How Do You Lubricate a Treadmill?

Treadmill Lubricant - Two bottles with applicatorIf you’re like most people you have probably never considered the importance of lubricating your treadmill. Treadmills are one of the most popular types of fitness equipment, both in commercial gyms and home gyms, but they require regular maintenance in order to continue functioning properly. At the top of that maintenance list is lubricating the belt, yet many people overlook this crucial step or don’t know how to do it properly. Considering that the purchase of a treadmill for your home gym can be a considerable investment, the importance of regular belt lubrication cannot be emphasized enough.

Simply put, a few minutes of regular maintenance can help to save you a lot of money in the long run. With proper lubrication, most treadmills can operate smoothly for years, allowing you to get the most out of that investment. Learning how to lubricate a treadmill is quick and easy so there’s very little reason not to do it and it can help you to get a more comfortable and effective workout, so it’s well worth the small amount of time and effort involved.

You can begin by asking yourself a few key questions:

Why do I need to lubricate my treadmill?

That’s the primary question that most treadmill owners ask. Why bother lubricating in the first place? In order to answer this, you have to look more closely at how a treadmill works. As you walk or run on the treadmill, it causes friction between the belt and the deck. The more friction is put on the belt, the more electricity the treadmill has to draw in order to keep running and that means that the motor, brushes, and other mechanics of the machine are working overtime. At the same time the drive belt and the deck surface sustain more wear and will eventually need to be replaced. Lubrication helps avoid all of those issues.

Another consideration when it comes to regularly lubricating your treadmill is storage. Many times, fitness machines that are used in the home have to be folded up and stored between uses. If the belt is not properly lubricated it could become brittle while being stored and break when the machine is restarted. You can save yourself the headache and expense of purchasing a new belt or a new machine by simply buying and using a lubricant.

Now you may have come across some treadmill models that claim to be “no maintenance” or self lubricating, but even if you have one of these it’s always a good idea to pay attention to the condition of your belt and take any necessary steps to extend the life of your machine.

How often should I lubricate my treadmill?

Now that you understand why lubricating your treadmill on a regular basis is so important, the next question to ask is how often it needs to be done. The answer can vary depending on the model of treadmill you own and even from one lubrication product to another. In general, it is recommended that you lubricate your treadmill every three months or every 40 hours of use.

It’s always best to check the owner’s manual for your specific model to see if there are any particular recommendations. Some models, like Horizon and Life Fitness, have an automatic “LUBE” or “LUBRICATE WALKING BELT” message that will appear on the treadmill’s digital display when it is time to check your belt. That can be very helpful, as opposed to other brands where you have to keep tabs on your usage.

But no matter what make and model of treadmill you own, the one thing you should never do is wait until you start having problems before you lubricate your treadmill. This will just increase the wear on the belt and cause it to need replacing sooner and it can also cause damage to other parts of the treadmill as well. Staying on top of maintenance and performing regular treadmill lubrication can help save you money and aggravation and help you to get the most out of your machine, even if it has a “no maintenance” belt. Often, these belts are designed to wear out sooner so that the manufacturer can make more money by selling new belts. So don’t let that kind of promise fool you, regular maintenance is still in your best interest.

What kind of treadmill lubricant should I use?

One of the most important factors when learning how to lubricate a treadmill is knowing which kind of lubricant you should use. There are a number of different products on the market but keep in mind that all lubricants are not created equally. For treadmills, you want to avoid any lubricant like WD-40 that is petroleum based as these can ruin the machine. Instead, you should opt for a lubricant that is 100% silicone or at least silicone based.

There are many lubricants available that are silicone based and designed specifically for use on treadmills. Several treadmill brands, including NordicTrack & Proform, sell their own lubricants and many provide a bottle of lubricant when you purchase your treadmill. Lubricant kits that can include special drying cloths, foam applicators and other accessories are convenient solutions that make the process of lubricating your treadmill even easier.

Simple Steps For Lubricating A Treadmill

Now that you understand why it’s so important to keep your treadmill properly lubricated and when to do it, it’s time to look at the lubrication process itself. Again, there can be some small variations from one model to another, but the basic steps for lubricating a treadmill are the same across the board:

  1. Turn the treadmill off and unplug the machine from the wall. You should never try to work on any kind of machine while the electricity is still live. Also, make sure you have a protective mat of some kind under the treadmill to prevent damage to the floor from the lubricant.
  2. Loosen the belt so that you can get access to the underside. The exact technique required for loosening is specific to each model…some may require an Allen wrench, while others have a particular knob built-in for loosening.
  3. Slip your hand under the belt to determine whether lubrication is required. If your fingers feel greasy when you remove them from the belt, then it still has proper lubrication. If they are dry, then it’s time to continue with the lubrication process.
  4. Lift the belt slightly and spray the lubricant underneath. Generally, 3-5 applications on each side should be enough to ensure full lubrication.
  5. Tighten the belt and plug the treadmill back in, then let it run at slow speed (usually about 3 mph) for six or seven minutes in order to let the lubricant spread evenly across the belt. You may want to step onto the treadmill and walk slowly for several minutes after this in order to complete the spreading process.
  6. Unplug the treadmill again and wipe any excess lubricant off the sides of the belt with a soft cloth.
  7. Plug the treadmill back in and you’re good to go for another several months or hours of use.

    That’s the basic process, but don’t forget that specific models may have their own unique recommendations. Let’s take a look at some of the top treadmill brands:

    NordicTrack recommends lubricating your treadmill every three months or every 130 miles. If your treadmill gets a lot of use, you should check it more often to determine if it requires any maintenance. NordicTrack does have some self-lubricating models. These treadmills are coated with a high-performance lubricant in the factory that is intended to keep the belt lubricated automatically for years. With these models, adding a silicone based lubricant could actually be detrimental, so you should check your user’s manual for specific recommendations for your model.

    Sole emphasizes the use of a silicone lubricant only on its machines and indicates that if your machine is kept reasonably clean it can last for as long as 1000 hours before requiring lubrication. Sole also sells its own lubrication products directly from its maintenance department.

    ProForm also sells its own lubricant as part of a treadmill maintenance kit, which includes three packets of their proprietary lubricant formula and convenient foam applicator sticks. These sticks make the lubrication process even easier…all you do is saturate the foam and slip the applicator stick along the underside of the belt to spread the lubricant. Also included in the kit are a bottle of belt cleaner spray, a cleaning cloth, a complete instruction guide for lubricating your treadmill and an extra magnetic safety key. ProForm does also have some self-lubricating models as well. Check you user’s manual to see if lubrication is required.

    Life Fitness Logo

    Life Fitness has a built-in warning system that takes the doubt out of the lubrication process. After a fixed number of hours, a “LUBRICATE WALKING BELT” message will appear on the treadmill’s console. When this occurs, you will need to unplug your machine and perform the lubrication process, starting by loosening the rear roller adjustment bolts approximately 10 full turns. Once you have applied the lubricant, you should re-tighten the bolts with the same 10 turns, then plug the treadmill back in and turn it on to let it run and spread the lubricant. After this, you can then reset the lubrication timer in the settings menu to remove the console message.

    Horizon also has an automatic “LUBE” or “LUBE BELT” message that will appear on your console after 300 miles. When the message appears in the console, the treadmill will not function so you really won’t have any option but to perform the necessary treadmill lubrication process. Horizon also provides a bottle of 100% silicone lubricant with each treadmill that can be used for two applications. Once you have applied the lubricant, plug the treadmill back in, turn it on and insert the safety key. Then press and hold the SPEED UP BUTTON, then the STOP button and hold both for 5-7 seconds to reset the “LUBE BELT” message. Then you can start the treadmill and let it run for several minutes to finish spreading the lubricant. You can also press any key to suspend the “LUBE BELT” message until after your next workout.

    What’s the bottom line on lubricating your treadmill?

    Let’s face it, treadmills aren’t cheap. You paid a lot for that piece of equipment so you want to get the most out of it. That means making sure that it runs properly by performing regular maintenance, including lubrication. Lubricating your treadmill will help to keep it running smoothly and comfortably so you can look and feel your best and get your money’s worth. So take those few minutes every few months to lubricate your treadmill and enjoy the results for years to come.

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