Smith Machine Maintenance: What’s The Best Lubricant?

Smith machines are common in gyms and home gyms. But what do you have to do to properly maintain them and what’s the best lubricant to use? Let’s find out.

Smith machines in a home gym should be wiped down after every workout, and cleaned once a week and a dry PFTE lubricant should be applied to the guide rods once a month or whenever necessary. The frequency of lubrication depends on the frequency of use. Overall, Smith machines are low maintenance.

For details on what the best lubricant is, and how to exactly maintain your Smith machine, keep reading below.

What’s the best lubricant for a Smith machine?

The lubricant on a Smith machine is used for the guide rods. Guide rods are made from a hardened material and have a polished surface. However, some of the cheaper machines can cut costs one way or another. So with cheaper machines, it’s even more important to protect the guide rods.

Image of a woman squatting in a smith machine

A grease or other runny lubricant is not the best option for a Smith machine because it will all drip down over time. You need something that creates a protective layer so the guide rod or bearings don’t get damaged.

The best option for this is a spray lube with PFTE (Teflon). This is easy to apply, doesn’t leave a mess if applied correctly and it sets on the surface after a few minutes. With this type of lubricant, you get the hard protective layer on the guide rods that protects both the rods and the bearings.

There are quite a few dry PTFE sprays on the market but the big brands like WD-40 and DuPont are easy to work with and get good results.

What has to be lubricated on a Smith machine?

Having the best lubricant doesn’t help much if you don’t apply it in the right place. So what has to be lubricated on a Smith machine? There isn’t actually all that much that has to be lubricated. A Smith machine doesn’t have many moving parts.

There are Smith machines that combine more exercise options into one piece of equipment that will have more maintenance needs but this post is just about the Smith machine part.

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The only important thing that needs maintenance is the guide rods. These are the shiny metal bars that go from the bottom to the top of the machine which the barbell slides on. Usually, there is some kind of bearing that makes sure the movement is smooth.

There is also a type of Smith machine where the barbell doesn’t only move up and down. It can also move horizontally. See the BodyCraft Jones machines for example. In these machines the whole vertical assembly slides on two horizontal guide rods. There isn’t much difference in how to treat these machines, just that there are four guide rods instead of two.

But before you get to how to lubricate the guide rods, there is one other important part of maintenance and that is cleaning.

Smith machine cleaning

Cleaning is an obvious and simple part of maintenance but it has to be done. There are two things you should regularly do:

  • After every workout, wipe down the surfaces you touched and any surface that got sweat on it. Having a box of disinfectant wipes is useful for this purpose.
  • Every week to every other week, clean the whole machine. How often you need to do it depends on how much dust and dirt is in your gym and how often the machine gets used.

To clean a Smith machine, just treat it like any other piece of gym equipment:

  • Get a bucket of water (warm if possible) and add a mild detergent.
  • Take a non-abrasive cloth, make it damp by dunking it in the bucket, and then squeeze the excess liquid out.
  • Wipe down all the parts of the machine.

A Smith machine does not have any electronics so you don’t have to worry about that but don’t get everything too wet. It might cause corrosion in some cases.

The guide rods should also be cleaned using the same method but be aware that after cleaning them, especially if you use a detergent, add some lubrication. If you don’t want to lubricate the rods but want to clean the machine, just use a damp rag without any detergent.

Image of a person bench pressing in a smith machine

Smith Machine Guide rod lubrication

After cleaning everything, it’s time to apply some lubricant. This isn’t necessary very often and some people never even bother but your machine will last longer and work smoother if you do this regularly. Once a month is fine for home gym use.

  • Make sure the guide rods are clean of dust and dirt
  • Put the barbell in the lowest position
  • Spray the guide rods from top to bottom from about 6” away. Spray both front and rear. Holding a piece of cardboard behind the rod while spraying will help prevent overspray. Dry PFTE sprays on dry. If the surface is dripping wet it’s too much. A little
  • If there are any drips forming, take a dry, non-abrasive, lint-free cloth to wipe off the excess and distribute the lubricant. A light touch will do fine.
  • Wait 10 minutes for the spray to set before using the machine

That’s it. It’s very simple and except for the waiting time to let the layer set up, it’s done pretty quickly.

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Other Smith machine maintenance

Other than the things mentioned above, Smith machines don’t need a lot of maintenance. The only other thing that could get less smooth is the rotation of the barbell. You need to be able to rotate the bar to get it off and on the safety catches. It’s very rare that this gets stuck but if it feels less smooth, just spray some penetrating fluid like normal WD-40 around the edges of the rotation mechanism and let it set for an hour.

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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.

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