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Common Treadmill Problems

author image Bonnie Singleton
Bonnie Singleton has been writing professionally since 1996. She has written for various newspapers and magazines including "The Washington Times" and "Woman's World." She also wrote for the BBC-TV news magazine "From Washington" and worked for Discovery Channel online for more than a decade. Singleton holds a master's degree in musicology from Florida State University and is a member of the American Independent Writers.
Common Treadmill Problems
A woman is leaning on a treadmill. Photo Credit mtoome/iStock/Getty Images

Treadmills come in many shapes and sizes and include a wide variety of features, but they all can provide a cardiovascular workout that’s convenient, effective and relatively safe. Like most machines, you may encounter common mechanical problems with your treadmill, especially if you tend to use it frequently.


Always check first with the owner’s manual that came with your particular treadmill to see if it addresses the problem you’re having. Keep in mind that if you tinker with the machine or replace certain parts, you may void any warranty that is in place. Because treadmills are heavy and difficult to assemble and re-assemble, make sure your treadmill purchase includes home service by a certified technician for when problems occur.

No Console Display

Console issues are often simply a matter of the power cord coming unplugged or a wire pulling loose from the panel, or else parts such as worn batteries or crimped cords needing to be replaced. For treadmills with a magnetic pickup on the flywheel, the magnet may have fallen off. In a few cases, a tripped circuit breaker just needs to be reset, and if the console develops static, just unplugging the cord for 60 seconds may do the trick.

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Treadmill is Erratic

If a treadmill’s movement is erratic, it may be improperly grounded. Treadmills should always be plugged directly into a wall on a dedicated 20-amp circuit, and not through an extension cord, surge protector or power strip. Other causes of erratic treadmill movement are console cables becoming disengaged from the console circuit board, a lack of lubrication on the treadmill belt, the belt and/or deck becoming worn, and the belt losing proper calibration.

Belt Slipping

If you feel a slipping sensation when using your treadmill, the running belt probably needs to be aligned or tightened. Belts can also slip where there is too much friction due to an over-tightened belt, or if the belt has been recently lubricated. The Treadmill Doctor recommends that as a general rule, you should be able to lift the belt in the center on the sides by approximately 2 inches to 3 inches, and if not, it’s likely too tight.

Elevation Function Isn’t Working

Not all treadmills have an incline feature, but many do. When a treadmill incline no longer functions, it may be due to a loose cable from the console. If you’re able to remove the motor cover, you can verify that no lights are lit on the circuit board and that all wires are securely connected.

Burning Smell

A burning smell is a sign to immediately turn off your treadmill and unplug it. Common causes include: very high friction between the belt and the deck; a short in the motor, wiring, or electronics; or the lacquer or cardboard core in the motor being ‘fried” due to belt friction or a drive system obstruction. Any of these problems may lead to a fire, so you’ll need to have the problem fixed first before you continue using the machine.

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