How to Maintain A Rowing Machine Properly

If you’re anything like me, your rowing machine is your pride and joya you will want to keep it, along with the rest of your home gym equipment, in good working order. In general, rowing machines don’t need too much looking after, but a little maintenance now and then is important to keep everything in good working order.

Inspect your rowing machine on a weekly basis. Give the handle, rail and screen and clean and wipe down after every workout. Depending on the make and brand, you should be lubricating the chain and pivot points, cleaning out the flywheel and ensuring there are no ominous creaks as and when necessary.

Prevention

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We’re going to talk about some of the difference between machine types and the maintenance required of each in this article. However, let’s get started with some of the basics which are similar to pretty much any rowing machine that you could be using. Prevention is the best form of maintenance, so make sure you’re doing these four things to reduce the likelihood of something going wrong.

  1. Put a gym mat underneath the rower – this will keep it from moving around and damaging the floor surface.
  2. Put the rower on a flat surface – this prevents too much pressure being exerted on a particular part of the machine. It’s also going to be more comfortable for you and make your workout more enjoyable!
  3. Clean up after you’re done – whip down with a damp cloth and a little bit of diluted detergent. Focus on the slide rail and keeping that free of grime buildup.
  4. Inspect once a week – Make sure everything is running smoothly, that nothing appears loose or out of place and that there are no weird noises coming from anywhere on the machine.

Properly clean your rower

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It’s great practice to wipe everything down after each use. If you keep a cloth and a bottle of some cleaning solution close to your machine, it can make this habit very easy to adopt. If you don’t keep sweat off the machine, it can build up surprisingly fast, attracting other bits of dirt, oil and general gunk. This can look and smell horrible but can also damage your machine over time, which could result in quite a serious repair bill.

Lubricate rower’s chain

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If your rower has a chain, ensuring that it remains lubricated is a great idea. This should be done every 50 or so hours of use (which is every 5 months, based on 30 minutes of working out a day). Normal mineral oil works just fine (it’s not recommended to use anything with solvents in it). Simply wipe the chain up and down and make sure you remove any excess.

Particular types of rowing machine

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I’ve given some general guidance above, which is likely to be applicable to most types of rowing machine. Next, we will move on to guidance for specific types of rowing machines. We’ve written a number of articles comparing different rowing machine brands and types of resistance which you should definitely check out!

Air resistance rowing machine upkeep

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Loads of rowing machines use what is called air resistance (think Concept2 rowers, for example). This means that you’re spinning a fan and a flywheel to create resistance. It’s a simple and effective type of rowing machine where relatively little can go wrong. The primary thing you should be thinking about in terms of maintenance is that the fan can get dusty and dirty. High quality air resistance rowers will have an air filter before the fan blade but it’s inevitable that some particles will still get through. The filter itself can also get clogged and need changing from time to time.

Regularly check your fan and air filter for grime, dust and dirt. Keep this clean and unobstructed and your rower should operate smoothly and have a very respectable lifespan. (Do make sure you check your machine’s warranty before doing any of this so you can be sure you’re not voiding anything).

Magnetic resistance rowing machine upkeep

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In general, magnetic resistance rowers are closed off, meaning that much fewer dirt particles can get into the machines. There will still be a build up, but it’s likely going to be much less than with an air resistance machine. Still keep an eye on it and remember that if your machine has a chain, keep it well lubricated as described above. For more, you can read my magnetic vs air resistance comparison.

Water resistance rowing machine upkeep

Liquid resistance rowers are usually filled with water and if you are someone who keeps fish, you will know what happens if this isn’t changed on a regular basis – things start to grow! In order to avoid a smelly situation, make sure you’re replacing the water on a regular basis and giving the reservoir a good clean as you do it. (Also make sure you’re not keeping fish in the same place as an aggressive rower blade!).

Air + Magnetic resistance rowing machine upkeep

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For these hybrid air magnetic machines, the same points apply as above for magnetic and air resistance machines. See above and apply!

Hydraulic resistance rowing machine upkeep

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Hydraulic resistance rowers can often become quite squeaky in my experience. There are quite a number of pivot points (just things that move on the machine) which need to be inspected and potentially lubricated. Make sure that your inspections are thorough on these machines and that you’re addressing any strange noises or squeaks as soon as they occur – delay and you might have a costly repair on your hands.

Remember, grease doesn’t get into joints and pivot points in the same way that oil does. It might mean that you need to remove a bolt or hinge here and there to get lubrication to where it’s needed, but this will be time well spent in the long run.

Get professional help

What I’ve described above is pretty straightforward rowing machine maintenance. One thing you should never forget is that these can be expensive pieces of kit and if a “proper” repair is needed, or even if you want to just get a third party perspective on the way you’re maintaining your machine, you should always consider getting a professional in. THey will have worked on thousands of machines and will almost certainly be able to diagnose and address your problem much quicker and more thoroughly than you can.

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