TreadmillReviews

Treadmill Motors: What You Need to Know

Treadmill motors vary in their capacities, and there are key variables to consider to ensure you find one best-suited for your lifestyle and fitness goals. In this complete guide to treadmill motors, we’re taking a deep dive into each component. From horsepower and type of current flow to torque, power rating system, warranty, durability factors, maintenance pointers, and more, you’ll leave this page with a full understanding of all the ins and outs of treadmill motors.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Mechanics
The Four Primary Motor Variables
Determining What You Need in a Motor
Maintenance Tips
Dealing with Motor Problems
Matrix Treadmill Motor with Clean Motor Enclosure

The treadmill motor is typically located at the front of the deck and protected by a cover that’s easily removable with a screwdriver. Photo by: Oleksandr Kosheliev / TreadmilReviews.net

Understanding the Mechanics

What is a Treadmill Motor?

The motor is the main hub and carries the most weight mechanically. It’s responsible for turning the energy from your outlet into movement that gets your treadmill belt moving. They are typically located at the front of the deck, but some like the NordicTrack X22i are installed in the rear to allow more room for stride and incline.

Without a motor, your treadmill is rendered useless, so it’s important to understand the basics as you shop. When car shopping, you certainly consider what’s under the hood including power and mileage. When you know how to interpret a treadmill’s motor specs, you can get a much better idea of how it will support your intended usage.

Cheap motors typically won’t last as long. You get what you pay for. If you come across a treadmill that seems to be priced lower than others that offer the same features, pay close attention to the motor specs, and refer back to the information shared in this article to make sure it lives up to the hype. You can replace a bad treadmill motor, but they’re pricey, and we’ll get into more detail on that in a bit. It’s always best to avoid premature wear and tear on your treadmill motor by understanding what kind you need and how to take care of it.

A Look at the Incline Motor

Incline Motor

Incline is powered by a separate, smaller motor as seen on the left-hand side of the bottom of the NordicTrack X22i deck. Placement in the middle of the deck optimizes stability when moving up and down. Photo by: Jessica Jones / TreadmilReviews.net

While the primary treadmill motor works hard keeping the belt moving under the load of your bodyweight, incline treadmills rely on a separate motor focused on elevating and lowering the deck as you train. Having two motors focused on these separate functions allows for smoother transitions with minimal vibration no matter how fast you’re running.

Your treadmill’s thrust motor can be placed in a couple different spots. Some are housed within the same enclosure as the primary motor, while others are installed beneath the deck as pictured above. In either case, they’re most often installed in the middle of the deck for optimal stability.

It can be difficult to find specs on the incline motor, because they’re not as significant a factor as the primary motor. As long as users fall within the manufacturer’s suggested weight limit, incline motors should hold up as they don’t sustain the degree of wear and tear as the main motor. They’re also less powerful and far less expensive. All the same, it’s good to know the difference between the primary and thrust motor and apply regular maintenance to each. 

The Brains of the Operation: Overview of the Circuit Board

Treadmill Control Board

The treadmill combo board is the master power controller that ensures electricity from your outlet is efficiently converted to DC power to make the motor run. Photo by: Jessica Jones / TreadmilReviews.net

They go by many names including PWM boards, SCR boards, controllers, combo boards, and servo controllers. The plastic circuit board contains traces that are electrically conductive. These pathways route electronic signals for clear communication across the various electronic components of your motor. In addition to power conversion, they’re also responsible for controlling the voltage to the motor relative to belt speed for smooth operation. When properly maintained, you shouldn’t have to replace the control board, and I’ll cover this in more detail in the maintenance section below. 

The Five Primary Motor Variables

I recently purchased a protein powder, because it claimed to pack 52 grams of protein per two scoops of powder. It wasn’t until I opened it, however, that I found a “scoop” was more than one cup! Sure, I could have divided the total contents by the servings per container to figure out the size of the scooper as I stood in the grocery store, but who does that? Companies are betting on consumers focusing on inflated sales language carefully phrased to make a product seem better than it really is.

When it comes to treadmill motors, you can fall victim to similar semantics when you don’t understand a few key terms and how they can be combined to make a treadmill motor sound like something it’s not.

Motor Size

The motor size is the most amplified spec you’ll come across as you shop, so let’s grasp what these numbers mean. By definition, horsepower is a unit of power equal to 550 foot-pounds per second, or 745.7 watts. For a treadmill, the average motor size is 2.5 HP, but they range anywhere from 1.5-5.0 HP. 

The higher the horsepower, the more you can typically expect to spend. Of course, there are many aspects that determine pricing, but, generally speaking, lower horsepower produces less speed consistency and a shorter overall lifespan. Does this mean you should shoot for a 5.0 HP motor? Not necessarily. Keep reading to learn how to determine your horsepower needs.

Horsepower Rating System

Now that you understand that treadmill motor energy is measured in horsepower, it’s critical to understand how that horsepower was measured. To analogize, think about running a sprint vs. a marathon. Most people can run a 100-meter dash at around 15-mph. The average pace for a marathon, however, is around 5.5-mph. An athlete capable of reaching a 15-mph sprint speed would be delusional to arrive at a marathon expecting to maintain this pace for 26.2 miles.

With this analogy in mind, when rating horsepower, there are three systems used:

Peak Duty: “Peak” stands for the peak horsepower that the treadmill will reach and no more. It’s similar to the sprinter capable of reaching that peak speed of 15 mph. Just as running this fast would lead to quicker fatigue, running at peak motor power for longer periods of time will lead to faster wear and tear.

Treadmill Duty: This rating falls in-between peak and continuous duty. The motor will periodically shift from peak power to lower power to avoid overheating. Think of a runner slowing down to catch their breath before speeding back up.

Continuous Duty: Continuous describes how much power is maintained throughout the workout and can be compared to the marathoner maintaining a 5.5 mph pace. This is the ideal rating system reflecting a motor best able to run continuously at peak power with minimal wear and tear.

RPMs

Low RPM Motor

A high-torque treadmill motor is more efficient and will typically last longer than those that run at high RPMs. Photo by: Jessica Jones / TreadmilReviews.net

A motor’s revolutions per minute determine torque, otherwise known as its ability to make your belt move. Low torque can result in disruptive lags that reduce the quality of your workout. I’ve noticed it can be hard to find the RPM rating on the specs sheet. When in doubt, it’s worth it to contact the manufacturer directly to procure this information. 

A treadmill motor’s RPM rating has an inverse relationship with torque. The lower the RPM, the higher the torque. Higher torque allows for better durability, and shooting for a RPM of 4,000 or below is ideal. A RPM rating of over 5,000 is cause for concern and should be avoided. Especially when considering motors with high horsepower ratings, check the RPMs. Remember semantics… manufacturers know you’ll focus on horsepower and can cut corners by highlighting a 4.0 CHP motor while hiding the fact it has a RPM rating of 8,000.

Current Type

This one’s easy to completely overlook, and it’s sometimes not even listed on the specs sheet. Treadmill motors will either be powered by a direct or alternating current of electricity. Most home treadmills are DC-powered, so let’s get an understanding of what this means.

Direct Current Treadmill Motor Pros

  • Since continuous current doesn’t require power through a chain or belt that needs to be cooled by a fan, DC motors are often less noisy.
  • The quick burst of torque when the treadmill is started produces more rapid acceleration.
  • It’s typically easier to adjust speed since speed and load torque share an inverse relationship.
  • Higher energy efficiency can be achieved due to the use of magnets instead of copper windings.

Direct Current Treadmill Motor Cons

  • DC motors aren’t able to produce as much torque as AC, making the motor less powerful.
  • DC motors don’t last as long as AC motors and require more maintenance.

Alternating current motors are more common in the commercial treadmill market. The motors on these products are powered by alternating current that turns a belt, chain, or flywheel.

Alternating Current Treadmill Motor Pros

  • People who carry more weight can enjoy a quicker response to changes in speed and incline.
  • AC motors are able to maintain smooth operations for longer periods, an important factor for people training for longer runs.
  • Less maintenance is required, and owners can expect a longer service life.
  • Since they use wire coils instead of a magnet, AC motors typically don’t weigh as much.

Alternating Current Treadmill Motor Cons

  • AC motors take longer to warm up.
  • You can expect to pay more for a treadmill with an AC motor.

If you’re buying a treadmill that’ll be used commercially, AC motors are the way to go. You won’t be bogged down with constant maintenance, and they’re better able to stand up to continual use throughout business hours.

For home use, AC treadmills can be a good choice if you carry a lot of weight and/or expect high-frequency operation by multiple users. Keep in mind, due to power requirements, you might notice an increase in your electric bill if you go this route. DC treadmills are typically preferred for residential treadmill shoppers. They’re less expensive; quieter; smaller; more energy efficient; and quicker to start, stop, and change speeds.

Warranty

The manufacturer’s warranty gives you a good idea of motor quality. A high-quality motor will typically feature a longer warranty period and is a safer investment. The manufacturer’s willingness to back their motors for longer periods can also be an indicator of its durability expectations.

The motor warranty can range anywhere from a year to a lifetime. Let’s break down what you can expect:

  • Warranties under five years typically indicate a sub-par motor that won’t last long.
  •  A 5-10 year motor warranty is standard and reflects average durability expectations.
  • Warranties from 10 years to Lifetime feature premium quality and longevity.

Determining What You Need in a Motor

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Now that you understand treadmill motor terminology, it makes more sense that selecting a treadmill based on the highest motor power isn’t always the most efficient allocation of your fitness equipment investment dollars. If you were shopping for a vehicle to shuttle the family to-and-from school, work, and extracurricular activities, it wouldn’t make sense to consider trucks with a high towing capacity. You could spend much less on a minivan more aligned with your needs.

Determining the right horsepower for your training needs requires you to consider training intensity, frequency of use, and bodyweight. The following chart serves as a helpful tool to arrive at the right horsepower:

Treadmills with No Motor

Did you know there are treadmills out there that don’t rely on a motor to get the belt moving? Manual treadmills cut out the fancy consoles with all their bells and whistles. The treadmill is powered by your own legs and typically features excellent cushioning. If you’d rather not worry about who’s using the treadmill and for how long or how often, a slat belt treadmill with no motor is worth taking a look at.

Treadmill with No Motor

Slat-belt treadmills like the Woodway EcoMill don’t have a motor. Instead, they rely completely on the runner to get the belt moving. Photo by: Jessica Jones / TreadmilReviews.net

Maintenance Tips

When you follow the guidance in the previous section, you’ll be able to select a quality motor sufficient to meet your training needs. However, that’s not the end of the story. Just as your car’s motor requires regular maintenance to last as long as possible, there are some things you can do to prolong the life of your treadmill motor.

Monthly Dust and Debris Removal

Two most important maintenance duties for a treadmill owner are lubrication and cleaning the motor assembly. You can learn all about the former in our complete treadmill lubrication guide. Dust and debris can infiltrate the motor cover, so it’s critical you regularly unplug the machine, remove the cover, and vacuum the area around the motor being careful not to touch any wires or the circuit board.

Dirt and Debris Treadmill Motor

Buildup of dirt and debris is a primary cause for a plethora of treadmill motor issues. Monthly vacuuming goes a long way in improving durability. Photo by: Jessica Jones / TreadmilReviews.net

A mini handheld vacuum is perfect to get into all the little nooks and crannies. The owner’s manual will specify frequency, but, even if you don’t use your treadmill often, remember that it’s sitting in a room where air is flowing and life is happening. Vacuuming monthly is good practice.

Circuit Board Maintenance

Although it’s not common to run into issues with the motor controller, it does happen and is preventable. A surge protector can prove an invaluable investment of just $10, especially if you plan to keep your treadmill plugged in when not in use. With that being said, if you foresee an extended period of time when you won’t be using your treadmill, you can protect the circuit board by unplugging the machine during this time. 

Proper Usage

There are some bad habits that, over time, take a toll on your treadmill motor. For starters, DC motor windings can become damaged when you attempt to make the belt move with your feet before the motor has had a chance to get things going.

It’s good practice to give your treadmill a break to allow the motor time to cool down when training at low speeds for very long training periods. To avoid disruption during these cooldown sessions, some treadmills like the NordicTrack 2450 have touch screens that tilt and pivot. This allows you to engage in off-treadmill training through iFit programming while the motor takes a break.

Dealing with Motor Problems

Purchasing the right treadmill for your training needs and following a consistent and efficient maintenance schedule will prolong the life of your motor. Being aware of warning signs is the first step in dealing with motor issues before they become serious problems. A few common indicators of trouble on the horizon include overheating, strange noises, burning smells, jams in the belt, dysfunctional speed and/or incline controls, and sparks. 

There are some tests you can perform to verify whether or not a problem is present. Less intensive tests include shaft bearing inspection and regular checkups on the motor fan. If you feel confident, a multimeter will allow you to do more advanced testing into the circuitry to confirm power supply issues. 

While some problems can be remedied easily by adding lubrication or removing dust and debris, more serious issues may necessitate replacing the motor. Whatever the problem, it’s worth it to work with a qualified technician if you don’t feel comfortable with your ability to perform mechanical maintenance yourself. 

Stay In-the-Know When Treadmill Shopping

A treadmill is a significant investment. Not only does it cost a good chunk of change, it can add years and quality to your life. Just as you’d put time and effort into shopping for a new car or a home, taking the time to understand the ins and outs of treadmill shopping is worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the treadmill motor included in the warranty?

In most cases, the treadmill motor is included in the warranty.

How do you know if a treadmill motor needs replaced?

Issues like burning smell, overheating, sparks, and a non-moving belt, when addressed early, can be fixed. When you ignore symptoms of a motor problem too long, you'll eventually need to replace the motor when it stops working.

Can you replace a treadmill motor with one that's more powerful?

No, the new motor would need to match the original.

How much does a replacement motor cost?

Whiel replacement treadmills themselves typically run $200-$300, expect to spend at least $500 including repair expenses.

How long do treadmill motors last?

Assuming you follow maintenance recommendations, you can expect a treadmill motor to last between 7-12 years.

35 Comments

  • Harbhajan DassFebruary 28, 2019 at 3:46 amfrom Dusty.ghaziabad U.P State India
    I have rebook treadmill with 1.75hp motor. Motor burnt, how much is the cost of motor, from where I can get,second can I use ac motor instead of DC motor
    • Brian MurrayDecember 30, 2019 at 7:31 pmfrom Arkansas
      An AC motor would certainly last longer, but your treadmill would not allow an upgrade to AC motor without major changes that would be cost prohibitive.
  • nagMay 23, 2019 at 6:44 amfrom VIC
    how many watts needed for power up transformer
    • Brian MurrayDecember 30, 2019 at 7:32 pmfrom Arkansas
      Depends on voltage/current requirements of your treadmill. If you have specific details of your application I could help.
  • Heather JonesMay 29, 2019 at 7:21 amfrom Bedfordshire
    I have a Proform 250 ZLT. It is several years old. Just recently, it has started cutting out. It will run for approx 20 mins at 4.5 - 5km/h. If you increase speed, the time it runs for decreases. Display and incline seem to function fine. When the belt stops, the display continues as though the belt is still running. Any idea of cause and how it can be rectified? Thanks
    • Amanda BJune 3, 2019 at 2:46 pm
      Hi Heather, sorry to hear that you are having issues with your treadmill. Unfortunately, we do not have a fix for your specific problem. Have you tried contacting ProForm support? Here's their support page: https://support.proform.com/treadmill-support/
    • JeffDecember 7, 2020 at 3:51 pmfrom Texas
      Your notes seem to indicate that the motor is getting hot or that the circuit board is getting hot. The harder it works, the faster the heat builds up. The board may be the most likely the reason for stoppage - it will stop the belt motor when temperature builds to a certain point. First issue would be to determine if the belt or board under it are wearing, causing more friction, thus more work for the system. Your manufacturer may have advice on adding (or not) some type of lubricant. Remember that lubes to reduce friction may cause problems with its ability to pull the belt under your feet.
  • FuardJune 28, 2019 at 7:48 amfrom South Africa
    I have a maxed mxe4000 treadmill. Everything works fine up to about 20min or so, then it just cuts out. I have to switch it On again.
    • Brian MurrayDecember 30, 2019 at 7:34 pmfrom Arkansas
      Could be many issues, but sounds like a motor over current problem due to not lubricating the deck regularly.
  • ShazwanAugust 1, 2019 at 9:43 amfrom Selangor
    Hi, would like to know how long can we run on a DC motor Treadmill continuously? Some people says that maximum is 45 minutes continuously. Is it true?
    • Amanda BAugust 1, 2019 at 4:29 pm
      Hi Shazwan, unfortunately we do not have this kind of information. You could try contacting the manufacturer directly as they would be better equipped to answer your question.
    • Brian MurrayDecember 30, 2019 at 7:35 pmfrom Arkansas
      You can run continuously 24/7 if you want, but the treadmill will certainly not last very long. Home treadmills are designed to run one hour per day.
  • Bernice K. ComerAugust 2, 2019 at 3:26 pmfrom Granger, Indiana
    I am looking to purchase a motor for a Tomshoo Treadmill Part no. 25T-80 motor. I received the unit brand new but the motor burned out once it was plugged in. The place of purchase would not give my money back nor an exchange. I am stuck with it. Do you know of anyone that sells motors for these Tomshoo Home Treadmills.
    • Amanda BAugust 7, 2019 at 10:25 am
      Hi Bernice, sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience. Have you tried contacting the manufacturer directly?
  • JoylieAugust 21, 2019 at 3:45 amfrom California
    Very informative thank you. I'm kind of a tall girl... and I'm overweight by about 30lbs...I'm 5'9 I weigh 203lbs and I'm trying to reach 1701bs. I'm so afraid to purchase a treadmill that may be too short for my stride. Do you have any Suggestions for someone my height?
    • Amanda BSeptember 9, 2019 at 11:53 am
      Hi Joylie, most treadmills for home use have a running surface that is between 55"-60" in length. If you are worried about a treadmill being too short for your stride, make sure you choose a treadmill with a running surface that is at least 60" in length. Our top 3 picks can be found here: https://www.treadmillreviews.net/best-treadmill/for-home-use/
  • Frank SandallSeptember 20, 2019 at 1:38 pmfrom Spokane Wa.
    how many amp & volts needed to run Preform 905 cst treadmill. 3.0 CHP Mach Z motor
    • Amanda BSeptember 25, 2019 at 2:47 pm
      Hi Frank, according to the user manual, the outlet must be on a nominal 120-volt circuit capable of carrying 15 or more amps. Hope this helps!
  • JoshOctober 27, 2019 at 11:22 am
    Hi Amanda and team, We're looking to get a home treadmill than can be used about 5 hours per week. I'm a fairly serious runner: most workouts will be about an hour, but some might occasionally be longer. Intervals at 10 mph (no incline), and I weigh 145-150 lbs. And I work out early in the a.m., so noise level is also a consideration, although not essential. What CHP would you recommend? Is 3.5 CHP adequate, or would you recommend something stronger? Thanks! Josh
    • Amanda BDecember 4, 2019 at 5:05 pm
      Hi Josh, 3.5 CHP is definitely adequate but it never hurts to get a stronger motor, especially if you see yourself increasing the length and intensity of your workouts. Our top treadmills for home use are all great options! You can see our reviews here: https://www.treadmillreviews.net/best-treadmill/for-home-use/
  • JeffFebruary 24, 2020 at 10:00 amfrom Louisville,ky
    I have T50 running on it and it just stop. Checked all wiring
  • DenisApril 12, 2020 at 4:45 pmfrom Boston
    Its nice to have a good motor, but its also nice to have a powerful circuit for it. For home use, 2.5 CHP is about the max. Home outlets are 15-20 Amps, which tops providing 2.4 CHP anyways.
  • GinnyApril 21, 2020 at 2:38 amfrom WA
    My motor burnt out, I believe. It's a 2.80 hp treadmill duty @ 130vdc motor. I am wondering if purchasing a 3.0 hp treadmill duty @ 130 vdc motor would work for my treadmill?
    • GinnyApril 21, 2020 at 2:39 amfrom WA
      And, the manufacturer doesn't have this specific motor.
      • Amanda BApril 24, 2020 at 3:56 pm
        Hi Ginny, we recommend checking with your manufacturer or a professional repair person about best options when changing the motor.
  • DR S C MISHRAJuly 20, 2020 at 3:04 amfrom Uttar Pradesh
    Interested in buying a treadmill and exercise bike for home. Can you please advise a good machine?
    • Amanda BJuly 24, 2020 at 3:11 pm
      Hi, thank you for your message. You can check out our top rated treadmills by category and price point here: https://www.treadmillreviews.net/best-treadmill/
  • CholanJuly 22, 2020 at 9:54 am
    Hi, i wish to buy a treadmill for my home use. But i am a serious walker and i am 6ft tall. I walk at max 4kmph for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. Please suggest with what specs i need to buy. DC/AC? CHP minimum? Walking width? Walking Length?
    • Amanda BJuly 24, 2020 at 2:54 pm
      Hi Cholan, you should look for a treadmill with a minimum 2.5 HP motor. Since you are on the taller side, you should look for a 20"x60" running surface. We would suggest checking out the Sole F63 or the Horizon T303. Hope this helps!
  • RajeshSeptember 28, 2020 at 6:57 am
    Hi - I have a family of 6 and all of them would use the treadmill. If we walk/run 30 mins each making it to 3 Hrs a day intermittently, how much HP of the motor I should look forward to? Max weight of one of the member is 85 Kha. Please suggest.
    • Amanda BOctober 28, 2020 at 2:30 pm
      Hi Rajesh, we would advice to get a treadmill with 3.5HP or higher. Any of the treadmills here would be great options for your family: https://www.treadmillreviews.net/best-treadmill/for-home-use/
  • KathleenOctober 3, 2020 at 3:00 am
    please could you advise me about this treadmill do you think it would be ok to buy Motorised folding running treadmill high Quality 1.25HP DC motor
    • Amanda BOctober 28, 2020 at 2:26 pm
      Hi Kathleen, it would depend on what kind of exercise you plan on doing on your treadmill and how frequently you will use it. We recommend a treadmill with a 3HP motor or higher if you plan to use it for long runs and HIIT workouts. 2HP is recommended for walking. You can check out our different round ups based on what kind of features/price range you are looking for.
  • KathleenOctober 3, 2020 at 3:04 am
    thank you for getting back to me I appreciate your advice
  • RachelFebruary 19, 2021 at 1:15 pmfrom Barry South Wales
    Hello I have this reebok treadmill in hot pink I'm gutted I think the motor has burnt out where can I purchase a new motor for this machine please?

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