How to Tell If Treadmill Motor is Bad

The treadmill motor is an essential component in the machine since it's responsible for moving the running belt. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most expensive problems to fix in your machine. Moreover, a faulty motor will make your treadmill stop working right away and reduce the machine's efficiency, preventing you from having an effective workout.

To avoid such problems, it's essential to learn how to tell if a treadmill motor is bad. This will help you to prevent future downtime by allowing you to take action early before the motor is potentially damaged.

That said, continue reading this comprehensive guide to learn how to check if your treadmill motor is going bad. But first, here's what you need to know about the treadmill motor!

The Treadmill Motor

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The treadmill motor is responsible for turning the running belt and is the single most important component of an electric treadmill. That's why it's crucial to consider the motor's types and quality when buying a new treadmill.

Unfortunately, most treadmill motor specs only provide you with their HP (Horsepower) rating. However, there is so much more information you should consider when buying a treadmill, especially if you want a workout machine with a powerful motor.

Some of these aspects are;

⦿ Type of motor

Two types of motors are commonly used in treadmills; AC and DC motors. AC motors produce much more noise than DC motors and require a dedicated power line. However, they're quite more powerful than their DC counterparts. For that, DC motors are generally used in home treadmills, while AC motors are common in commercial treadmills.

Another notable difference between these motors is that DC (Direct Current) motors use a commutator and brushes. As a result, they need more maintenance, reduced lifespan, and limited speed because of additional wear items. On the contrary, AC (Alternating Current) motors use new, more sophisticated technology instead of brushes. However, they're more expensive but eliminate the need for replacing the motor brushes 2 - 3 times per year.

⦿ Continuous duty Vs. peak motors

The continuous duty rating of a treadmill motor shows the amount of sustained power during usage but not the actual maximum HP possible. In other words, the treadmill motor will operate at the same power, regardless of whether you're sprinting at 9mph or walking at 2mph.

Peak duty rating, on the other hand, shows the maximum horsepower the motor can generate and requires more energy to perform at higher speed rates. On the downside, peak motors wear out much quicker than continuous motors since they're intended to be used for a shorter time. Also, they tend to overheat if used too frequently or for too long, something you'll not experience with continuous-duty motors.

As for RPM, look for a treadmill motor that has fewer RPMs. This will guarantee a higher torque, increased lifespan, optimal performance, and better energy efficiency.

⦿ Pulse with modulation (PWM)

Pulse with Modulation (PWM) is a technology used to control most treadmill DC motors. To be precise, PWM motor controllers use a series of On and Off pulses to drive the motor. Simply put, when you put your foot on the running belt, the process of the motor turning the belt will be momentarily interrupted at a certain speed. In return, the PWM controller will provide a wide pulse to compensate for this change, increasing the treadmill motor voltage.

One benefit of using PWM controllers in DC motors is that they're not as costly as AC motors. However, on the downside, the motor will be more susceptible to overheating and subjected to much heavier stress when a heavier user walks at a slower pace. In addition, this increases the chances of damaging the motor and the controller.

⦿ Location of the treadmill incline motor 

Unlike the treadmill motor, the incline motor pushes you up while training on a treadmill, allowing you to run or walk uphill. But, more importantly, it ensures that you've got a comfortable and consistent experience with minimal vibration while training on the treadmill, regardless of the incline level and speed.

Most premium treadmill manufacturers put the incline motor at the center of the machine. This is the best location for the motor as it prevents the machine from moving side to side when you're running on the treadmill. In other words, positioning the incline motor at the centers provides a much more even and stable experience.

Signs that Indicate Your Treadmill Motor is Going Bad

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⦾ Treadmill motor overheating

Treadmill workouts are some of the best cardio exercises as they keep you healthy and help you burn a lot of calories.

If the running surface or deck becomes hotter than normal, the motor may have some problems. An overheating motor can lead to various technical problems or even shut down the machine completely. More notably, it may cause the treadmill to slow down when you step on it.

However, faulty isn't the only problem that can cause the treadmill to overheat. Other causes include; dust & debris buildup between the deck and the belt and improper lubrication. Apart from causing the treadmill to over, these factors will make the mechanical components work efficiently, thus slowing down your machine.

⦾ Belt is not moving on the treadmill 

When you switch on the treadmill, but the running belt doesn't move, something may be wrong with the motor. In most cases, this occurs due to belt friction, dead motor, or loss of power connection to the motor.

If a belt jam causes the problem, the machine will vibrate, but the belt will not move. In that case, check the inner part of the deck and clean it to get rid of buildup dust. In addition, use a high-quality belt lube to lubricate the treadmill belt appropriately.

⦾ The treadmill smells like burning

A burning smell is one of the most accurate and widespread indications that your treadmill motor is going bad. This strange smell usually occurs due to short circuits in the treadmill motor, wiring, and other electrical components. However, it might also be caused by the friction and heat generated between the treadmill deck and belt when using the machine.

Whichever the case, if you detect any strange smell while using your treadmill, turn it off right away, unplug its power cord, check its motor and make the necessary treadmill repair. If the problem isn't caused by the issues I've mentioned above, clean the deck to remove any moisture, debris, and dust. Afterward, plug the power cord back in and reboot your machine.

⦾ The display is not working

If your treadmill display is not working, the motor or a loose plug may be a problem. Luckily, fixing this issue with the console display is relatively simple. To start, check your machine's power cable length and the visible wires.

Secondly, check for crimped cords or worn batteries and replace them. Moreover, if a loose plug causes the problem, unplug the power cable, connect it back in and push the start button.

However, if the above solutions do not fix the problem, check the treadmill motor to fix any issues accordingly. Alternatively, thoroughly examine the flywheel's magnetic pickup and replace the magnet if it has fallen off.

In addition, the treadmill display may not be working due to the development of static in the console. If that is the case, you may need to reset the circuit breaker and unplug the power cable for 1 minute to fix the problem.

⦾ Motor inefficiency 

An inefficient or non-working motor clearly indicates it's going bad. This will cause things like preventing the belt from moving efficiently when training on the treadmill. Once you notice that your treadmill motor isn't performing as it should, make sure you check it immediately.

On the downside, fixing an inefficient motor is one of the most expensive treadmill repairs you'll ever run. The motor continues to work poorly when powered at full speed; you'll have to replace it. Or else you'll experience more problems like failed circuits which can lead to safety issues. Moreover, it's recommended that you hire a professional technician to help you with replacing or repairing the treadmill motor or circuit.

⦾ Noisy motor

If your treadmill motor is making an annoying noise, it might indicate that its motor has accumulated gunk. Unfortunately, this also prevents the motor from effectively getting rid of the produced heat, thus affecting its overall performance. So, if you notice any noise from your treadmill, check the motor to see if it's going bad.

⦾ Erratic speed and non-functioning controls 

Every motorized treadmill is equipped with a fixed set of controls that you can use to run the motor or adjust the incline. If any of these controls have stopped working or are not working correctly, the motor has an issue. However, this problem can also be caused by other issues like a worn-out belt.

Whichever the case, inspect the treadmill to check if your motor is going bad or if you need to replace the running belt.

⦾ Sparking 

Lastly, if your treadmill motor produces any spark during use, you should immediately turn off the machine and inspect the motor brushes. Sparking usually occurs due to constant use, which causes the brushes of the motor to wear out and produce electrical sparks.

Common Treadmill Problems That Cause the Treadmill Motor to Go Bad

‣ User behavior

The treadmill motor usually goes bad due to excessive load. In that regard, the motor on the treadmill motor depends on the user speed, user weight, friction factor that develops between the machine's mechanical parts, and the way of walking/ running on the machine. While you cannot control the user's weight or how someone walks on the treadmill, there are various factors you can consider to enhance the motor life.

For instance, you should avoid starting the machine with your feet on the walking belt. This makes the motor request an extremely high current demand from the treadmill DC motor controller, which might end up damaging the motor windings and the controller.

In addition, avoid using your treadmill at a low speed for a long time as it may cause the motor windings to overheat. At the same time, it might cause damage to the motor controller and motor windings.

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‣ Noisy treadmill motor 

2 main reasons can cause noise from treadmill motors. One, the noise may be coming from the motor's bearing. This usually occurs due to an over-tightened drive belt or misaligned motor pulley. The best way to fix this issue is to replace the bearings.

Secondly, the noise may be coming from the motor collector. The motor collector is made of thin copper lists that transmit electric current from the motor brushes to the endings. Big sparks are sometimes generated in the collector because of bad use, damaging the lists and the windings. Once that happens, you can repair the motor collector, but the best solution is treadmill motor replacement.

‣ Worn brushes 

Worn brushes can lead to various problems in your treadmill, such as causing sparks to develop in the motor. Luckily, the brushes will not get worn easily if you use the treadmill properly since the charcoal used to make them is pretty hard and can last for the machine's lifespan. In addition, you can maintain them by regularly cleaning them with sandpaper to prevent this issue from happening.

Alternatively, you can replace them with new motor brushes of the same kind, which is a relatively simple process.

Before you replace the brushes, turn off the treadmill and leave it for a couple of hours to cool down. After that, open the brushes caps, remove them, check their size to buy a replacement, and install the new ones. Most treadmill motors are equipped with 2 plastic caps that may be screwed or snap-fit. However, replace the treadmill motor if the motor still performs badly after installing the new brushes.

‣ Dirt and dust buildup in the motor 

If you don't clean the motor compartment regularly, dust and dirt will accumulate inside your treadmill. This can lead to various issues like causing the motor's internal components to overheat and smell like burning.

‣ Lack of maintenance 

Lack of regular maintenance is another common problem that causes the treadmill motor to go bad. This includes lubricating the running deck and cleaning the motor compartment from time to time to prevent dust and dirt buildup.

How to Check if Your Treadmill Motor is Going Bad

Like any other treadmill component, you don't need to buy a new machine because the motor is faulty. Instead, you only need to replace the motor. Some manufacturers even offer lifetime warranties on their motors.

However, it's important to conduct some tests first to diagnose the actual problem that may be making your treadmill motor go bad. Some of these tests include;

○ Test treadmill motor with a multimeter

For starters, a multimeter is a device that measures several electrical properties such as resistance, voltage, and current in a device or circuit. A multimeter comprises a DC & AC voltmeter, ammeter, and ohmmeter. For that reason, it's also referred to as a VOM (Volt-Ohm-Milliameter).

It's also worth mentioning that a multimeter uses various sensors based on the electrical property you wish to measure. For instance, if you want to measure current, the device uses a galvanometer that acts like an extremely sensitive voltmeter. Contrarily, it uses a Wheatstone bridge to measure resistance by comparing the resistor's resistance to an internal voltage. In addition, the device measures voltage by comparing it to an internal reference voltage.

Before we look at how to test a treadmill motor with a multimeter, it's important to note that there are 2 types of this device available. That is digital and analog multimeters. A digital multimeter displays the measured value on a numerical display via a graphical bar, while an analog device shows readings through a moving pointer. Analog multimeters are often used for highly sensitive circuits, while digital multimeters are preferred when recording a slight DC voltage change due to their accuracy.

Either way, multimeters are ideal for finding faults with electrical components or circuits and showing the desired accuracy. Best of all, it will help you determine which part of your machine is not working.

When it comes to treadmill motors, multimeters are mainly used for 2 reasons.

➊ Test the power of the motor

A treadmill supplies power to the motor, which converts that electrical energy into mechanical energy. Therefore, if there is an issue with the power supply, the electric motor will not work properly.

Luckily, as I've already mentioned, you can use a multimeter to test the motor's power supply. One thing you need to note, though, is that this process and ideal ratings can vary depending on the type of your treadmill motor. This is because each motor has an expected voltage range, making it crucial to test the wires to check if they meet those ranges. The treadmill motor voltage should generally be between 3.2V and 6.5V when the machine is running.

➋ Inspect the motor windings

If you think your treadmill motor is having problems due to bad spindle motor windings, a multimeter will help you test that. Specifically, the multimeter will help you test the windings for wear & tear and analyze their resistance. Moreover, it's a quick and easy way to test if your treadmill motor requires a full rewind or further testing. 

However, before you use the multimeter to inspect the motor windings, you need to set it to read Ohms. Afterward, test the motor's terminal and wires to inspect open/ shorts in the circuit's windings and 'short to the ground.' 

How to test the motor for 'short to the ground.'

First, disconnect the treadmill motor from its power source and set your multimeter to ohms. Next, use a screwdriver to remove the screws of the motor cover and get it off the machine. Once you've done that, carefully disconnect the 2 wires leading to the power supply, bearing in mind that the red one is usually DC lead.

Next, test each wire and check for infinite readings. However, if you get a reading of 0, the problem may be with the cable. In that case, you should test each cable individually to determine which cable is bad, ensuring that their leads are not touching. On the contrary, if you get an infinite reading with each cable, you have a motor problem.

How to test for shorts/ open in motor windings

Test the T1-T2, T2-T3, and then T1-T3. However, some treadmill motors have different markings like U, V, and W. if that's the case with your treadmill model, start with U-V, V-W, and lastly, W-U. Ideally, you want a reading of about 0.3 - 2 ohms. But if you get a zero (0) reading, there is a shortage in phases, meaning the cables are short to ground. On the other hand, a reading that is well above 2 shows that you probably have an open winding or a broken wire.

○ Test the treadmill motor control board

The treadmill motor control board refers to a small circuit board found inside the treadmill. It consists of various components, including a microprocessor, decoder, and memory for speed storage.

More importantly, it ensures that the machine always runs smoothly by ensuring the running belt always turns at a consistent speed. To be precise, the motor control board monitors the speed of the running belt and transmits that information to the treadmill console, which then drives the motor. So for that, it's essential to keep the motor control board in good shape to ensure that your treadmill functions properly.

One exciting thing about this component is that it doesn't have to be replaced often. Nonetheless, it's usually a position that can be easily accessed and is available in most treadmills.

Even better, learning how to test a treadmill motor control board is relatively easy since you can do it on the spot. For instance, if the motor is humming but the running belt is not moving, the problem is with the motor control board.

Alternatively, you can lift one end of the motor assembly, put it on a vibrating surface, and move the belt. If the belt moves, then the treadmill motor is functional. However, the running belt will not move if your treadmill motor is bad.

○ Check the shaft and bearings

Like any other electric motor, bearings are one of the most common parts to go bad since they experience regular wear & tear. For that, it's important to inspect them regularly and replace them over time. Moreover, using a treadmill motor with worn-out bearings will reduce its efficiency and damage its working mechanism.

The good news, though, is that bearings are easy to inspect. Specifically, you only need to rotate the bearings and check whether they're turning freely and smoothly. Also, you can push and pull the shaft the bearings attach to. If you feel any friction, it's about time you replace the bearings. However, if the friction is minor, applying a lubricant might help to fix the problem.

○ Inspect the treadmill motor's fan 

The fan plays a vital role in the motor's performance since it keeps it cool, allowing it to run for more extended periods. Unfortunately, if the fan is clogged with debris and dust, the amount of airflow moving to the motor will be reduced, thus keeping the produced heat in. Consequently, the treadmill motor will overheat and eventually go bad.

To prevent that, it's good to regularly inspect and clean the fan to remove debris and dust buildup. Also, keep the fan secure to the motor and test it to ensure it rotates freely.

Final Word As you can see, some of the preventative measures I've mentioned above are relatively easy. First, however, it's important to know how to check if your treadmill motor is going bad. More notably, some of these motor testing techniques may require professional assistance. In that case, looking for a reliable professional you can contact when you think your treadmill motor is bad is important.


Question-1. Why is my treadmill belt not moving when I step on it?

Various factors can make your treadmill belt stop moving when you step on it. However, this usually indicates that the distance between the 2 belt rollers requires adjustment. Luckily, you can fix this problem by adjusting the roller bolts with a hex spanner to move, loosen or tighten the rear roller. 

Question-2. How much does a treadmill motor repair cost?

The cost of treadmill motor repair tends to vary since repair specialists usually have different prices. In general, the treadmill motor repair cost can be between $100 and $200. On the other hand, the cost of buying a new treadmill motor ranges from $200 to $300, exclusive of the repair fee. So, expect to spend more than $500 on a new treadmill motor and replacement costs. 

Question-3. How long will my treadmill motor last?

According to most treadmill manufacturers, electric motors used in these fitness machines can last about 10 years. However, you can make your treadmill motor last longer by lubricating the belt regularly and taking proper care of the machine. 

Question-4. What type of motor do treadmills use?

Most home treadmills are equipped with an 80 to 260V DC motor with a suitable horsepower rating and a PWM motor controller. This allows treadmill users to change the running belt speed and maintain a constant speed and good torque while using the machine.

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