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Machine Maintenance 101: How to Take Care of Your Equipment and Increase Machine Longevity

Once you have your equipment, all you want to do is use it until it breaks down. But not so fast! You also want to use your machines for a very long time. That means that maintaining your machines will be of the utmost importance for longevity.
 
In this guide, we’ll go over how often certain procedures should be done, which products can be used for machine lubrication, and cleaning supplies to optimize equipment performance and lifespan.

Gym Equipment Maintenance Procedures

General Warnings

Frequency: As you get your equipment

If you get equipment with warning labels, be sure to read them thoroughly so that you know what to look out for. You want to safely lift, not hurt yourself and be unable to work out for weeks or months at a time.

Wipe-Downs

Frequency: Every use
 
Sweat can be corrosive to certain materials and linger smell-wise on others. In order to clean your upholstery and metal parts thoroughly, use either clean soap and water or an antibacterial spray. Then, dry those surfaces completely to avoid rusting. Do this every time you use the machine and expose those surfaces to sweat and other bodily fluids.

Oiling

Frequency: Weekly or monthly

Squeaks and friction are precursors to full cable breaks. Avoid this by using WD-40 or a 100-percent silicone lubricant and spraying the cables and guide rods and machine joints. This will ensure a smooth workout every week and improve the health of your cables. That way, you don’t have to replace them all the time.
 
Apply lubrication to a clean towel or rag. Wipe it on all of the moveable parts of your equipment. Coat all sides of the area so that parts aren’t rubbing on each other. Also, if your machine has a weight stack, make sure the guide rods are properly lubricated with a silicone spray. (And if you need to, use a wrench to tighten or loosen nuts or bolts while lubricating so that it moves in a smooth manner.)

Barbell Knurling Cleaning

Frequency: Weekly or monthly
 
The knurling in your barbells and dumbbells -- the crosshatched part where you grip when you lift -- is like a catchall for dead skin, sweat, dirt, and other minute particles. So it’s best to do a thorough wipe-down of your knurling.
 
Using a plastic or wire brush and some mild detergent, scrape and scrub at the knurled sections of your barbells and dumbbells. Then, once you’ve brushed out must of the crud, use a clean cloth and some 3:1 oil to wipe down the bar. The steel will absorb the oil, keeping it healthy and strong and clean.

General Inspection

Frequency: Weekly

This is to make sure your machines are running properly. Inspect bolts for looseness and tighten when necessary. Examine belts, cables, handles, grips, and snap links for wear and damage. Look closely at the weight stacks to make sure they are properly aligned and accurately moving up and down the guide rod.

Vacuuming - Cardio Machines

Frequency: Monthly
 
Treadmills are tricky machines. For every 1000 miles -- or every month -- you should vacuum in and around them. That can make sure the treadmill track runs smoothly and that crumbs won’t mess up the inside machinery. (Note: Make sure to unplug treadmills before removing outer parts, as some areas could still be high voltage.)
 
As well, inspect power cords and treadmill belts and deck surfaces every quarter to make sure everything is in tip-top shape.

 

Replacing Belts and Cables

Frequency: Inspect Yearly

No matter how well you maintain your machines, things tend to break down eventually. Belts and cables are the parts you want to be on the lookout for on a yearly basis.
 
You can order these parts from the machine manufacturer; if you keep the instruction manual, then you can order them by part number, making it that much easier to get your new parts to your door faster. Then replace the parts according to the instruction manual.
 
In fact, you’ll probably need the following information to get the correct replacement parts:
 
  • Model Number
  • Place of Purchase
  • Serial Number (S/N)
  • Part Number and Description

How to Fix/Maintain Specific Machine Parts

Painted Frame Pieces

Look for chips or scratches in powder-coated frame pieces. For superficial mars, wipe with a cloth and alcohol, then apply a fresh coat of paint. However, if the chip is down to the metal, scrub down with fine sandpaper, then wipe down with alcohol and paint. You don’t want foreign particles to touch that metal, or else it’ll corrode and rust.
 
Sandpaper and paint with safety glasses for eye health.

Unpainted Chromed Parts

Silicon-based lubricants are best for cleaning these parts. Make sure the moveable areas and constant contact surfaces are cleaned thoroughly.

Guide Rods and Linear Shafting

You want to be sure that the chrome doesn’t peel away from the shaft and there are no divots in the rods. To keep these parts clean, wipe away dirt and grime, then lubricate the guide rods with small amounts of silicone lubricant.

Nuts and Bolts

Check them weekly or monthly for ideal tightness. Adjust with wrenches when need be. Be careful not to overtighten. If they wear down, you should be able to find standard nuts and bolts at any hardware store, so you don’t have to order them from the manufacturer.

Cables and Belts

Inspect cable ends to ensure they’re securely attached. Check pins to ensure they’re secured in place. Look for any cracking or chipping in the cable coating and black nylon balls. Lastly, test out the cable tension; remove any slack or loosen if it’s too taut.

The same goes for belts: Tension, tears, and fasteners must be checked and maintained/fixed. If edges of the belt or cable are frayed or torn, replace them immediately.

Bushing and Bearings

These are at pivot points to keep other points from breaking down. However, they also need to be checked for excessive wear. Lubricate your bushing and bearings yearly. And if they’re in need of replacing, do so at once.

Upholstery

Always check for tears in the padding. When they eventually tear, call in for replacement upholstery.

Quick List of Tools, Cleaning Products, and Miscellaneous Things to Have on Hand

  • 100-percent silicone spray or WD-40
  • Cleaning solution or antibacterial spray
  • Clean cloths (towels or rags)
  • Sandpaper
  • Combo wrench set
  • Ratchet set
  • Set of Allen wrenches
  • Phillips and flathead screwdrivers
  • Plier set (small, large, needle-nose, snap ring)
  • Rubber mallet
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety glasses

Other Things to Remember

Check into warranties for various parts. Sometimes, pads, rollers, and grips can have different warranty lengths than hardware or frames and welds. You should be able to find all of this information in your equipment paperwork.

And one more time, always keep the owner manuals for ordering parts and knowing how to assemble your equipment.

Conclusion

Maintaining your equipment helps you elongate the life of your machines. That means you can fit in more workouts every year without having to replace machine parts or waiting for parts to be delivered. If you follow all of the advice laid out here, you can secure your gym equipment investment for the long haul.


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