s a dependable treadmill that will last.
Lubricating may solve the burn issue. But if you smell burning, it should have been lubricated a long time ago. Keep up with this simple maintenance to keep your treadmill working at peak efficiency and to make sure it keeps working. Unlubricated belts can be easily damaged and they cost around $400 to replace. Get used to lubricating it regularly.
Remove the motor cover every month or so and vacuum in there. Take care not to detach any wires or interfere with the workings. But getting rid of dust and other debris may be all you need to do to prevent burning smells and possible damage happening in future. Do this as part of a regular treadmill maintenance schedule.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore a burning smell coming from a treadmill. It’s an electrical appliance like any other but with many moving parts. A lot of heat can be generated, but it shouldn’t get to the point that something burns. Unplug the treadmill and leave it unplugged until the issue is solved. Do some exercise outside instead for a few days.
Fortunately treadmills are very reliable these days. To discover a burning smell coming from one is rare. There’s usually a good reason for it. I’ve had many treadmills over the years and I’ve never had it. I can imagine it could happen with older treadmills though. So think about whether it’s worth repairing one if it’s one its last legs.
Thinking of buying a treadmill? Here’s my favorite, I always recommend it when asked.