Treadmills are the most basic machines for fitness. If you run a gym – or a fitness studio – you must ensure your treadmills remain operational. However, when treadmill belts get damaged, or the keys are lost, you might wonder if treadmill belts and keys are universal for replacement.
So, are treadmill belts and keys universal? You typically need to purchase a treadmill belt approved by your treadmill manufacturer, so treadmill belts cannot be considered universal. You can use a safety key made by any manufacturer, but you have to make sure it’s the right kind of safety key, so treadmill keys can be considered universal.
In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about finding and installing a replacement treadmill belt or treadmill safety key.
Are treadmill belts universal?
Treadmill belts are not universal. The main issue is that belt sizes vary from treadmill to treadmill, so you can’t be sure if a belt that wasn’t made for your specific treadmill make and model will work.
While it might be tempting to experiment with a generic treadmill belt you have on hand, I strongly urge against this. Installing the wrong belt could damage the inner workings of the machine, and it could make it easier for you to slip and fall while using the treadmill.
If you need a new belt, your best bet is to check your treadmill manual, find the exact model number of your treadmill, and purchase the belt made for that model directly from the manufacturer. There are quite a few treadmill manufacturers, and Icon Health & Fitness is one of the largest.
If you’re at all concerned about buying the wrong belt, you should call your manufacturer directly and ask them to help you with ordering a new one.
Are treadmill keys universal?
Unlike treadmill belts, a treadmill key made by a different manufacturer will typically work with a compatible treadmill. However, you need to make sure you have the right type of key. There are three different kinds you need to be aware of:
The insertion safety key
Insertion safety keys are straightforward to replace if you lose them. These keys are usually a piece of plastic that you insert into the treadmill when you want to use it. If you lose or break the key that came with your treadmill, replacing them with another object of similar size is pretty straightforward.
However, some insertion keys are more complex than this. These have raised bumps on the surface that correspond to indents inside the treadmill (like a real key). If your treadmill has a more complex safety key, you’ll need to order a direct replacement from your manufacturer.
The magnetic safety key
Magnetic safety keys are probably the most common safety key out there. The key is simply a magnet that attaches to another magnet located on the treadmill. If the connection between the keys breaks, the treadmill stops immediately.
These are extremely easy to replace. You can typically use a magnetic safety key from any other treadmill. And if you don’t have one on hand, any light magnet should do the trick.
The bar key
Treadmill bar keys are pretty simple. They contain a metal bar that connects two electrodes, which activates the motor by completing the circuit.
Plastic covers the bar, so it’s safe. However, it’s hard to reproduce this mechanism on your own (especially if you want to do it safely), so the smart choice is to purchase a replacement.
A few warnings
Before you go using magnets or sticks to replace your treadmill’s safety key, you should be aware of a few potential issues.
First of all, if you run a gym, replacing a treadmill key with anything other than an identical key from the treadmill manufacturer will seem very unprofessional. Clients will question the quality of your gym if they get on the treadmill and find a magnet where the key clip should be.
It’s also dangerous – both physically and legally – to not provide proper key replacements. Safety keys serve an essential purpose – if the user falls off of the treadmill, the disconnection of the key should immediately cause the belt to stop spinning.
If you run a gym, not providing clients with an adequate replacement could lead to injuries for them and a personal injury lawsuit for you. And even if you’re using a treadmill at home, using an inadequate alternative can end up hurting you.
And finally, no matter which type of key you have, you shouldn’t override the key mechanism inside your treadmill. Not only is it dangerous to not have a safety key attached when you’re running, but improperly disabling the switch can damage your treadmill and void any warranty you might have.
Is it time to replace your treadmill belt?
Naturally, the first step to replacing your treadmill belt is to determine when to replace it. However, if you don’t know what to look for, it can be challenging to figure it out. For example, you should look for:
- Discoloration of your treadmill belt
- Fraying edges due to use
- The slow movement of the treadmill — at least slower than usual
- Slipping feeling while on the treadmill
These are the primary signs that some maintenance is necessary. But to truly understand whether your treadmill belt needs replacement or not, you need to perform some tests. Remember, proper maintenance of your treadmill ensures that your members are safe.
Step 1: Unplug your treadmill
Unplug your treadmill from the electric socket. Loosen the belt so that you can have a clear view of the inner and outer parts of it, especially the surfaces.
Find a screwdriver that can fit the bolts in the tension roller. The tension roller is at the back of the belt. Loosen the bolts, but avoid overdoing it since you don’t need them completely off. There needs to be just enough space for you to be able to slide your hand inside the belt and check the inner part.
Step 2: Feel the sides
Look for any signs of wear, especially if it’s uneven — some parts may be as good as new, but some may have suffered more wear. If there’s a very smooth part in the areas where your members most commonly walk, the belt needs replacing.
You should also look for any cuts or fraying and any deformation from the usual. Take all of these as a sign that it’s time to replace your treadmill belt.
Step 3: Check the seam
Look for the seam of the belt’s connection. It’s a diagonal line in most cases, and it’s easy to spot. See if there are any signs of wear and tear in this area. If you see that it’s coming apart, you need to get a new one.
Otherwise, it could be a safety issue and lead to severe injuries on the treadmill. Check the underside too.
Step 4: Check for discoloration
It’s essential to check the color too since it could mean that it’s time to replace the treadmill belt. For example, you should look for darker areas. A flashlight could be helpful in this case.
If you’re not sure about any of this, it’s best to throw the old belt out. Wear quickly spreads, and it could affect the electrical components and cause your members serious injury. If you let it sit for longer than necessary, you may need additional repairs, and it would cost you more.
If you maintain your treadmill belt properly, it can last for around ten years; it’s a pretty long time. Naturally, it can be a bit shorter with gyms since it’s used more frequently than the at-home treadmills. But you can still expect your treadmill to work well for a decent amount of time.
Proper maintenance of the treadmill involves cleaning the belt every fortnight and then lubricate the belt quarterly. Doing so should keep your treadmill belt safe and well maintained.
To conclude, know that treadmill belts are not universal. Only replace existing treadmill belts with authorized and approved belts from the treadmill manufacturer. On the other hand, treadmill keys can be universal. However, you need to make sure you are using the right type of security key.
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About the author
Naz Ahm is the founder of StudioGrowth and has spent a decade growing start-ups and venture-backed companies. He writes about sales, marketing, and growth, especially in the yoga, fitness and wellness industry.
Naz has an MBA from IESE Business School and started his journey in the wellness industry when he set-up an on-demand wellness business. Naz currently resides in London, U.K.