Why Won’t You Fix My Flooded Unit?

With all the rain lately, we’ve been asked this quite a bit. Our answer is always the same for treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and every other piece of equipment we work on. That answer is: “the high probability of frame failure.”

If you’ve watched the news within the last month, you’re probably aware of this story involving a carnival ride in Columbus, OH that malfunctioned resulting in the untimely death of Tyler Jarrell an 18-year-old man. Legally he was a man, but really he was just a kid, about to start his senior year of high school followed by the Marine Corps after that, with his entire life ahead of him.

August 4th, 2017, in a press release, the news broke that this malfunction was due to, “catastrophic failure,” of a support beam, per the machine’s manufacturer, KMG.

Their statement elaborated, “It was determined that excessive corrosion on the interior of the gondola support beam dangerously reduced the beam’s wall thickness over the years. This finally led to a catastrophic failure of the ride during operation.”

What stood out to me about that statement was the fact they cited the frame was compromised on the interior of the machine, not the exterior. In fact, per this report, that machine was inspected and signed off on by an Ohio Department of Agriculture Inspector that very same day, prior to the malfunction.

I am not in a position to judge this inspectors ability to properly inspect these machines. All I can do is presume that this inspector, along with the numerous others that assembled the ride and looked everything over prior to it being put into service, were diligent in their inspections and fully qualified to perform them. This then leads me to believe that the damage to the frame was fully internal and was not even visible on the exterior of the machine’s frame.

Now, how does this relate to fitness equipment? Similar to carnival rides, your fitness equipment is built on a metal frame, usually steel. The exterior of these frames are powder coated to protect the metal from being exposed to moisture. This can be from a water bottle spill, or, more likely, from the sweat that falls on it during your workout. However, the interior of your machine’s frame is NOT powder coated and that bare metal is exposed to the elements. In most situations, other than environments with an abnormally high level of humidity, an interior powder coat is not necessary as the oxidation rate is extremely slow, if it occurs at all. However, once water is allowed to enter that frame, the oxidation (a form of corrosion, also known as rusting) begins immediately.

After only a few days, you can see the rust beginning to appear on the rear stabilizer bar and left stabilizer foot of a treadmill. If the powder coated exterior of this machine is rusting this bad, you can imagine how badly the unprotected internal parts of the frame have begun to rust.

Although a catastrophic failure on a piece of fitness equipment will likely be less severe, a frame failure will still likely result in injury, if not worse. As professionals in the health and fitness industry, we take our commitment to keeping you healthy seriously. By working on a machine that has been flooded at the level of or above the main framework we are putting our stamp of approval on that machine, something we are entirely unwilling to do. Other providers may not have this stance. They may tell you, and believe it themselves, that they can repair your unit. They are wrong, the effects of this oxidation on the main frame cannot be reversed to the point where the machine will be safe to use. Over time, this oxidation will eat away at the framework from the inside out.

In the event your machine is flooded and your insurance company requires proof, we will be happy to come to your home to inspect and photograph the unit so we can provide you with a document on our letterhead explaining why your machine is irreparable.

Another example of frame rust. Here you can see the rust starting to form on the front support bracket of a treadmill. Once again, this is rust forming on a coated surface.

Regardless, please stay off of ANY machines that have been exposed to water for your own safety. Risking your health and well being is not worth it. Machines are replaceable, your health and wellness are not.

Rest in peace Mr. Jarrell, and as a veteran myself, thank you for your patriotism and desire to serve our country.

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