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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Anatomy of a Treadmill

If you had asked me 24 hours ago I would have told you that my treadmill had died. It just recently started making a HORRIBLE clicking noise that I had been unable to identify or successfully eliminate.

A week ago I would have told you that I knew my treadmill was going to die as I had just cancelled my gym membership. Although Lifetime Fitness is 1/2 mile from my house, across a parking lot from one of my offices, and all my friends belong, I just wasn't going to continue to pay $64/month for a membership I don't use regularly. I quite often get to work before 7am and I cannot consistently get to the gym before work. I also have no intention of going right after work. Although that time is convenient for me, it's also convenient for about 1 gazillion other people who crowd the place between 5p and 7p. Due to my early work hours I also can't consistently go later at night.

Back to the treadmill. Since I realized I had inadvertantly created a "trail" treadmill, either the treadmill bed has flattened back out some or else I had become accustomed to running a little off-center. I am solidly immersed in Season 6 of "24", although due to a busy life it's taking me awhile. I also have 5 seasons of "Curb Your Enthusiasm". All was going well until the horrible noise.

Here's some treadmill analogy as I identify pieces. I don't know if my terminology is consistent with Horizon's terminology: The footrails are the side pieces where you stand (straddling the belt). The end cap is the plastic piece at the end of the footrail that hides the innerds/moving pieces. Then there's the roller that's inside the end of the belt and the axle of the roller that connects the roller to the mysterious other inner workings.

How do I know all this?

The noise, a completely new noise, started about a week ago. It's very loud and very suggestive of something being seriously not right. It's loud enough that it is not easily drowned out by turning up the volume. It is centered about 6" up from the end cap on the right side and sounds like it's something clicking under the footrail. It's related to the speed the belt is moving (faster clicking with faster belt movement), yet the noise doesn't seem to be coming from anywhere near the belt or another moving part.

On Sunday when I first heard the noise, I started by folding up the treadmill. I noticed that the underside of the end cap was cracked, probably from storing uninstalled windows on it last winter. (Note: hanging a shirt on the treadmill=O.K. setting multiple windows on treadmill= not O.K. ). Even though this was just 3 days ago, I honestly don't remember if I was trying to straighten the crack and accidently pulled it off or if I just decided to yank it. Either way, off the endcap came.

Now I could see the roller and the axel. The end cap was NOT causing the noise as I thought it might have been (the crack clicking). I grabbed "Liquid Wrench" and started spraying. I sprayed the "air bubble" cusioning thing under the footrail (even though this was a good 2 feet in front of the noise)--no effect. I also sprayed towards the underside of the footrail at the point of the noise, even though it didn't look like there was anything under the rail--no effect. Finally I sprayed the axel/roller junction (6" behind the noise)--Voila! If I sprayed it for a solid 5 seconds the noise stopped!

Back to running.

The noise started again 2 minutes later. Shoot. Another soaking with Liquid Wrench. Quiet. Noise again after 2-5 minutes. Repeat x many. After Sunday's run I completely loosened the belt, reapplied silicone belt stuff to the entire bed and re-tightened it just in case, even though the noise did not seem to be generating from anywhere except one specific point underneath the footrail. I did not check and see if that helped.

Hence why as of yesterday I thought I would have to get a new treadmill. Stopping every few minutes to spray down the treadmill is not very convenient.

I decided to give it a try last night to see if the belt lubricating helped. Nope. I decided it would be reasonable to stomp on the footrail at the noise point. I stomped hard, multiple times, with as much weight as I could muster. The noise did not stop, but I saw that the foot plate had half slid off. So I stopped the treadmill and slid it the rest of the way off. Underneath was essentially just flat bed, previously covered by the rail. There were a couple of screws, one of which was loose, but after analyzing it I saw the screws just held plastic pieces onto which the rail is slid-on to and connected. Again, not causing the noise.

There's nothing at the "noise spot" causing the noise!

All of this to say, I decided that Liquid Wrench lubrication, while stopping the noise for a short time, must not be the most effective lubrication. I took the silicone belt oil, squeezed some on the roller/axel junction, and was able to do a 68 minute run with no noise.

Any thoughts?


SteveQ said...

This is the type of thing that I love to play with - there's an old family joke about "Temporary Johnson" - I can fix anything temporarily with what's at hand (shoelaces make decent auto fan belts for about 30 miles). Not seeing it, it's hard to say, but I'd guess there's ball bearings in one of the rollers and one's gone bad.

Patrick Russell, on my blogroll, happens to have a tread mill for sale.

Diane said...

You're probably right about the ball bearing. I'm not too surprised as the treadmill has many miles on it (bought in 9/2005).

I'd LIKE a new treadmill, but until this one is KAPUT I really can't justify buying a new one. I had brief dreams yesterday of throwing caution to the wind and turning my garage into a gym complete with weights and mirrors... Alas, it'll have to wait.

Kel said...

No self respecting Minnesotan would attempt a repair of any kind that didn't involve duct tape ;)

Stratum 1 fitness (in Plymouth I think) repairs treadmills and also sells refurbished commercial grade stuff - probably for less than you'd pay for a decent "home" model. Not sure what their warranties are.

Good luck!

Diane said...

Thanks, Kel, for the ideas for when I'm ready to buy. I really would like a commercial-grade one, considering how many miles I tend to log.

And the duct tape? If I decide to put the end cap back on I'll make judicious use of duct tape!