Nothing beats the safety and convenience of a personal treadmill. Sure, it may not be the most engaging way to workout, but there’s peace of mind knowing that you have a warm, dry, safe place to run at any point during the day or night. Of course, that’s assuming it’s working correctly. There’s nothing worse than hopping on your treadmill only to find it’s not running smoothly, or worse, not working at all.
A treadmill needs regular maintenance to ensure it’s running properly and maximize its lifespan. One of the easiest ways you can (yes, I mean you can do this!) keep up with routine maintenance is lubricating your treadmill belt. Here’s everything you need to know on how to do it.
What Is a Treadmill Belt?
Lubricating your belt is a simple and easy task, but it helps to understand basic treadmill terminology and anatomy. The treadmill belt (also known as a running or walking belt) is a circular piece of rubber that wraps freely around two rollers on either end of the treadmill and the stationary treadmill deck. The belt is the actual surface that moves when you run. When the treadmill is on, the motor rotates the front roller, also called the drive roller, which carries the belt over the deck and rear roller.
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Why You Should Lubricate Your Treadmill Belt
Every time you step on the treadmill belt, it presses against the walking deck and creates friction between the belt and the deck, explains Jon Fasulo, owner of TreadmillFixation, a full-service treadmill repair company based in the Philadelphia area. “The more friction you have, the harder the motor is going to have to work, which can cause premature failure to the motor and motor controller,” explains Fasulo. Lubrication acts as a buffer to reduce the friction between the deck and belt and prevent excess motor and controller stress.
Scott Eastman, senior test lab manager at Nautilus, advises you to read the owner's or service manual first to determine the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most manuals will instruct you on how to lubricate your treadmill and how frequently. Fasulo echoes Eastman’s recommendation of consulting the owner’s manual first and adds that some high-end residential and commercial brands such as NordicTrack, Spirit, Precor and Life Fitness have maintenance-free belts that do not need to lubricated. He warns, “Some manufacturers could threaten to void warranties if you don't follow their recommendations.”
Knowing When You Should Lubricate Your Treadmill Belt
How frequently you need to lubricate your belt depends on the manufacturer and can range from 25 to 180 hours of use. Typically your owner’s manual will give you a frequency interval for your particular model. Fasulo advises it’s “better to lubricate less (volume) more frequently than a lot (of volume) much less frequently.” One way to tell if it’s time to lubricateis to lift up the edges of the belt and feel between it and the deck. Eastman says, “you should feel some slipperiness due to lubricant on the underside of the belt. If it doesn’t feel slick, you should lubricate it.” A mistake many people make is only feeling under the edges of the belt. The edges often have adequate lubrication, while the center can be dry. This is because heat can cause the lubrication to evaporate and dissipate more quickly under areas of high use while remaining under areas of less usage.
How to Lubricate Your Treadmill Belt
If you’re not a do-it-yourself person, don’t worry; Eastman and Fasulo say lubricating your belt is a quick and easy task anyone can handle. No removal of parts is necessary. They recommend allotting 5 to 10 minutes for your first time. Over time, as you get more comfortable, it should only take a minute or two. You’ll need to purchase 100-percent silicone lubricants. Non-silicone lubricants such as WD40 contain additives that could potentially damage the belt.
Fasulo advises getting a bottle with an extendable nozzle, such as Spot On Treadmill Lubricant or Godora Treadmill Lubricant. This makes it easier to apply lubricant to the center of the treadmill belt without disrupting the belt tension. You can also buy a treadmill belt lubrication kit such as the Lube-N-Walk Deluxe Treadmill Maintenance Kit, which requires the user to add silicone lubricant to foam applied to a long piece of flexible plastic and then draw it along the underside of the belt. However, this method is not as easy as using 100-percent silicone spray.
Before applying the lubricant, it’s vital to unplug your treadmill from all electrical power before putting your hands underneath the belt. It’s also wise to cover the surrounding floor with disposable paper or towels to prevent lubricant from dripping on the ground. Depending on the brand of 100-percent silicone lubricant you buy, the application pattern and quantity may vary. Fasulo says the pattern doesn’t matter. “The most important thing is making an application underneath where each foot would be on the treadmill.” He acknowledges that lubricant manufacturers tend to overprescribe how much lubricant is needed. Fasulo says to use half an ounce, maybe a full ounce if the belt is partially dry of lubrication between both sides. Applying too much lubricant can cause it to leak out the sides and onto the belt and deck and on the floor around your treadmill. If you buy Godora’s 16oz Treadmill Lubricant, it comes with a syringe that will dispense the desired volume of lubricant.
Be careful about keeping the nozzle away from the top of the treadmill belt. If lubricant gets on the running surface, it is very difficult to remove. Once the lubricant has been applied, plug the treadmill back into the power outlet and walk on the treadmill for two to three minutes at a very slow walking speed. This will distribute the lubricant throughout the belt.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Lubricating a Treadmill Belt
Step 2: Cover the surrounding floor with disposable paper or towels to prevent lubricant from getting on your floor
Step 3: Unplug the treadmill from all electrical power
Step 4: Lift up the edge of the belt and apply a half ounce to an ounce of lubricant underneath the center of the belt where your feet would be
Step 5: Plug the treadmill back into electrical power
Step 6: Walk for two to three minutes at a very slow walking pace
Cory Smith is a running coach and journalist specializing in running and fitness-related content and gear reviews. He is the founder of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business that has helped hundreds of runners achieve personal bests in distances ranging from 800 meters to 100 miles. Cory holds a USA Track & Field Level 1 and 2 Endurance Certification and was the former Head Cross Country/Track Coach at Penn State Brandywine. Over his running career, Cory has held three Maryland state records, was a two-time National Championship qualifier while at Villanova University, and holds personal bests of 4:03 in the mile and an 8:05 in the 3K.