Treadmill Maintenance and Care – How To Increase Treadmill Life


Home treadmills are a great running tool to have, because they allow you such flexibility in your running schedule. You’ve undoubtedly discovered the benefits of being able to run at any time of day or in any weather.

You may have a treadmill training routine laid out, and it’s possible that you even have your get-psyched playlist ready.

But there’s one thing many of us tend to forget about: treadmill maintenance and care.

Your treadmill can run for ages with no care whatsoever, but following just a few easy steps can increase its lifespan by years.

Why Should You Clean And Maintain Your Treadmill?

To prolong the lifespan of your treadmill and its components, you need to take good care of it. With daily or weekly use of the treadmill, regular wear and tear will start to affect its performance. To avoid problems, clean it and maintain it on a regular basis.

Along with regular cleaning, there are a few essential maintenance checks you can do on your own. This will help you to identify any technical issues with the treadmill. It will also keep treadmill noise down, as dust and dirt does build up on your treadmill and cause extra noise. By cleaning the deck, you’re reducing the amount of friction that can break the belt down over time.

Keeping the motor clean and dust-free also helps keep it running at its maximum capacity. Maintenance and cleaning not only help to keep your treadmill safe, but they can help save you money in the long run, as treadmill parts can be expensive when you need to replace something.

Here are a few tips that will help you to maintain and care for your treadmill effectively.

Care and Maintenance Treadmill Tips

1. Wear clean shoes

Before running on the treadmill, make sure that the soles of your shoes are clean. This will help prevent the transfer of dirt and dust to the deck and belt. As the dust and dirt build-up on the running surface, it prevents the belt from moving freely.

Dirt build-up can cause damage to the deck by gouging the surface or creating more friction, which will shorten the lifespan of the running belt. You may want to change the shoes you’re wearing before running if you used them outdoors. But it’s also good practice to keep your running shoes clean in the first place.

2. Lubricate the treadmill

Just as you would keep a bicycle’s drive train clean and well-lubricated, it’s important to lubricate your treadmill. This helps to reduce the friction between the belt and the motor. By lubricating your treadmill properly, you can increase the track life and prevent the belt from becoming brittle and breaking when the treadmill is started again.

If your treadmill isn’t self-lubricating, then it may have come with lubricant and a tool case for when you need to do maintenance. Read the instructions from the manufacturer carefully, as this will tell you if you need to lubricate the treadmill or not.

The instructions will indicate whether the treadmill you have requires a specific wax or silicone spray. You don’t want to use WD-40 (which is actually a solvent, and will strip away existing lubricant) or any other kind of oil lubricant on the treadmill. Oil will cause rubber parts to degrade and fail. This can cause damage or lead to premature wear and tear.

It’s also not a good idea to use Teflon, a silicon-based synthetic, unless the manufacturers instruct you to use it.

Most manufacturers will recommend that you use a product that’s 100% silicone to lubricate your treadmill. Silicone lasts longer and won’t have a negative impact on the treadmill either.

If your treadmill didn’t come with lubricant and the manufacturer says you should use 100% silicone, then you could look at using one of these products:

Check the manufacturer’s recommendation on how often to lubricate your treadmill, as this will differ with different models and brands. It will also depend on how frequently you use your treadmill, and on the lubricant you use.

It’s a good idea to lubricate every three months, or after every 130 miles. If you’re going to be storing your treadmill for a few months, then make sure to lubricate it before you do. This will prevent your belt from becoming brittle while it’s in storage.

How to lubricate a treadmill:

Check with your owner’s manual and see where you need to loosen the belt. Most treadmills have screws at the bottom end of the treadmill to loosen the tension of the belt. Make sure that the treadmill is unplugged before beginning!

Using an allen key, turn the screws 10 times on each side. The best way to do this is to turn it five times on one side first, then five on the other, and then repeat. Once the belt is loose and has some play on it, you can move on to the next steps:

  • Slide a lint-free cloth under the belt so you can clean the deck, removing dust and dirt.
  • Then slide your hand under the belt and lift it ever so slightly to allow the lubricant bottle to fit underneath.
  • Slide the tube of lubricant under the belt, as close to the center as possible, where your feet would land when running.
  • Apply the lubricant from the center to the edge of the belt on both sides of the treadmill (remember that you’re not putting the lubricant on top of the belt, but between the belt and the deck).
  • Remove the lubricant from beneath the belt.
  • Turn the power back on.
  • Run the belt at a slow speed of about 3 miles per hour for approximately 4 minutes to disperse the lubricant evenly.
  • Then unplug the treadmill again.
  • Slip your hand underneath the belt and feel the deck. If you can feel the lubrication, you can tighten the screws at the end with 10 turns again.
  • If the deck feels dry to the touch, you can add more lubrication and run the treadmill again.

Once your treadmill deck has been lubricated, make sure to tighten the screws on the end again. Tighten one side at a time so that the uneven tension doesn’t pull it out of alignment.

3. Vacuum inside the motor area

At least once a month, vacuum or clean around the motor compartment.

Once you’ve unplugged the treadmill, check the owner’s manual so that you can open the compartment that houses the motor. This will also provide guidelines for the best way for you to clean the motor compartment.

Vacuum carefully to remove dust and debris that may have gotten to the motor. If you don’t want to use the vacuum cleaner, then you can use a lint-free cloth to wipe and remove any dust.

While you’re cleaning, you can always use the vacuum cleaner to clean under the treadmill as well. Once you’re done, close the motor compartment, plug the treadmill in and let it run for a minute.

4. Wipe down deck and belt

I know it may seem like a lot of hard work to take care of your treadmill, but it’s worth it in the long run. Even if you’re the only person using the treadmill at home, you should clean it after every use. This will benefit both you and the treadmill.

Wiping down the deck and belt surface will remove any moisture that could be the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to any number of illnesses or infections. Sweat contains salt, acids and water, which can damage or corrode the treadmill.

If you use the built-in heart rate sensors, clean them regularly too, as the build-up of oils from hands and dust can interrupt the signal. This can lead to inaccurate readings of your heart rate while exercising.

You should also check the manufacturer’s manual, as often under the warranty they’ll state something like, “This warranty shall NOT apply to the following: Failure to provide reasonable and necessary maintenance as outlined in the Owner’s Manual.”

After your workout, use either a damp cloth or a slightly wet sponge to wipe the machine down. You can use a lint-free towel to make sure that no moisture is left behind on the treadmill.

Avoid using chemicals that contain bleach or peroxide, as these can damage the treadmill or rub off onto your skin the next time you exercise, which could lead to a rash.

5. Keep belt centered and aligned

When you get on to the treadmill, make a habit of looking down and checking that there’s an even space between the treadmill belt and the foot rails. If you’re running and it starts to feel awkward or as if the belt is moving too much, check the space as the belt could be slipping towards one side.

Check which side it’s pulling toward, and only tighten the roller bolt on the side that the belt is sliding away from. Check what the owner’s manual states about how to adjust and align the belt, as it will differ from brand to brand.

Some manufacturers may want you to leave the belt running slowly as you make the adjustments, while other brands will want you to make adjustments with the belt at a standstill. The owner’s manual will tell you what you should do.

Some treadmills allow you to re-center the belt by tightening the roller bolt at the end of the treadmill on the side that the belt is sliding away from.

If you’ve followed the instructions, made adjustments to the belt and it’s still not centering, then don’t keep tightening the rear rollers. Sometimes the front rollers or even deck springs may be the cause of the problem. If you’re unsure, call the manufacturer’s support line and ask for assistance.

6. Maintain belt tension

With use, the belt will start to stretch. It will become loose as its tension on the deck decreases. If it feels like you’re slipping or that the belt is skipping around, then you may have to adjust the tension of the belt.

This is done by tightening the tension bolts at the end of the treadmill. Be careful not to tighten the belt too much, as this can cause damage. Check what the manufacturers recommend in the owner’s manual. Otherwise, it’s best to use ¼ turn increments to adjust the belt.

After making each ¼ turn adjustment, test the treadmill out at a speed of 3 mph before making further adjustments. This will help you to slowly get the tension on the belt right without over-tightening it.

7. Replace belt

Check your belt every three months for signs of wear and tear. To do this, slip your hand under the belt and feel the underside. If it feels worn and rough, then you may need to replace it.

Take a look at the seam, too, to see if it’s starting to tear or fray, as this can be a vulnerable spot on the belt. Sometimes you’ll notice that there’s wear and tear at the seam first, so it’s always good to check that area thoroughly.

If the belt feels worn or you’ve noticed that it’s starting to fray, check the warranty. The belt may still be covered. If you haven’t replaced a treadmill belt before, then it’s best to call a repairman and have them install it.

This will help maintain a warranty on the new belt, but more importantly, you don’t want to damage the deck or springs trying to replace the belt yourself.

8. Get a treadmill mat for underneath

When you set up your treadmill, make sure that you put it on top of a treadmill mat. This will help keep dust, dirt, and pet dander from getting on to the belt, deck and in the motor compartment.

It also adds some additional protection and cuts down on the vibration and noise when you’re running on the treadmill. The mat will help keep the treadmill in place and you’ll find that it won’t inch forward while you’re running on it.

A treadmill mat protects the floor from the force of the treadmill feet, too. The combined the force of the runner and the weight of the treadmill can easily damage wooden floors, and sometimes tile, too. A mat will prevent the machine’s feet from scuffing, denting or even chipping the surface beneath it.

9. Frame nuts and bolts

Whether you’re walking, jogging, sprinting or using your treadmill for HIIT, you should check the frame and all the bolts once a month. The vibration that’s created from running on the treadmill can cause the frame’s nuts and bolts to come loose, which could be a disaster waiting to happen.

You can use the allen key or adjustment wrench that came with the treadmill to make sure that they’re all tight. You should check that any nuts or bolts that attach to the console are also tightened.

This will allow you to run with confidence on the treadmill and will prevent any nut or bolt from coming loose entirely.

10. Electronics

Dust can be the worst enemy to an electronic board, as it acts as an insulator. This can cause the electronic board to overheat. It could also cause a short circuit by clogging up integrated circuit boards, especially if the dust contains conductive materials.

Before you decide where you’re going to put the treadmill in the house, make sure that the plug will be able to provide the required amount of electricity it needs to operate. You may want to plug the treadmill into a surge protector, as this will protect the electronics from being damaged by any unexpected power surges.

Even if you have a surge protector, it’s still a good idea to unplug your treadmill after every use, just to be safe.

11. Call a professional

Simple things like cleaning and lubing the belt or making sure the deck is tight are quick and easy DIY tasks. Other parts of these highly sophisticated machines really are best left to professionals. If your treadmill is still under warranty, call the manufacturing company and have them send someone to come and have a look at it.

Don’t try and fix a problem yourself, especially when it can lead to more damage, and specifically when it comes to the following:

  • Motor
  • Console
  • Belt
  • Deck
  • Rollers

There are some troubleshooting tips in the owner’s manual for common problems, but if they don’t resolve the issue, call for help. Customer service should be able to connect you with a technician. They can talk you through the various options to resolve the problem and if that doesn’t work, they can schedule a call-out.

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Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.