Fitness Equipment Health

To keep your members happy, your equipment must be working and maintained.

To keep your members happy, your equipment must be working and maintained. When it comes to equipment maintenance, notice the differences between the product categories. Treadmills suffer differently from cycles and elliptical trainers, and strength equipment is a different beast altogether. Each equipment category has its own unique needs.


Simply put, treadmills are dirt magnets. Static electricity sucks dust and dirt into the equipment. As motors move and belts turn, dust and hair stick to components. Bearings get stuck and noises occur. With each click and clack, the equipment advances toward breakdown.

Mechanical wear leads to electronic component wear. When walk belts become rough, friction increases and motors have to work harder. The electric current through the drive board increases to the point where the weakest component breaks under the strain, and the treadmill grinds to a stop.

Another problem particular to treadmills is that walk belts pick up dirt and toss it directly into the motor compartment -- the area most sensitive to grease, grime and heat. As motors and drive boards operate, they produce heat. The accumulated lint, dust and hair insulates the motor compartment, causing the temperature to rise, creating more strain on components. Sometimes components get an electrical short. Fires can even result.

Technicians say that most fitness centers do not clean their treadmills properly. Someone may clean around the product, and even wipe off the display and the landing strips, but what is not visible is usually left untouched. "The top of the machine might be clean, but underneath there's an inch of dust," says Patrick Rollings, a service technician for Wellspring Fitness Equipment in Waukesha, Wis. "Most [fitness centers]clean what they see, but not anything you don't see."

What you don't see is often the most important to treadmill operation. The bottom side of the walk belt produces a lot of friction if it's not cleaned. And the motor compartment builds up fuzz if it is not vacuumed regularly.

A good technician might spend 40 minutes on one treadmill. Tasks include inspecting motor brushes for wear, cleaning and waxing walk decks, inspecting the walk belt, adjusting drive and walk belt tension, checking electrical connections, lubricating lift motors and inspecting roller bearings for wear. For a more detailed list of regular maintenance tasks, and for product-specific information, visit your treadmill manufacturer's website.


Compared to treadmills, cycles are easy to maintain. For starters, they don't have the friction of the treadmill walk belt and deck, they don't have a high electrical current going through the drive board and they don't have to pull a 200-pound body on a belt that's dragged across a stiff, wood deck. A cycle can last a long time without the care required of a treadmill.

That said, cycles also have their troubles. Chains need lubrication. Belts need adjustment. Bearings wear out. Springs tend to loosen up. Check your manufacturer's website for product-specific details.

Elliptical trainers

Elliptical trainers are like cycles on ramps; electronically, there's not much going on. The main area of power consumption is the electro-magnet that produces resistance. The more power these magnets get, the harder they attract the metal on the flywheel, and the more resistance the user feels.

As with cycles, elliptical bearings require inspection, and idler pulley springs and belts tend to loosen with age and use. The ramp, track or rail of the elliptical, depending on particular product design, should be cleaned thoroughly because gunk that collects here makes for a bumpy ride for the user, and it might cause unnecessary wear on bushings and bearings.

Strength equipment

Strength equipment is a different matter altogether. There is usually nothing electronic -- only mechanical parts to wear. Belts and cables require inspection for safety. And nuts and bolts might loosen up, especially if they're situated in a stress area.

Keeping your equipment healthy is an important part of keeping your members happy. Don't neglect it!

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