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Equipment Downtime: How to Spot a Troubled Machine Before It Ever Stops Working

Posted by Dave Johnson on May 8, 2017 10:04:06 AM

Broken equipment is bad for buisness, end of story. Not only does it cost hundreds - if not thousands of dolalrs, to repair or replace, it can also lead to stacks of lost revenue when members start walking out the door. Not to mention, broken equipment looks unprofessional, making sales prospects much harder to convert into paying members during gym floor tours.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution to all these problems, and that is learning how to spot troubled machines before they ever stop working. In this article, we’ll show you how to become proactive about your gym equipment, rather than constantly reacting to breakdowns and errors.

Our Golden Rule for Spotting Troubled Equipment 

A little disclaimer...although we’re about to give you some great tips for your equipment, it won’t make any difference unless you have a solid system in place to act upon the tips we give you.

So here’s our ‘Golden rule...’


You’d be amazed by how many problems are visible and obvious provided you know what you’re looking for. You need to make sure that you as owner, plus any managers and operational staff, know how every machine is supposed to look. You should all also know a few basic things to check for on a regular basis.

In our experience, the best way to do this is with a simple printed out checklist (ideally complete with pictures) that all staff can use and tick off upon completion. That way no-one relies on memory and you as an owner can monitor that all the necessary checks are being done.

The Specifics

Now, onto the actual things that you need to be looking out for. There’s no way that one blog post can be an exhaustive list of every possible warning sign, so here are the most common signs you need to be aware of.

Cable machines

• First off, check for cable fraying. Any loose ends or damage to the cable needs to be identified as soon as possible. The last thing you want to hear is a loud bang after a cable snaps and a tonne of weight crashes down inside your machine.

• Next up you’ll want to check that all parts move freely in every direction they’re designed to. If they don’t then you should first try oiling/lubricating the machine. Most of the time this sorts the issue, but if it doesn’t then there may be a small jam that needs addressing.

Plate loaded fixed resistance machines

• Your first and most important job is to check that the loading sections (where the plates go) are still strong and in the right shape. Deformation of these is very common over time in high use environments and can present a serious health and safety hazard if not addressed.

• Secondly, just like the cable machines, you should check that the machine is capable of moving freely in the directions it is supposed to. If not then it might be worth a quick engineer call-out before the issue develops.

Cardio machines

Overwhelmingly the most common cause for cardio machines ending up ‘out of order’ is because of electrical equipment malfunction.

• With this in mind, your first step is to make sure everything is charged and/or plugged in. You’d be amazed how many gyms call out technicians only to be told that the equipment needed to be properly charged.

• Similarly, if the machine is reliant on mains electricity, check the condition of plugs and cable attachments on a regular basis. Not only is a damaged cable a health and safety issue, but it can lead to you thinking a machine is broken when really it’s only the connection that needs replacing.

• Once you’ve got the two obvious checks out the way the next thing you’ll want to do is hop on the machine for 2-3 minutes and check the heads up display – are any numbers missing? Is it faded or flashing on and off? These are big warning signs that something is wrong with the electrics. If you get a technician out now you should be able to get it fixed before the display crashes completely.

• Whilst you’re on the machine it also makes sense to check for the fluidity of moving parts. For example, does your treadmill move smoothly? Does your watt bike or upright cycle rotate smoothly? If not, a simple oiling/lubrication could get the machine sorted out before it jams and requires an engineer.

*Treadmill top tip: Look at the tension and alignment of the treadmill belt. Is it running slightly to one side? Is it rubbing on the side? This will be audible if you stand close to the machine.

**Cross trainer top tip: This machine is sort of like a pet dog in that it lets you know, loudly, when something isn’t right! Squeaks and clunks are your first warning signs. Clunks tend to be a sign that the adjusters are loose, so give them a tighten and re-test. Higher pitched squeaks often indicate poor lubrication, so you may need to take off a side panel to check.

The key point

Hopefully, we’ve given you a few simple warning signs to help you spot a troubled machine before it requires the dreaded ‘out of order’ sign.

You probably noticed that none of the warning signs were particularly complex, and that’s because they’re not. The main warning signs for the majority of equipment problems are easily identified if you put in the time and effort to perform the required checks.

The busier your gym, the more regularly these checks will need doing, and in larger gyms, it can definitely help to identify which specific machines are being used the most by your members.

Look after your machines and they’ll look after your business.

Topics: equipment downtime

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