Elliptical trainers can last a long time with proper maintenance. It can be easy to overlook some parts of maintenance so here is what you should do to keep your cross trainer in tip top shape so you can enjoy it for years to come.
The most important elliptical trainer maintenance involves cleaning the machine, proper lubrication of pivot points and keeping nuts and bolts tight. There are some other parts of maintenance that don’t have to be done often but should still be done regularly.
To find out what you have to do exactly and how often to keep your elliptical trainer well maintained, keep reading.
- 1 Elliptical trainer maintenance
- 2 Cleaning an elliptical trainer
- 3 Lubricating an elliptical trainer
- 4 Checking nuts and bolts
- 5 Unplug after use
- 6 Leveling and stabilizing
- 7 Tightening drive belt
- 8 Replacing drive belt
- 9 Replace batteries
- 10 Room conditions
- 11 Taking your elliptical trainer out of storage
- 12 Call a pro
Elliptical trainer maintenance
Elliptical trainers require maintenance just like any other machine that has moving parts. While they don’t need as much maintenance as a treadmill, you’ll still want to keep an eye on the following things;
- Check nuts and bolts
- Unplug after use
- Leveling and stabilizing
- Tightening the drive belt
- Replacing drive belt
- Replace batteries
Below you can see how to do all of those things exactly.
Cleaning an elliptical trainer
Good maintenance starts with regular cleaning. Cleaning is good for several reasons;
- You’re more likely to use a clean elliptical
- Dirt, dust and sweat gets into the machine and can cause problems
- Sweat is actually pretty damaging to many materials
Just like any other piece of equipment or furniture, regular cleaning has to be done to keep it in good condition. On a machine you sweat on many times a week, it’s even more important.
On top of that, elliptical trainers are often placed in a spot that is pretty dusty and/or dirty compared to the rest of the house. Garages and basements are common places for workout equipment but those are not the friendliest environments.
So keeping your elliptical cross trainer clean is the first step to good maintenance.
Here’s how you do it right;
How to clean your elliptical/cross trainer
There are some things you should know about cleaning an elliptical trainers.
Make sure to use a mild detergent to clean your machine. Aggressive chemicals like bleach and ammonia can harm many of the plastics you can find on an elliptical trainer.
Warm water, mild detergent and a lint free towel are your best options. Also make sure the towel you’re using isn’t too wet. Just damp will do fine. Using too much water can cause corrosion and electrical problems.
- After every workout: After every workout, use a damp, lint free towel to quickly wipe down the machine. Especially the console and handles should be cleaned. Also get any sweat drops that might have gotten somewhere else. This prevents your sweat from attracting extra dust and dirt.
- Monthly: About once a month, do a more thorough clean of the whole machine. Wipe down the whole outside of the machine. Pay special attention to the guide rails and rollers if your machine has those.
- Every 6 months: Turn off the machine and unplug it from the wall. Take off the plastic covers and vacuum up any dust you can see. Try to avoid bumping into any internal parts. This could damage something. The goal here is to prevent too much dust from building up that can interfere with the functioning of the machine.
That’s it for cleaning. It isn’t difficult at all, just something you have to remember to do. The small time investment will be worth the better machine in the end.
Lubricating an elliptical trainer
The next most important part of maintenance is lubrication. Elliptical trainers have several moving parts. When two parts move together and they’re properly lubricated, they last for a very long time. However, when they’re rubbing together without good lubrication, they wear out quickly. Run your car engine without oil and it’ll break very quickly.
A lubricant forms a thin film between the two surfaces so they don’t actually touch. That way there is no or very limited wear.
Disclaimer: Under some warranties you can’t really do much yourself. Some manufacturers expect you to lubricate the machine yourself while on other machines it actually voids the warranty. Make sure to check your owner’s manual.
Now if the lubricant wears down, gets old or leaks out, the two surfaces will start rubbing together and wear out very quickly. To prevent this, apply new lubricant regularly. On an elliptical machine you’ll have a few spots that have to receive some lubricant to keep those parts from wearing out.
Under normal use, you should lubricate certain points of an elliptical machine about every six months. If you’ve bought a new elliptical machine, there is a good chance it came with some lubricant. If so, use this.
If you don’t have any, avoid using household oils or a standard lubricant. These won’t do the job. In most of the cases, ellipticals come with a type of grease, usually lithium grease.
If your elliptical didn’t come with any, check out this WD-40 Lithium spray on Amazon. This isn’t your normal WD-40. This is the type of grease that comes with most elliptical trainers. This spray bottle makes it easier and less messy to apply.
Just spray on the areas that need it (check your owner’s manual), and wipe of the excess.
Checking nuts and bolts
Preventing things from breaking is always better than to fix them. When a part breaks on your elliptical, you might have to wait quite a few days before you’re able to work out again. A mechanic has to come out to your location and possibly he has to order parts and come back later. This is very inconvenient so preventing this from happening in the first place is a good thing.
If anything is loose that should be tight, that’s a very quick way to break things. You can strip threads from bolts or put too much stress on other parts. This can have consequences that are easily prevented but hard to fix.
Here’s what to do;
Inspect the trainer regularly
Every workout: Visually check for loose parts and bolts. Is it likely you’ll find any? No, but it’s better to take the few seconds it takes to check than to fall off. Just use hand tools to tighten where necessary. Try to avoid using power tools.
Monthly: Usage causes movement and vibrations. This can cause bolts to become undone and cause an unsafe situation.
Once a month it’s a good idea to do a more in depth check for loose parts and bolts. Take the appropriate tool(s) and physically check the tightness of all the parts and bolts. It’s best to follow the assembly instructions to make sure you don’t over/under tighten certain things.
Check the operation of the machine. See if everything moving as freely as it should and if there are any squeaks and rattles. If there are, inspect further and see if you should lubricate, tighten or do something else to solve the problem and prevent it from getting worse.
Also check over the console, plastic parts and power cords for cracks or other damage and replace parts if necessary.
Every 6 months: Every six months you should check the state of the drive belt. This will require taking off some of the plastic covers. If you see any signs of wear or damage, it should be replaced.
Unplug after use
Some elliptical trainers work on batteries, some have to be plugged into the wall outlet.
If your cross trainer has to be plugged into the wall, unplugging it after every use is a good idea. Besides going through the effort of pulling out a plug, there are no downsides but there are certainly a few upsides;
- Reduces electricity usage. The consoles can draw a little bit of power even when turned off.
- Protects the electronics from power surges.
Modern ellipticals have big touchscreens with a lot of electronics behind them. Replacing this is going to be expensive so unplugging the machine is an easy insurance.
Check out this post for more in-depth information. It’s about unplugging treadmills but ellipticals are pretty much the same in this regard.
If your elliptical console uses batteries, don’t worry about taking them out.
Leveling and stabilizing
An elliptical trainer should be solid and not move around when used. If not all the feet are on the floor at all times, you can put a lot of torsional stress on the frame. This can damage the frame over time and also loosen nuts and bolts.
Don’t attempt to set your elliptical trainer up on a surface that isn’t flat and or stable. It’s a recipe for disaster. If the machine isn’t level, you’ll put excessive stress on one side of it, causing moving parts on that side to wear out faster.
It also just doesn’t feel good to work out on a trainer that isn’t completely straight. You might even develop some muscle imbalances.
Here are some tips for leveling and stabilizing your elliptical;
- Put your elliptical on solid flooring. Carpet can be too soft and cause wobbling.
- Almost all elliptical trainers have adjustable feet so you can keep the machine level
- Use a thick rubber mat under the elliptical. This is hard enough to keep the machine stable but at the same time can absorb a little of the unevenness of the floor underneath.
Tightening drive belt
Many elliptical trainers have a drive belt that connects the pedals to the flywheel. This drive belt can stretch and start slipping. The belt just has to be tight enough not to slip. It shouldn’t be too tight either since that can put too much stress on bearings.
I’ve written a separate guide on how to tighten your elliptical machine drive belt. Click here to find it.
If you adjusted the belt and it’s still slipping, you know it’s time to replace the belt.
Replacing drive belt
Since the drive belt is made from rubber, it can sometimes break or wear out. At that point It’ll have to be replaced. If it’s broken or the belt keeps slipping after adjusting the tightness, you know it’s time.
Replacing the belt can be done by yourself on most models as long as you can get a hold of the right belt. Many manufacturers can send you a belt if you get in contact with them.
However, some are not going to and will want to send a certified engineer to replace it for you. It’ll depend on the brand which one is the case for you.
If your elliptical has a console but doesn’t plug into a power outlet, it probably has some batteries to power the display. Batteries drain over time and when the voltage drops too low, the console will stop working. Just replacing the batteries when the console stops working is simple enough and can usually be done in a few minutes.
Usually it just involves unscrewing a little lid on the back of the console, removing the old batteries, placing new batteries and screwing the lid back in place.
Don’t wait to replace the batteries for too long. Empty batteries can start leaking. The chemicals in batteries can be pretty nasty and you’ll have to clean it up before replacing the batteries.
Even if the batteries aren’t empty, it’s a good idea to replace them after about a year. Older batteries are more likely to leak. Batteries are pretty cheap so there’s no reason not to do this. Although with regular use, the batteries probably won’t last a year anyways.
This piece of preventative maintenance has nothing to do with actually touching the cross trainer. The room it’s placed in actually has a pretty big impact on how long an elliptical trainer (or other workout equipment) is going to last.
An elliptical machine is made from metal, plastics, electronics and rubber. While most of these materials are pretty resilient, it’s good if the conditions in the room where it’s stored are pretty moderate.
That means moderate;
Extreme temperatures can damage plastics, rubber and electronics. High humidity can cause mold to grow easier and quicker and if it’s very high can even cause corrosion and it’s not great for the electronics.
Daylight or more accurately UV light also degrades most materials over time. While having daylight while working out is very nice, and can even help you get better workouts, having the sun beating down on the rubber and plastic can be tough on them. Putting a cover over the crosstrainer is going to limit the UV exposure dramatically. There are also products that help protect materials from UV light.
Humidity is often high in the garage and basement, depending on the climate you live in. Humidity can cause damage to the electronics as well as cause mold growth both of which are very detrimental.
Having A/C or a dehumidifier in the same space as where you work out can help reduce the impact of humidity on your elliptical dramatically. It also makes working out there a lot more comfortable.
If you choose to store your elliptical trainer for an extended period of time, it’s good to take some precautions to keep it in good condition for when you choose to use it again.
Here are some things to take into consideration when storing your machine.
- Switch off the machine
- Unplug the trainer from the wall
- Take any (if any) batteries out of the console.
- Clean the trainer before you put it away
- Store in a dry, dark place with moderate temperatures
- Cover the machine with a tarp or something else that protects it and prevents dust from gathering
Taking your elliptical trainer out of storage
When you take it out of storage, it’s a good idea to give it a thorough inspection. You can find a list of things to inspect higher in this article. Before you can do this, you’ll probably have to clean it first before you can inspect anything.
After inspecting and correcting anything if necessary, put a set of fresh batteries in the console and/or plug it into the wall socket.
Check if everything moves freely and as it should before actually stepping on the trainer. Just stepping on it and then discovering something is wrong might hurt you. Depending on how long it’s been stored, the moving parts might need some lubrication.
If everything works as when you put it away, enjoy!
Call a pro
For some things you should just call someone who really knows what they’re doing. All the maintenance in the world isn’t going to fix something that’s broken. Changing the oil in your car after the engine blows up isn’t going to fix the engine.
If something is broken on your elliptical or there is just something you aren’t comfortable with doing yourself, it’s a good idea to call a professional that knows exactly what they’re doing.
Also, under some warranties you can’t really do much yourself. Some manufacturers expect you to clean and lubricate the machine yourself while on other machines it actually voids the warranty. Make sure to check your owner’s manual.
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