Huff-n-Puff Treadmill belt cotton on deck

Why Lubricating Your Treadmill Belt (Properly!) Is Vital To Your Treadmill’s Health

Before writing this article, I had a difficult time deciding what the more important topic would be, treadmill lubrication or keeping your treadmill (or any other machine) clean and free of dust and debris. While both are at the top of this list I decided to focus on treadmill lubrication first. My reason for doing so is due to my belief that treadmill lubrication is widely misunderstood while machine cleanliness is a much more intuitive concept. We’ll focus on machine cleaning next month.

Do I need to lubricate my treadmill? The simple answer is yes. Moving parts generate friction, the higher the amount of friction the harder the machine, and each individual component, has to work.

I haven’t ever lubricated my treadmill, is it too late? At this point, it certainly couldn’t hurt. Although irreversible damage may or may not have already occurred with some components, the rule, “better late than never,” applies to treadmill lubrication. To know, without a doubt, if any components have been damaged, refer to our amp draw article to make that determination.

Can components of my machine be damaged by a lack of lubrication? Yes, I’ll outline everything below:

  • $250 each, Belt and deck – premature wear resulting in increased friction load.
  • $150 each, Front and rear rollers – increased friction load will result in these components having to work harder to keep the machine moving, wearing them out prematurely.
  • $300 Drive motor – increased friction load will result in the motor having to work harder to keep the machine moving, wearing them out prematurely.
  • $250 Motor control board – the increased load on the moving components will require a larger amount of power to flow through this board. The higher the power flow, the higher the heat buildup inside the board, the faster the board will trigger an internal thermal overload switch or blow a component out completely. This is the number one indication of lack of lubrication we see in the field. Often, we receive service inquiries stating the treadmill drive motor will not engage on startup. The majority of the time we find this is due to a blown motor controller, due to a worn walking belt and deck, due to a lack of lubrication.
  • $50 Various electric components – The high amount of power flow can overload the machine’s power switch, circuit breaker, and wiring. Check out this video showing electrical components being overloaded. Fun to watch, not fun to experience!
  • $$$ Electricity – The harder the machine has to work, the higher the electric consumption, the more you pay the power company.

If you are tallying this up as we go, you’ve come to $1400. This does not include the government’s portion, shipping or labor. At that point, it would likely be a better idea to replace the machine entirely. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know my budget does not include disposable treadmills!

How will lubrication (or a lack of lubrication) affect my treadmill? The entire purpose of lubrication in any scenario is to reduce friction as well as dispersing heat. By reducing the amount of friction between the belt and deck surfaces, the entire drive system will run more efficiently and will need to perform less work for the same result. This will also reduce the wear on all drive system parts extending their usable life. To summarize, lubrication benefits your wallet more than anything else.

Due to a lack of lubrication resulting in increased friction, this treadmill deck laminate cracked from overheating

What type of lubricant should I use? That all depends on your machine. Paraffin used to be the most common lubricant used, but that has been replaced by silicone in recent years. Either way, consult your manual or contact your manufacturer to determine the correct type of lube to be used. Our 100% silicone lubricant is approved for use on ALL machines that require a silicone based lube.

Can’t I use WD-40, 3 in 1 oil, or anything else? Absolutely not. Belt and deck surfaces are engineered to work with the specific lubricants mentioned above, nothing else. Using an unapproved lubricant can deteriorate the two surfaces resulting in what we have taken to calling, “cotton candy belt.” Most belts are two-ply, the rubber layer you walk on and the cotton underside that glides along the deck surface. Unapproved lubricants have been known to break down those cotton fibers, causing them to begin scraping off as they run along the deck surface. These fibers will begin bunching up, resulting in clumps very similar in texture to cotton candy and can be found under your belt, in your motor compartment, and around your machine. Once a belt begins disintegrating, the friction levels will skyrocket very quickly. Lubrication with an unapproved lubricant will do more harm than good.

“Cotton candy” resulting from the incorrect lubricant deteriorating the underside of the walking belt

 

One of the most extreme examples we have seen, incorrect lube and a very excessive amount of friction have caused both the belt and deck to deteriorate

How much lubricant should I apply? That will vary by machine and use. Paraffin systems should have a coat of wax applied to the deck. It sounds silly, but this is literally like coloring, apply pressure to the wax brick, it will transfer to the deck surface as you move it and leave a white, waxy layer. Silicone systems should have a bottle with a nozzle of some sort. Squirt out about a half ounce on each side of the deck. Look at the wear marks from your shoes on the walking belt, you want to apply this lube on the deck, under those wear marks. No matter which type of lubricant your machine requires, do NOT allow any lube to land on any exposed surfaces, especially one you may walk on. In the event it does happen, clean it up immediately to avoid the risk of injury. Simple Green is our cleaner of choice as it will not chemically harm any of the machine’s components. After the lube has been applied, “walk” it into the machine. This is done over the course of five to 10 minutes at a slow, roughly two mile an hour, speed.

Can I overlubricate my treadmill? Yes, you most certainly can! Start small, you can always add more. Overlubrication can cause a number of issues. First, the excess lube will be flung out from under your belt at high speeds, your carpet, walls, and anything surrounding your machine could become soaked with silicone. Trust us, it’s not fun to scrub out of carpet or clothing. Second, excess lube will also be flung into your motor compartment. This will coat the interior of your motor compartment with a fine (or heavy, depending on the amount used!) film of lube which will bind to dust floating around in that enclosed space that has been drawn in by the motor fan. This results in a layer of grime that builds up in the motor compartment as it has no way to escape without opening it up and wiping it out. The lube flung into the motor compartment can find its way into the drive motor or onto the motor control board. Within the drive motor the lube will heat up and smell (best case scenario) or short the motor requiring replacement (worst case scenario). In the event it splatters onto the motor controller it may also short that out, resulting in a required motor control board replacement. Lastly, lube can come into contact with the drive belt between the front roller and drive motor causing it to slip. Odds are the drive motor and front roller pulleys will be able to be cleaned off, but the rubber drive belt will become impregnated with this lube and will require replacement. No matter what, over lubrication isn’t cheap!

How often should I lubricate my treadmill? This will vary greatly by the amount of usage your treadmill experiences. Some machines will have internal timers or odometers that will prompt you to lube your machine after a set number of hours or miles, however, these are just set intervals that have no relation to actual machine performance and need and are approximations only.

How do I know when my treadmill needs to be lubricated? The basic rule to follow is that you should be able to touch your deck surface, under the walking belt and feel a slightly waxy or oily coat of lube on the deck. Check under the area where your feet contact the walking belt. In the event you cannot feel a residue left from your last application of lube, it needs more. For a more in-depth explanation of how we make this determination using amp draws, please see our amp draw article.

This belt is in the process of being replaced, but you can see the wear marks created by users feet. On a machine with a belt still in usable condition, the lube should be applied to that area especially. Also, note the large ball of “cotton candy” that collected on the left side of the machine

My machine is under warranty, why does it need to be lubed? For the same reason oil changes and basic maintenance are required on brand new cars that are still under warranty. Yes, warranties are a valuable addition to any machine, however, they do not last forever and failures are much more likely after the warranty expires if a machine has not been properly maintained. Warranties specifically state they apply to manufacturer’s defects only, not neglect or abuse.

After lubricating my treadmill, what else will I need to do?

  • If your treadmill features a folding deck, don’t fold it up immediately after applying silicone lube. There is a chance any unabsorbed lube may run down your deck and drip on to your floor. Put about 5 miles on the machine prior to folding it again.
  • Your walking belt will absorb silicone lube, check it one and three days after applying to ensure it doesn’t need another application. Sometimes multiple applications are necessary to fully saturate the cotton under-layer.
  • If a belt and/or deck has already been damaged, lube will help, but not solve the whole problem. Some machines we see are not worth replacing parts on, but are still running. in those instances, we advise our customers to keep the machine well lubricated to squeeze the last little bit of life out of their machine if they are not interested in purchasing a replacement.

When in doubt, Contact Us, or your manufacturer. Treadmill lubrication is vitally important to your machine’s health and will go a long way toward ensuring your machine will last for years of use. Call us out for a preventive maintenance service that includes lubrication or purchase lubricant if you would rather do it yourself. Either way, we are happy to help!

 

26 Comments

Roger

Thanks for the cotton candy mention. I switched lubes to a cheaper one from eBay that was supposedly 100% silicone but much thinner than the reco’d brand. Used for 3 months, seemed to work fine, then looked under the belt and found mass quantites of cotton candy. I wonder if I ruined the belt.

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Dan Thompson

Hi Roger,

Unfortunately, it sounds like it may have. Something else could have caused the cotton underlayer to begin coming off, but it could have been the lube as well.

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Kelly

So I lubed up my treadmill because it was getting hot.. it’s only a year old..now there’s a slight stick when I walk and the treadmill is still over heating. Any solution?

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Dan Thompson

Hi Kelly,

Sounds like there is definitely something else going on there. Do you have the ability to perform an amp draw test? Having those readings will point you in the right direction when it comes to pinpointing the issue. You can see our amp draw instructions page for more details, let us know what you find!

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David Warlick

Can you redo this instruction? I’ve read it and have no idea how to lube a treadmill. Pictures would sure help. Do you offer written instructions with pictures? I have a very old ICON that probably needs replacing but it just continues to turn. The only issue to me is my Garmin beats per minute, which are s series of spikes, so I assume the treadmill is constantly changing speeds although it feels smooth to me.

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Dan Thompson

Thank you for your comments David. This post was more written as a guide as to why lubrication of your treadmill is important as opposed to how to a step by step guide on how to lubricate your treadmill, as that is covered in most machine owners manuals. If you would be able to provide me with the model and serial number of your machine I’d be happy to look that up for your specific machine.

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Robby

My Treadmill has power and everything but just won’t turn on (no lights even with the key on). It also stopped while I was on the treadmill. Is this because I didn’t lubricate it?

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Dan Thompson

It very well could be Robby. Is the deck surface completely smooth? What does the underside of the walking belt feel like?

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DJ D

I have a NordicTrack EXP 1000x treadmill with the factory belt. Recently it has been cutting off (tripping the pop-out fuse) at about 4 miles or so while running or even walking (uphill, max incline) I assume this is belt/deck interface friction as it has some “stick” when it shuts off…even after I have liberally applied a silicone lubricant with one of those deck wands. Under the belt is a foam pad on top of the deck, which has a clear plastic sheet covering the foam (less surface friction with added impact relief). I do not see any signs of fatigue of permanent damage, luckily.
This belt does not have a fiber backing. Would there be an advantage to sticking with the factory belt over a 2 ply fiber-backed belt?
My thinking is the treadmill would benefit from the fiber-backed belt over another single ply rubber, but I just run on it so what do I know :D Wanted some professional input before I put money into this one. I figure $80 is cheaper than a new treadmill!

Thanks!

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Dan Thompson

Hi DJ, thanks for your question. Are you able to perform an amp draw on the unit? That would provide a definitive answer as to whether or not the belt needs to be replaced, though from what you describe I do believe it is a safe bet.

Although we do always recommend OEM parts, there are reputable aftermarket belt retailers out there. As long as the belt is made for your unit you should be ok. While tackling this project I would also recommend replacing the mylar sheet underneath the belt. Those do not last forever and it is always best to mate two new surfaces together. When replacing that sheet, take care to ensure the rubber pad beneath the sheet is free of any and all debris. Even a small granule underneath the mylar can raise that sheet enough to create a wear spot which will wear prematurely.

Let us know how it goes!

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DJ D

Thank for the input Dan!
I will do an amp draw during my next workout and monitor to see if I get an increase as the workout progresses (my bet is yes due to thermal component resistance increase and belt friction increase). I plan to pop the brushes out on the motor to verify those are still good as well, otherwise I will replace them with the belt and Mylar.

Always good to have a seasoned professional’s opinion :)

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David

Treadmill belt appeared dry and had a lot of static. From what I saw on first look, I needed to lube the belt so I bought 100% silicone lube and applied it as I saw online. About 3 weeks later the motor started growling and was replaced. I have only had this treadmill a few months and while looking around I saw that my belt is a “maintenance free” belt and I maybe shouldn’t have used silicone on it. I have seen some places where they say this is ok, others quite the opposite. I was wondering your opinion if that was possible/likely the cause of the motor failure and if there was a way to salvage the belt to/and preserve the new motor. By cleaning it etc. I have had no negative effects or cotton candy appearance that I’ve noticed, the silicon lube solved the static problem, and belt has looked far healthier on top and the same on bottom.

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Dan Thompson

Hi David thank you for your questions!

The drive motor grinding you described was more than likely due to bearing noise. We’ve not seen a single instance of walking belt lubricant causing this, it is all but impossible the two would be related, so you have nothing to worry about there. As you’ve said the belt has been performing better since being lubed, it sounds like lubing it has been beneficial.

At the risk of attracting the ire of some manufacturers we service, quite simply, we have yet to come across a belt that performs well without maintenance. Not to say it isn’t possible, we just have not seen belts marketed as maintenance free hold up as well as belts that are lubed regularly. “Maintenance free” sounds great on a machine’s spec sheet as no one wants to purchase a project. Maintaining a workout routine is enough of a challenge without adding another item to a to do list. However, at this point in time we do not believe the advancements made in belt technology are an adequate replacement for routine lubrication.

Bottom line, when questioned, we always say this: as long as the machine is under warranty, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. The last thing anyone would want would be to invalidate a parts warranty by not following the listed requirements. Once the machine is no longer under warranty, lube it as you would any other belt to protect your investment.

As always, the numbers don’t lie, amp draw readings are the best way to know with absolute certainty. Once out of warranty, if a belt’s amp draws are high, try lubing it. If the amp draws drop, you’re in good shape. If they do not, you’ll have to replace the walking belt you would have needed to replace anyway. The cost of lube is much lower than the cost of a new belt, it is well worth giving it a shot!

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Neil

I recently applied a large amount of aftermarket silicone lubricant and have experienced immediate performance issues, including cotton candy. What should I do next? Replace belt? How do I effectively remove the residual lubricant?

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Dan Thompson

Hi Neil, thank you for your question. Can you elaborate as to what issues you are experiencing with your machine? At this point, I would recommend trying to soak up as much lube as possible. Wipe all excess of the deck, and, depending on how much is left, more may seep out of the belt and onto the deck, wipe all that up as well. Do NOT apply any cleaners or degreasers to the underside of the belt or the top of the deck surface, I am hopeful they are still salvageable, doing so would require them to be replaced. To remove lube from the walking belt that has already been absorbed, place very clean cardboard or paper grocery bags between the underside of the walking belt and the deck surface. The lube should seep into the paper/cardboard and those can be thrown away once saturated. Naturally, they will need to be removed prior to using the machine again, so place a sign on the console or move the safety key to another location away from the machine as a reminder those need to be removed.

Please update me on how things go, as well as what specific issues you are experiencing, we’ll try to get this resolved without replacing any parts!

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Derek

Hi there I bought a second hand discovery xfit7 treadmill am just want to know if the deck needs lubrication can lift one side of belt up slightly but not the other side as it sits under the side frame.thanks.

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Dan Thompson

Hi Derek, thank you for your question! I’ve looked this machine up and see what you are talking about, the best solution would be to remove the steprails on each side to more easily access the underside of the walking belt. I was not able to find any documentation regarding this machine online as the manufacturer is no longer around, but these rails should attach either from the top or bottom of the deck. If you happen to have an owners manual for this machine it may also include an exploded diagram. If so, if you could send me a picture I’d be happy to look it over to pinpoint exactly how these attach for you.

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Andrea

Hello! I am a first time treadmill owner of a used Pro-Form 380e treadmill. It had been sitting in the previous owners garage for months before it was gifted to me. When I walk on it it feels like the belt is slipping. I read the manual and adjusted the belt to make sure it was centered but it is still slipping at times. The next idea was to lubricate the belt but the manual says – “Your treadmill features a walking belt coated with high-performance lubricant. IMPORTANT: Never apply sil-icone spray or other substances to the walkingbelt or the walking platform. Such substances willdeteriorate the walking belt and cause excessivewear”. Does that mean it never needs to be lubricated?

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Dan Thompson

Hello Andrea, thank you for your question! I’ve looked into this unit, I believe it to be about ten to twelve years old, is that correct? You would certainly be safe to lube this walking belt as you are well beyond your warranty period and after this much time your machine is almost certainly in need of lubrication, despite the directions in the manual. The best way to know for certain is to perform an amp draw test.

If your walking belt has been tensioned properly and you are still experiencing slippage, tensioning your drive belt would be the next step. In the meantime, do not overtension your walking belt as that will put unnecessary stress on the components of the machine.

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Kevin

I bought a used proform 1500. I know they aren’t the best, but for $50 its6a good investment even if it does in a year.

The manual says don’t lubricate with silicone as it has a plastic sheet between the tread and the deck. Based on the friction sound and slight slowing when I walk on it (no such sound when it’s running without me on it) I think some lube would do it good. It may also be dusty/dirty under the tread. If I lube, does it go between the tread and the plastic or between the plastic and the deck… or both?

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Dan Thompson

Hi Kevin, sounds like you got a great deal!

Thank you for your question, you bring up a good point. Lubricant should be applied to the top of the mylar (plastic) sheet. Put another way, the lube should be applied between the mylar sheet and the walking belt. Applying lube between the mylar sheet and deck will likely result in a mess as the lube will not be able to penetrate either of those surfaces, and just pool underneath.

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kevin

Great, thanks for the quick response Dan. Glad I waited for a reply. I couldn’t find this info anywhere, and I was leaning towards doing it the wrong way!

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Roger

Hi Dan, thanks for the previous info. I ordered a belt from Horizon (machine is LS10.0T) and they suggested that I get a new deck too. I declined since it seemed like a sales pitch, but I really don’t know. Apparently some decks are flippable but mine might not be. Anyway, wondering if you have thoughts on if/when decks need replacing. I see the photos show lots of small surface cracks but I don’t think mine has that. It sounds crazy to replace the deck every time you replace the belt but who knows. Also, do you have a theory about how many miles you should be able to get out of a belt? Thanks very much.

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Dan Thompson

Certainly Roger, that’s what we’re here for!

Decks are often recommended with belt replacements, especially if they are worn. After you remove your old belt, run your hand along the entire deck surface that will come into contact with the belt. If it is perfectly smooth, as smooth as glass, and not showing any visible signs of wear, then you should be good to go. If there are any surface irregularities at all, these will only worsen over time and will result in your belt wearing out prematurely. Looking up pricing for this unit, your new belt retails for $226.79 (plus about $20-30 for shipping), a new deck is $149.99 (plus $50-70 for shipping). If your current deck is worn, you’d also risk damaging the motor control board due to a high amp draw, that retails for $237.59 (plus about $20-30 for shipping). I’m 99% certain that the deck for this unit is not flippable, but Horizon would be able to tell you with absolute certainty.

Most belts are rated to last between 4000-5000 miles, though regular maintenance will play a large factor in belt life. Just like with a car, a regularly maintained vehicle will always outlast a poorly maintained one.

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Dayna Porter

I have a Sole F63. Back in July it stoped working. I talked to Sole the day it broke and they said I need a new circuit board. Then I called again today and they asked me to look at the deck and belt. The underside of the belt edge was slightly darker than the middle (barely noticeable). The deck looked fine. Smooth. They still told me that I need a new circuit board, but this time they said that I need a new belt too. What do you think? If I buy the new circuit board and just lube the deck will I be ok or do I need a new belt? What is the best kind of lube for the money?

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Dan Thompson

Hi Dayna, thank you for your question!

If after hitting the start button the treadmill counts down to zero but the belt does not start moving, yes, you are likely in need of a new motor control board (MCB). However, the number one cause of MCB failure is high belt and deck friction. The damaged MCB is usually the presenting symptom of the high friction root cause. SO, to fix this permanently, you likely do need a walking belt.

The only way to definitively determine if a walking belt is needed is by performing an amp draw test. Unfortunately, the machine does need to be running to perform this test, so the MCB will need to be replaced prior to this. Once that is done, take an amp draw and reference the following,

“Unloaded, a very healthy machine should be consuming no more than 2 amps. A moderately healthy machine will be reading 2-4 amps, a mediocre reading is 4-6 amps and anything over 6 amps will undoubtedly signal an issue that will require diagnosing. Loaded readings will be different depending on the weight of each user, but the general rule is that a very healthy machine should be consuming no more than 4-6 amps. A moderately healthy machine will be reading 6-8 amps, a mediocre reading is 8-10 amps and anything over 10 amps will indicate an issue that will require diagnosing. Regardless, the loaded reading should be no more than 4A more than the unloaded reading.”

If your amp draw is high, replace the walking belt RIGHT AWAY. Do not use the machine in the meantime either, as doing so could damage your board and shorten its life. Usually, manufacturers will not warranty that part again as they consider that misuse as opposed to a manufacturer’s defect.

If your amp draws are under 8-10 amps loaded, then you will likely be ok just lubricating your belt. In this article we outline our lubrication recommendations.

As far as the best lube, we’re obviously partial to our 100% silicone lubricant that is approved for use on ALL machines that require a silicone based lube. Regardless of which lube you chose, make sure it is 100% silicone (additives will likely degrade the belt and deck surfaces) and avoid aerosols as those additives WILL degrade the belt and deck surfaces.

Thank you again for your question, as always, please let us know if you have any follow up questions, we’re always here to help!

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