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Do-It-Yourself Equipment Repair

When a piece of equipment breaks down, follow these steps to get it working again.

Have you ever thought to yourself, Wouldn't it be great if I could save my company some money, minimize downtime, make members happy and fix that treadmill? If the answer is "yes," here are some tips to help.

High-quality manufacturers

One of the great things about the fitness industry is the variety and depth of the equipment manufacturers. They put time and effort into bringing fitness centers quality products for their members. These manufacturers also realize that facilities need to upgrade and update their equipment in order to stay competitive. This makes you a potential repeat buyer if you are satisfied with their product and support. The support is a main factor that can make a tremendous difference between suppliers.

Technical support

My utopia is to have access to that same database that tech support has when you call a supplier for help. It would be great to be able to go to an equipment manufacturer's website, click on support and select "troubleshoot my treadmill." You'd enter the serial number and then follow the troubleshooting flowchart to get to the root of the problem. This is currently not available from any major manufacturer. However, website support is getting better. Most suppliers offer general equipment maintenance guidelines, downloadable manuals and frequently asked maintenance/troubleshooting questions. Some even have parts diagrams.

If you are troubleshooting a piece of equipment, it can help to go to the supplier's website first. If you can't find what you're looking for, you can then go to telephone tech support. Once you get a tech on the line, they can be very helpful.

If you want to get your equipment up and running, here are some tips on how to best navigate your support resources:

Take the first step. If you have little or no background in anything mechanical, or you are not a hands-on person, call a professional. Even if you are mechanically inclined, if the repair ends up being a major one, you still may want to call in a professional.

Know what you're talking about. Try the machine that is broken and assess it. This way, when you get tech support, you can explain what's going on from first-hand experience.

Don't bother waiting for the beep. When calling tech support, never leave a message. I can't remember a single time a call was returned when I left a message.

Have specs at the ready. Have your model, serial number and customer number available. Tech support can't help you without it.

Ask questions. If you don't understand what to assess or how to assess it, ask for clarification. Tech support is there to help, and I've never felt rushed off of a call. On one troubleshooting adventure, I must have run back and forth from the phone to the machine a dozen times in order to get the problem resolved. Mind you, the phone was two floors away from the machine. Which brings me to the next tip.

Get unplugged. Use a cellular or cordless phone when making tech support calls. This way, you can be right there at the machine as the technician talks you through what to do.

Keep a pen and paper handy. Take notes on what the problem was, and what you did to fix it, and make a binder or file for future reference.

Use your best judgment

Some equipment manufacturers recommend that only trained professionals tackle repairs. On some issues, I would agree. However, many problems can be troubleshot by the layperson with the support of the manufacturer. This can save you time and money by not having a technician come in for the first stage of the repair, and can create a new niche for you or one of your employees. You can save money and downtime, and you will have a better response from your members if you have fewer of those dreaded "Out of Order" signs.
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