A treadmill is an expensive piece of equipment. We don’t want expensive things to break because fixing them is expensive too. So how can we make the treadmills last longer?
Most important treadmill maintenance tips
Below is a full guide for anything and everything you have to maintain on your treadmill and how to do it. However, here are the most important things when it comes to maintaining a treadmill at home.
- Wipe down after use
- Clean the whole machine
- Check belt and rollers regularly
- Lubricate the deck
For more details and things you have to maintain on a treadmill, keep reading.
Treadmill maintenance: Mechanical
Here’s what you do to maintain the mechanical parts of a treadmill.
Before you start with any maintenance, do an inspection;
- Just start by checking the belt, rollers and deck.
- Do a visual inspection and look for cracks, and other signs of wear.
- Turn on the mill and see if the belt is aligned straight. If the belt rubs on either side it can wear the belt really quickly.
- Listen for any squeaks and other noises that shouldn’t be there.
- Run on it for a little bit and see if the belt moves smoothly.
The most important maintenance you can do on a treadmill has to do with the running belt. Since the belt and all the related parts are the most important moving parts of a treadmill, it’s the most important part to take care of. It’s the part you’re running on after all.
Since other than the belt, rollers and motor, there aren’t that many moving parts, this is where the bulk of maintenance has to be done.
The most important piece of maintenance of a treadmill is lubricating the running belt. Luckily it’s not too difficult so everyone can do it. Here’s how;
- Unplug your treadmill
- Have lubricant ready
- Lift up the belt with one hand
- Spray the whole width of the belt.
- It’s the easiest to do half from one side, then move over to the other side and do the other half.
You’ll only need a lubricant. Most manufacturers recommend their own special lubricant. So take a look at your owner’s manual to find out which one is good for your machine.
I won’t recommend that you go against your treadmill manufacturers recommendations. Most manufacturers recommend a simple 100% silicone lubricant however. That means there are plenty of options available;
While it is the most important and common treadmill maintenance, a home treadmill shouldn’t have to be done too frequently. With moderate use, once a month should be enough. Of course if you notice your treadmill needs more frequent lubrication, do it.
Adjusting belt tension
Next up is adjusting belt tension. This shouldn’t have to be done very often but it can happen. Machines should come with the correct tension from the factory. However with use, belts can stretch out and become too loose. You only need to lose a little bit of tension for it to become a problem. If the tension is too low, it can start slipping, which doesn’t give a good feel while running and could even be dangerous.
Adjusting the tension too high isn’t good either. The higher tension will put more stress on the rollers and motor, causing them to wear quicker.
The tension should be as low as possible while still being high enough to prevent the belt from slipping. To test this, turn on the treadmill on a low speed. Then use your foot to push against the movement. If it slips too easily, you have to adjust it.
Tension adjustment is pretty easy on most models.
- There are two bolts on the front (where you step up) of the treadmill. Usually they’re hidden in a hole on both sides of the belt.
- Tightening these bolts will tighten the belt and vice versa.
- Make sure you adjust the bolts the same amount on both sides.
- Go slow and test with every adjustment.
Align the belt
Finally we get to aligning the belt. In rare cases, the belt doesn’t run straight on the rollers. If you don’t correct this quickly, it can deteriorate the belt and other parts pretty quickly.
There are different reasons that can cause this. Some people are uneven runners. That means they push harder with one leg than the other. This can push the belt out of alignment over time.
Another reason is that the rollers are not adjusted evenly. That’s why it’s important to adjust both sides equally when adjusting tension.
Finally a belt can go out of alignment because it’s not level. Maybe the surface it’s put on isn’t level/solid or the adjustment of the feet is off. Either way, if it isn’t straight, neither will the belt be.
To check if the belt is aligned properly, just turn it on, run/walk on it and look down. If it doesn’t run in the middle of the machine, it needs an adjustment. You can also turn on the treadmill without anyone on in and check that way.
- If the belt is misaligned, use the same bolt as for the tension to adjust.
- The side the belt drifts to has lower tension. So if it drifts right, tighten the right side and loosen the left side half as much.
- E.G. If you tighten the right bolt a quarter turn, you loosen the left bolt an eight turn.
- If the belt is centered when it rotates, the adjustment is correct. If not, keep making small adjustments until it is.
Make sure the overall tension is correct once you’re done.
There isn’t much maintenance you can do to the motor. I mention it here because it’s the most expensive part to change.
Taking care of the belt and keeping the machine clean is the best maintenance you can do to the motor. Keeping the resistance to the motor as low as possible keeps it cooler and makes it last longer. Anything that has to work harder to do the same thing will last shorter.
That’s why keeping everything clean, lubricated and running smoothly will make your treadmill motor happy and last longer.
Treadmill maintenance: Electronics
The mechanical maintenance items are the most obvious. Treadmills also have quite a bit of electronics though. Maintenance is what you can do to keep you treadmill working as new. With mechanical maintenance it’s easy to see the relationship between maintenance and machine lifespan. Add some lube, hear less squeaking. Easy.
Electronics don’t quite work in that way. Cleaning electronics with some water and lubricating them isn’t going to do much good. However, there are a lot of advanced electronics in modern treadmills. So what can you do?
With electronics you can’t do much more than prevention. Here’s what you can do;
- Only plug your treadmill into a grounded outlet.
- Unplug after use
- Put a surge protector in between the treadmill and outlet
- Doing the mechanical maintenance will keep the stress on the motor lower.
- Keep dust and dirt out. Regular cleaning and a mat under the treadmill will help a lot
- Keep the treadmill away from extreme cold and heat. If your garage freezes in the winter, you treadmill isn’t really at home there.
Other than that, there isn’t much you can do to maintain the electronics of a treadmill.
Treadmill maintenance: Cleaning
Some maintenance involves cleaning and sometimes you just want to clean the treadmill. A sweaty treadmill is not very nice to use. But what is the right way to do it? It’s not rocket science but there are a few things you should keep in mind;
Treadmills are workout equipment. That means people sweat on them. That’s the most important reason to clean. That’s not the only reason though.
Cleaning can be seen as a kind of maintenance. Especially for the moving parts, cleaning is an essential part of keeping it in working order.
Dust and debris gets between the belt and rollers, into the bearing, possibly into the motor
Keeping a mat under your treadmill will prevent a lot of dust and dirt from making it into the treadmill. Read here about why you need a treadmill mat.
What you need:
There are a few things you need to clean your treadmill.
- Vacuum cleaner
- Bucket with water and mild detergent
How to do it:
- Unplug the treadmill from the wall socket. Cleaning requires a little water. Combining water and electronics is not a great idea.
- Start with vacuuming all the dust and debris off the machine. Everything you can get off without using water is good. A vacuum cleaner also helps you get dust and debris out of creases and crevices that are hard to get to otherwise.
- Vacuum the area around and under the treadmill. This prevents dust from immediately landing on the treadmill again after cleaning it.
- Don’t use too much water. Having a bucket of water with detergent is fine but wring out the cloth you’re using to clean before using. Make sure the cloth is just damp so water doesn’t get into the treadmill. Water in the wrong places can cause a whole host of problems.
- Wipe down all the surfaces you can get to.
- After cleaning, make sure the space is well ventilated. This way the moisture left on (and possibly in) the treadmill has the best chance of evaporating.
- If your treadmill has a big display, using screen wipes can help you clean it without leaving streaks.
If too much water is used, you run the risk that mold builds up in certain spaces. Especially if liquid got into the treadmill. That’s why using less water and ventilating after cleaning is important.
If you notice mold forming, don’t use aggressive chemicals to remove it. The materials can’t handle them. Just wipe the mold off as best you can. Then, to remove any spores, wipe the area down diluted vinegar. That should take care of it.
Using lubricant in the locations where you can (see above), it will greatly reduce the chance that mold grows in those spots. Lubricants are chemical products which molds don’t really like.
In very humid climates, mold can just form even if everything is done right otherwise. Basements are often very humid and prone to mold growing for example. If that’s the case for you, you can do two things.
- You can move the treadmill to another space that has lower humidity.
- You can lower the humidity in the space. Better ventilation is good but air-conditioning would be perfect for this reason.
Besides maintenance, there are some other things you can consider. Maintenance is necessary and helps a lot but sometimes it’s not enough. What can you do then?
This guide is about maintenance, not about fixing things. All the maintenance in the world isn’t going to prevent things from breaking. Even with maintenance, some things just wear out and break. Sure, many parts will last (much) longer is you maintain them properly but nothing has eternal life. Sooner or later, something will break. Hopefully that happens after 50 years but you never know.
Another reason things break is manufacturer defects. In general, higher quality products will have less of these but there are very few products where 10000 units have zero problems. It can happen. Maintenance isn’t going to help fix those defects.
For both those reasons, it’s good to have a decent warranty.
Since things can happen even with proper maintenance, having a machine with good warranty is very useful.
Warranty can cover you if something does go wrong.
However, having good warranty doesn’t mean you can forget any maintenance. Most treadmills will come with an owner’s manual that outlines exactly what you have to maintain. If something breaks and you didn’t maintain it as per the owner’s manual, that could void the warranty.
The quality of the warranty really depends on the brand and model. Check here which treadmills come with the best warranty.
Don’t try to fix it yourself
At some point, maintenance isn’t going to help anymore. If it’s broken it’s broken. Putting new oil in an engine that’s already blown isn’t going to help.
When a treadmill is broken, it’s advisable not to fix it yourself. Anything you do will void the warranty. The warranty will likely cover what is broken so you don’t have to get your hands dirty.
If the warranty has already run out you could give it a try. However, keep in mind that many things under the hood of a treadmill have electric current running through them. So at the very least, unplug the machine and make sure that you haven’t created something really dangerous.
However, even outside of warranty, I can’t recommend trying to fix it yourself. I’m sure there are some people out there that can do it. However, most people probably shouldn’t if they want to have a good working treadmill.
How long should a treadmill last? How long a treadmill lasts really depends on the quality. Even a cheap treadmill should last about 10 years with higher quality treadmills lasting longer. To make sure your machine keeps working as long as possible, maintain it and keep it clean.
Can you put a treadmill on carpet? You can but it will damage the carpet over time. It also causes more dust to build up on the treadmill. It’s better to use a mat under the treadmill to protect your flooring and keep dust away. Having a mat under your treadmill will also make the machine quieter since fewer vibrations are transmitted.
How long does a treadmill belt last? Without proper maintenance, a treadmill belt can deteriorate very quickly. However, with proper maintenance, a treadmill belt should last anywhere from 2-5 years with regular use. Higher quality treadmills usually come with belts that last longer.
Favorite Cardio Machine Accessories
Check out these accessories that improve a home cardio workout:
- Equipment mat: All cardio equipment should be put on an equipment mat. The Rubber-Cal mat (Amazon) is an affordable yet very high quality choice.
- Interval timer: To time your intervals and workouts, there is no better choice than the GymNext Flex. It’s super easy to use and set up with a phone app.
- Tablet holder: Cardio can be boring. With this tablet holder (Amazon) you can follow along with on-demand workouts or just watch a movie on any cardio machine.
- Heart rate monitor: Monitoring your heart rate is very important while doing cardio. The Polar H10 (Amazon) connects to almost anything you can imagine and is very accurate.
To find which cardio machines I recommend for home gyms, click here.