Home Treadmill Maintenance and Care

Regular maintenance helps your treadmill last longer

A home treadmill is a big investment, but this equipment can help you maintain a regular fitness routine. Regular treadmill maintenance will keep your machine running well for years to come. Here, Dan Thompson of Huff-n-Puff Fitness Repair in the Chicago area shares his advice on caring for and maintaining your home treadmill.

Runner's feet on home treadmill
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How to Maintain Your Treadmill

Maintaining your treadmill is the key to making sure you get the most out of your machine and reduce the risk of malfunctions and other problems. With regular treadmill maintenance, you can make sure your fitness routine remains consistent and uninterrupted.

Pay attention to how your treadmill feels with each use. If the machine is running rough or you see, feel, or hear rubbing or scraping, discontinue use until you determine the problem.

Lubricate: 1 to 4 Times Yearly

Thompson recommends lubricating your treadmill belt once a year at a minimum. Depending on the frequency, amount of use, and the type of lubricant used, your treadmill may need to be lubed more often. Some experts recommend doing it every three months.

The treadmill manufacturer will likely provide instructions for how to lubricate the belt in the manual for your specific machine. The process generally involves applying a silicone- or paraffin-based lubricant to the underside of the treadmill belt, especially in the area where your feet make the most contact. Avoid applying it to the walking surface of the belt.

You may have to loosen the belt before applying the lubricant and then retighten it after you're finished. Thompson warns against using WD-40 to lubricate your treadmill, as it can destroy a belt very quickly.

Vacuum: Weekly

At least once a week, you should vacuum the area around the machine and underneath if possible. If you use your treadmill regularly, dust and debris will accumulate at the rear of the machine. A small portion of it is from the walking belt, but the majority of it is from the soles of your shoes.

You should also vacuum inside the machine at least once a year. Before removing the motor cover to vacuum inside the motor compartment, turn off and unplug the machine. Be very careful around all the delicate electrical components, making sure not to touch them with your vacuum nozzle.

Check for Wear: Weekly

About once a week, you should check the walking belt and deck for signs of wear. You'll also want to make sure that the belt is centered and straight. It does not need to be aligned perfectly, but it should not be scraping or rubbing on the sides. Keeping the belt centered will help to ensure your treadmill is working efficiently.

If you notice your treadmill is slowing down without you adjusting the speed, or you feel like you're slipping, a misaligned belt is likely the culprit. A crooked belt can also quickly become frayed and damaged, breaking down much faster than it otherwise should.

About once a month, check the frame nuts and bolts to ensure they are tightened and that the uprights attaching the console to the frame are secure. According to Thompson, it is not uncommon for them to vibrate loose with regular use. A walking belt adjustment wrench should have been provided with your machine when you purchased it; otherwise, your owner's manual should list the size required.

Replace the belt once it is worn and rough to increase the lifespan of the treadmill as a whole.

Clean: With Each Use

Wipe down your machine after every use. If you usually work up a sweat, this step is even more important. As moisture builds up inn and on the machine, it can promote rusting of metal parts and harbor bacterial and fungal growth. While a wet cloth can typically get the job done, you may want to purchase a home treadmill cleaning kit as well.

Install a Mat

Using a mat under your machine is more to protect your treadmill's surroundings than the treadmill itself. A treadmill mat will keep your flooring from becoming damaged and help keep any noise at bay if your treadmill setup is in a second-story room. Having a mat in place can also help keep pet hair and excess dust from accumulating on your machine, as well as make it easier to vacuum the floor around it.

Try to keep the area around the machine as free of pet hair as possible. Treadmill mats are a great way to minimize the amount of pet hair, carpet fibers, dirt, and dust that get into the motor compartment. Foreign debris can wreak havoc on your motor and motor control board, resulting in costly repairs.

Monitor and Safeguard Electrical Components

Always keep an eye (and nose) out for any electrical problems. If you ever notice a burning smell while using your treadmill, stop using it immediately and unplug it from the wall before investigating what's causing it (dust under the motor, an object lodged under the belt, etc.). You should never ignore a burning smell, as it could quickly become a fire hazard.

You can also protect your treadmill's electronic components by plugging it into a surge protector, to keep it safe during power surges and outages. Check the machine's power cords regularly as well, observing for any damage or signs that they need to be replaced.

When to Call a Pro

Your treadmill user's manual likely covers common treadmill issues, along with troubleshooting solutions. Depending on your mechanical and electrical comfort levels, you can attempt treadmill maintenance yourself and get help with the calibration from your manufacturer's customer support line, Thompson says.

TreadmillDoctor.com also has a comprehensive list of certified service providers around the U.S. and Canada. If you remove your machine's motor cover and immediately think you are in too deep, it is probably best to call a professional.

As with any other specialty piece of equipment, a professional repair technician will be able to spot problems that may not be immediately apparent. Treadmill repairs, diagnostic services, and replacement parts can be costly, so it's always best to try to resolve an issue before it evolves into a bigger problem.

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  1. Durability Matters. How to maintain your treadmill—The complete guide.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.