Indoor Rowing Machine Maintenance: Take Care Of Your Rower

If you’re like me, you’ll want to keep your new (or even older) home gym equipment in good working condition. Indoor rowing machines don’t need too much maintenance but the little it does need is important to keep everything in good condition.

Inspect your indoor rowing machine weekly. Cleaning and wiping down the outside of the machine should be done after every workout. Lubricating the chain and pivot points and cleaning the flywheel are other maintenance items that should be done when necessary.

To find exactly what to do, why, how and how often you need to perform maintenance on your indoor rowing machine.

General rowing machine maintenance

Rowing machines don’t need too much maintenance so it’s pretty easy to keep them in good shape. However, everything that moves needs some maintenance at times. A rowing machine is no different.

There are a few different types of rowers you should be aware of because they require slightly different maintenance. However there are also a lot of similarities that are the same between almost all the different types.

First, we’ll look at what the similarities are. After that, there are some things you should keep in mind for the different types of machine.

Image of a Concept2 Rower
How much does a rowing machine cost?

1.     Prevention

It’s good to start with some preventative measures so you can possibly reduce some of the maintenance points.

  • Put a gym mat under the rower. This will keep it from moving around and from damaging the floor.
  • Put the rower on a flat surface. This prevents putting too much pressure on one side of the moving parts which can damage them. It’s also more comfortable.
  • Clean up the rower after you’re done. Wipe down with a damp rag and some mild detergent. Pay attention to the slide rail.

Those basic things can prevents some wear and tear while also making your machine more comfortable to use.

2.     Inspect

About once a week, inspect the machine for damage or anything that’s wrong. This can be a really quick visual inspection. If something is going wrong, it’s better to use the two minutes a week to catch it early than to suddenly have a broken machine.

What you should look at;

  • Slide rail; is there any dirt/residue/damage? If so, take care of it since that’s going to have a big impact on your rowing experience.
  • Check if the seat slides smoothly.
  • Check if all the bolts are done up and tight.
  • Check the chain/strap/cord for damage and if it’s still attached to the machine and handle properly.
  • Check if the resistance is smooth and if there are no weird noises.

Everything is likely to be good but if anything isn’t, check out one of the following points to see if that helps to fix it.

Are you looking for a good rower for your home gym? Click here to find my favorite and why.

3.     Cleaning

I already kind of mentioned it under number one but it’s an important step so you shouldn’t miss it.

It’s good to wipe down your rower after every use. If you used it correctly, you’ll have dropped some sweat which should be removed as soon as possible.

Sweat doesn’t only make your machine dirty for the next user/next time you use it. The liquid also attracts dirt, dust and possibly germs. On top of that, sweat is more corrosive than water so leaving it on your machine for too long can cause damage that way. Especially on the metal parts but plastic isn’t completely immune to sweat either.

Just wiping down all the surfaces of your rowing machine with a damp cloth and some gentle detergent or glass cleaner will do the trick. Don’t use very aggressive chemical cleaners because that can damage the surfaces.

It’s a very good idea to take all the plastic shrouds off and get all the dust that gathers behind them as well. The outside is easy to clean, the inside is a bit more difficult to get to on many models. Taking off the shrouds and cleaning on the inside should be done about once a year.

4.     Guide rail/ monorail

A woman using a stationary rowing machine

A very important maintenance item that requires regular attention is the guide rail. This is the part of the rower the seat slides on. It’s the long part sticking out.

This has to move smoothly without any rough and/or sticking points. As long as it isn’t damaged, this is pretty easy to achieve.

  • Wipe down the rail with a non-abrasive cloth and soap or glass cleaner. Don’t use anything corrosive or abrasive.
  • Make sure to move around the seat to get to all the parts.
  • Check the movement of the seat. Does if move smoothly, without any clicks, bumps and rougher parts?
  • It depends on the type of rower is the rail needs any lubricant or not. Most don’t but check your owner’s manual for your specific model.
  • If the seat doesn’t slide smoothly, check the rail for any damage or residue. If that’s OK, check the rollers in the seat. Are they tight/clean. Clean the rollers on the seat and check if the screws are tight. The rollers should roll pretty smoothly but not move in any other way.

If cleaning and tightening doesn’t work, you might have to replace the rollers.

5.     Lubricate Chain

Some rowers have a chain between the handles and flywheel and some have a strap or cord. The chain type needs lubrication to stay in the best condition.

First check if the handle is connected securely to the chain or strap. Inspect the chain/strap for any damage.

  • If you’ve got a chain, it has to be lubricated after every +-50 hours of use. At 30 minutes a day/5 days a week, that’s every 5 months. It’s better to
  • It’s not recommended to clean the chain with any kind of solvent.
  • Spray some lubricant on a paper towel/soft rag
  • Rub the paper towel along the full length of the chain.
  • Wipe of any excess.

Spraying directly on the chain will probably cause a mess so it’s better to spray on a paper towel first.

Chains aren’t that picky so you can use many different lubricants. Normal mineral oil works fine. If you want to be sure that you’ve got the right oil for the job, you can check out this Rowing Machine Oil on Amazon. It’s especially made to work with rowing machines and not damage then.

If the chain is very dirty, you can try a motorcycle chain cleaner spray. However, indoor rowing machines usually don’t get dirty enough to need this. A simple rag with lubricant will be enough in the vast majority of situations. If you use the motorcycle chain cleaner, make sure to catch all the dirt that comes out. It will drip everywhere.

Don’t use normal WD-40. It’s not a very good lubricant for rowing machines. Using the oil linked above will protect better and make your machine run smoother for longer.

6.     Pivot points

Many rowers have slide rails that can fold up. To make sure you can do this any time you want, just make sure it’s moving freely and give it a little bit of lubrication every few months. It really doesn’t need much but remembering it will keep it in good working condition when you need it.

Suggested post: 9 Amazing benefits rowing has for your body

7.     Performance monitor

Many rowers come with a simple computer that tracks certain aspects of your workout like strokes, stroke speed, time, etc. Some rowers use the electricity generated by you rowing to work. Other machines use a battery to power the display.

The battery will have to be replaced at some point in time. It depends on the machine how difficult this is. Some don’t require any tools while others require a small screwdriver. It’s very easy to replace this yourself either way.

If you want to make extra sure you never run out of juice, replace the batteries before they run out. However, unless it’s a competitive setting, it doesn’t really matter. Just replace the battery when the computer stops working.

It’s a good idea to replace the batteries before they start leaking though. This causes a mess can easily be avoided. Although batteries are better now than a couple of decades ago, they can still leak. The chance of batteries leaking is higher when they go flat. So if you’re storing the rower for a longer amount of time, take out the battery to prevent a chemical disaster.

Otherwise, replace the batteries once a year if they haven’t been used up by then.

Suggested post: Can you lose belly fat with just a rowing machine?

Specific type rowing machine maintenance

As said before, there are a few different types of rowing machine. Specifically how the resistance is created is different.. The way the resistance is created is different. This means there are slightly different moving parts which mean slightly different maintenance requirements.

The different types are;

  • Air resistance
  • Magnetic resistance
  • Liquid resistance
  • Air + Magnetic resistance
  • Hydraulic resistance

Find out more about the pros and cons of different resistance types in this post.

Here’s what maintenance specific to these types.

Air resistance

Many rowing machines use air resistance. That means you’re basically spinning a fan with your rowing. This is simple and effective. There isn’t too much that goes wrong with this. The only problem is that the fan can get pretty dirty and dusty.

Good rowers will have an air filter before the fan blade but some will still get through. And like the air filter in your car, when it gets too dirty, it doesn’t work properly anymore. It will require more effort to pull the air through.  

Regularly cleaning your air filters, fan blades and any other dirty areas will keep your rower operating smoothly and extend the lifespan.

Every rowing machine has a slightly different procedure for cleaning this part. Usually it involves removing the shroud around the fan and cleaning all the dirty areas with a vacuum cleaner and a damp cloth.

Make sure you do this according to the owner’s manual otherwise you could void your warranty.

Magnetic resistance

Magnetic resistance rowers are closed off so much less dust and dirt can get it. Over time some dust will still accumulate but it will take much longer than with an air rower.

If you think there is too much dust in there, you can go through the same process as for an air rower. Of course if you have a chain, you’ll have to lubricate that. Other than that, there isn’t that much to do on a magnetic resistance rower.

Water resistance

Liquid resistance rowers are usually filled with water. If you’ve ever had an aquarium you’ll know what happens if you just leave it alone without any type of cleaning. Things start growing.

To prevent this, you can refresh the water regularly and clean out the reservoir when you do this. It’s also a good idea to put some water treatment tablets in it to keep it good for longer so you don’t have to clean it as often. You don’t have to keep fish in it so you can use something pretty aggressive as long as it doesn’t damage the reservoir or blade.

Air + Magnetic resistance

Obviously this is a combination of air and magnetic resistance. Just look at those two points for the specific maintenance items for those types of rowers.

How much do rowing machines for a home gym cost?

Hydraulic resistance

Hydraulic resistance rowers have a tendency to become a bit squeaky. There are more pivot points on a hydraulic rower than most other types. This means more chances to develop a squeak somewhere. Regularly lubricating these pivot points will greatly reduce the chances of this happening.

Grease will work better for these pivot points than just oil. grease takes longer to break down and doesn’t leak out as much as oil does.

Grease doesn’t penetrate pivot points as easily oil does. That means it might be necessary to actually take the bolt out of the pivot point so you have good access and can get all the surfaces that rub against each other properly lubricated. Spray grease makes it a little easier to get to difficult places.

The actual part of the hydraulic rower that creates resistance, the piston, can leak sometimes. It’s very comparable to a shock absorber on a car. There is no maintenance to be done on the piston really. If it leaks, you’ll have to replace it just like you do with the shock absorber on a car. You’ll likely feel that the resistance is lower when this happens. It’s a good idea to check regularly for signs of leaking so you can prevent a puddle under your rower.

The upside is that there is no sliding seat which needs maintenance. That’s not really a benefit from an exercise perspective but at least it’s something you don’t have to maintain.

Get professional help

If anything is really broken and no amount of maintenance is going to get it back to life, it’s probably a good idea to get a pro to fix it. The good thing about rowing machines is that 99% of them don’t plug into the wall so there is no risk of being electrocuted.

So if you know what you’re doing, you can give it a try to fix it. However, you’ll probably need replacement parts from the manufacturer to properly fix the problem. If you don’t know how a screwdriver works, definitely get a mechanic to solve the problem. Most of the better treadmills will come with a good warranty and support so you can just call the hotline and someone will come to repair your rowing machine.

Favorite Cardio Accessories

Check out these accessories that improve a home cardio workout:

  • Equipment mat: All cardio equipment should be put on an equipment mat. The Rubber-Cal mat (Amazon) is an affordable yet very high-quality choice.
  • Tablet holder: Cardio can be boring. With this tablet holder (Amazon) you can follow along with on-demand workouts or just watch a movie on any cardio machine.
  • Heart rate monitor: Monitoring your heart rate is very important while doing cardio. The Polar H10 (Amazon) connects to almost anything you can imagine and is very accurate.

To find which cardio machines I recommend for home gyms, click here.


Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to After working out in many different gyms for almost 20 years and helping people build their own home gyms, i've learned a few things i'd like to share with you.

Recent Posts