Essentially all exercise equipment requires some form of maintenance to ensure a long period of problem-free operation. Just as a car requires periodic servicing, so does fitness equipment and how you structure performing this maintenance will ultimately influence the longevity of the equipment you purchase, lease or rent.
Regular, planned maintenance is strongly advised as it affects not only how long your equipment lasts but also how long it stays visually presentable.
A good rule of thumb regarding changing or upgrading exercise equipment and in particular cardio gear is that a new piece of equipment will probably look and feel "new" for around two to five years depending on how often it is used and how well it is cleaned and maintained. After this time period it is probably time to look at updating your exercise equipment.
Another often overlooked reason for keeping exercise equipment well maintained is that regular servicing and maintenance minimises the risk of injury to the person using the equipment.
Maintenance of exercise equipment falls into two general categories: preventative and restorative. For the purposes of this article I'd like to focus on basic preventative maintenance as restorative maintenance (actually repairing or replacing worn or faulty parts) is an area best left to the professionals.
Preventative maintenance is an area that most users can look after themselves, providing they allocate the necessary resources and time to do so properly. It is of great importance that the maintenance be pre-planned and checked off to ensure each piece of equipment is inspected visually and physically then cleaned and adjusted if necessary in order to ensure problem-free operation. This is the preferred form of maintenance, as it involves isolating problems before they occur, which minimises any down time of equipment for the users. It is also similar to how most successful commercial gyms perform their maintenance.
In performing preventative maintenance there are some general areas to look out for.
Treadmills need to be kept clean, especially where the belt meets the running deck and under the motor cavity. The area between the belt and side rails can be wiped for dust and the motor cavity should be vacuumed (with the power disconnected) every two to three months to stop dust and debris building up on the motor and control board. Along with this the belt may need periodic alignment and the deck may need lubrication depending on the treadmill's design. These steps can be performed by yourself or by professional service technicians; the key aspect here is to ensure that they get done regularly. If in doubt, ask us for details of a three or four visit per year service contract. Also, it is important to remember that the treadmill belt is a wearing part and overly worn belts affect not only the performance of the machine, but also pose a safety risk to the user.
Exercise bikes are relatively low-maintenance machines as they are usually sealed units, with the braking systems and tensioning mechanisms being located inside the machines housing; however the crank and pedal attachments may need occasional tightening along with any adjustment bolts that are subject to loosening. These include the handle bar stem, the handle bars themselves and the seat.
Spin bikes will require similar maintenance to exercise bikes, along with an occasional visual inspection of the braking mechanism. This is usually a leather or felt pad, and is a wearing part that will require occasional replacement. As spin bikes tend to get fairly heavy use, frequent tightening of pedals and adjustment knobs may be required and careful wiping down of the frame will also be required to prevent premature rust build-up in the machine's welds and gussets.
Elliptical trainers have many moving parts and pivot points, which means they will require a little more attention than exercise bikes to keep them running smoothly. Areas to look at are: where the machine's arms and pedals attach to each other and the machine's frame. Also, most will require cleaning of the track where their roller mechanisms operate as this area is prone to carpet dust build-up. You will know when this is dirty as it will feel like you are rolling over rocks when in use.
Strength equipment - weight benches and machines require a periodic visual and physical inspection of all moving parts, cabling, pulleys and pretty much anywhere else that has the propensity to become loose. Areas to concentrate on include lock nut and bolt joins on benches and frames, the sheathing and crimping of cables and their attachments to multi gyms and also dumbbells that have allen bolts holding the plates on as these are notorious for coming unwound when dropped. A weekly inspection should ensure that these pieces remain safe to use and as with the cardio pieces a regular wipe down will keep them looking newer for longer. Areas that aren't in contact with sweat can be cleaned via simple dusting.
These maintenance steps aren't too difficult and can be performed by the majority of users, however, if in any doubt, investing in a service contract is money well spent as many machines' warranties are dependent on correct servicing and maintenance. Having a professional pre-booked at set intervals throughout the year covers this. If you prefer to look after your own maintenance, make sure your equipment provider is able to demonstrate the basics of maintaining the machines upon installation and ensure it is scheduled and performed regularly. That way you can provide smooth-running, and minimise the chances of any down time through the equipment failure.
Treadmill Maintenance Tips
How to calibrate the incline (on NordicTrack treadmills)
How to tighten your walking belt
How to centre the walking belt
How to lubricate the walking belt
Treadmill Speed Calibration - (Advanced Use only!)