Buying a treadmill is often a large investment.
Unless you manage to find a great second-hand deal you’ll most likely have to pay over $1000 on a new piece of equipment, some treadmills even go for as much as $5000!
This is why treadmill maintenance is so important. Cleaning, lubricating, adjusting, servicing are all part of the process to add years to the lifespan of your treadmill.
The treadmill belt is the main area of wear and tear, and one that you should definitely take care of at home. You should look also look after the motor, the deck, and the frame of your machine.
We’ll look at the following:
- Why worry about maintenance?
- Check your treadmill’s user manual
- Maintaining the treadmill belt
- Replacement belts
- Treadmill motor maintenance
- Cleaning your treadmill
- Protect yourself and your treadmill
1. Why is treadmill maintenance important?
As we mentioned before, when it comes to home gym equipment, treadmills are among the most expensive products you can buy.
For this reason alone you should be regularly cleaning and maintaining the belt, motor, and frame of your treadmill.
How long should a treadmill last?
Most treadmills should last from 8 – 12 years, but with proper care and maintenance, this could easily be over 15 years. If you can make your treadmill last 15 years rather than 8 you’ve essentially halved the price of it!
Not only this though, treadmill maintenance will make your treadmill safer.
According to the CPSC, treadmills are the cause of nearly 25,000 accidents per year making them the piece of equipment which causes the most injuries each year.
Many of the accidents are caused by poor maintenance of the treadmill such as belt misalignment, belt wear, or debris and dirt getting caught in the motor and treadmill deck.
2. Check your treadmill’s user manual
The first step you should take before touching your treadmill with any tools, lubricants, or cleaning products is to read the user manual.
All treadmills are built differently, which means they’ll all have slightly different maintenance and upkeep requirements.
The type of treadmill you have may affect:
- Which lubricant you should use for the belt and deck
- How often you should change the belt
- Whether you can flip the belt or not (some are double-sided)
- How often you need to perform maintenance checks
3. Maintaining the treadmill belt
The treadmill belt is the part of the treadmill that suffers the most wear and tear and therefore requires the most hands-on maintenance.
There are many things to take note of so we have divided them into four clear areas of interest: lubrication, alignment, tension, belt replacement.
Keeping your treadmill belt well-lubricated will not only help with the longevity of the belt but also the protection of other moving parts of the treadmill and the quality of your runs.
Types of lubricant
Many people ask if they can use any lubricating liquid such as WD-40 for their treadmills.
The answer however is no, please do not do this.
Most treadmills require a lubricant that is 100% silicone, although there are some that require paraffin wax. This is again why we recommend to read your user guide thoroughly.
There are even some treadmills that require no lubrication at all due to the high-performance lubrication used in manufacturing, and adding extra lubricant would cause more damage than it would do good.
How often should I lubricate my treadmill?
The answer to this depends more on how much you use your treadmill. For an average user (say 3 30-minute runs per week), you should look to lubricate the deck every 3 – 6 months.
How to apply treadmill lubricant
Treadmill lubricant goes between the deck and the belt, and the application process goes like this:
- If necessary, loosen the belt so you have enough room to slide your hand under it. Some may already have enough space to do so.
- Some people recommend giving the deck a quick wipe to get rid of the dust, like in this video here. This is not always necessary.
- Apply a small amount of lubricant across the width of the belt in the area which you run on.
- Put the treadmill at a slow walking pace and spread the lubricant by walking.
This video explains the process very clearly.
How to align the treadmill belt
For this part, you’ll need to find yourself an Allen wrench (Allen key).
Firstly, no-one runs in a straight line so over time your belt will become slightly misaligned. To center it again is a fairly simple process.
Alignment issues could also be caused by an uneven surface for your treadmill (i.e. if it is on an angle), so make sure to check that it is level with the floor.
If your belt is misaligned to the left (and you want to move it to the right), using the Allen wrench on the back panels of the treadmill deck:
- Turn the wrench on the left side clockwise.
- Turn the wrench on the right side counter-clockwise.
If your belt is misaligned to the right (and you want to move it to the left), using the Allen wrench on the back panels of the treadmill deck:
- Turn the wrench on the left side counter-clockwise.
- Turn the wrench on the right side clockwise.
Again, here is a video demonstration.
Walking Belt Tension
A slipping belt can be dangerous and also will make your experience worse. You can check if your belt is slipping with the following test.
- Run your treadmill at a very slow walking pace.
- Hold onto the handrails and stomp your foot fairly hard (basically an excessively hard step).
- If your belt slips slightly forward or to the sides, then you’ll want to adjust the belt tension.
As with centering the belt, the belt tension is adjusted with an Allen wrench via the two back panels of the treadmill deck. Rotate each of them a quarter turn clockwise and then retest the belt tension. Continue as needed.
Eventually, you’ll need to replace your treadmill belt once it becomes worn out.
How often should I replace the treadmill belt?
A belt should be replaced as soon as you notice significant wear and tear or damage. If well looked after and used an average amount, this could be up to 10 years or longer. If you run many miles on your treadmill and are not as careful with maintenance, you could reduce the lifespan of the belt significantly.
The most important point is to regularly check for damage and wear.
How to know if the belt needs replacing
Typical signs of damage are:
- Fraying edges
- The seam is showing signs of damage like tears or fraying
- The belt (on either side) feels uneven (smooth in places and rougher in others)
How much will a new belt cost?
A standard treadmill belt can cost anywhere between $200 – $500.
How to replace a treadmill belt?
Replacing a treadmill belt is not quite as easy as adjusting of tightening the belt, but don’t worry since it is not as difficult as it sounds. It will require about an hour to complete from start to finish.
Here is a thorough video from Sears that explains how most treadmill belts can be replaced (as always, make sure to double-check your manual.)
4. Treadmill motor maintenance
We won’t dive too deep into motor maintenance, as it requires a bit more than your basic DIY skills. However, there is one thing that you can do to ensure your motor continues to run smoothly…cleaning.
Make sure to remove your motor cover, located at the front of the treadmill, at least once every couple of months. Check for any debris such as dirt, hair, and dust. Using a duster, dry cloth or a vacuum cleaner, try to remove as much of this as possible. Be very careful not to touch any of the wiring as you may cause damage.
Remember to turn off your treadmill and unplug when doing this.
5. Cleaning your treadmill
You need to regularly clean your treadmill by using a damp cloth and a vacuum cleaner.
After every run use a damp cloth to wipe off the sweat from the handles, console, belt, and deck. You can also use the cloth to remove as much dust from the treadmill as possible, as this dust will over time be picked up by the belt and end up in the motor compartment.
It is also worthwhile lifting up the treadmill deck into a vertical position so you can clean the underside of the deck and the floor beneath the treadmill.
It is also possible to clean between the deck and the belt as seen in this video.
Lastly, avoid using too many soaps and chemicals as these may actually cause damage to your machine.
6. Protect yourself and your treadmill
Here are our final tips we have for you to look after your treadmill, some of which are also there to protect yourself while you use your machine.
- Surge protector: a surge protector can protect the electrical components of your treadmill.
- Treadmill mat: a rubber treadmill mat can help in a variety of ways to:
- Protect the floor beneath your treadmill
- Make your treadmill use quieter
- Stop as much dust and dirt accumulating beneath the treadmill deck
- Check screws regularly: screws can easily loosen over time, so make sure to check and tighten the various parts of your treadmill.
- Storage: make sure to keep your treadmill in a dry, clean place with little humidity or dust.
- Inspect regularly: for your own safety and the longevity of your treadmill, try to inspect it at least once per week.
- Clean surrounding areas: one of the most effective ways to stop your treadmill and its motor getting dirty is to make sure the room it is in is also clean.