To get the most mileage out of gear, regular equipment inspections and Preventative Maintenance (a.k.a., PM) are a must.
All equipment in your inventory should have PM scheduled at least once a year, and more frequently if it goes out the shop door a lot and/or is exposed to harsh environments.
PM comes down to inspecting, testing, cleaning, lubricating and repairing to keep systems in top operating condition.
In addition to annual PM, all gear should be given a quick inspection during setup and tear down at every gig. This includes a visual inspection, placing a hand on equipment to feel operating temperature, tugging on cable ends to see if strain relief is in good shape, etc.
If irregularities are noted, further inspection should be performed and problems addressed. Not paying attention to small problems allows them to build up to big problems that are much more expensive to correct, and they can also result in a failed gig. Here I’ll share some of the PM approaches I regularly utilize with my own gear.
PM for electrical gear like processors, amplifiers, and snake boxes always starts with a complete visual examination. Each unit’s case is opened up for visual inspection of the interior. I’m looking for loose or broken wires, unseated connectors, blown fuses, discolored circuit boards, and so on.
Keeping the inside of components this pristine can only help performance and longevity – just be sure to check the manual before removing cases. Image courtesy of QSC Audio. (click to enlarge)
While the case is open, it’s a great opportunity to run a vacuum and clean out all dust and road gunk that has accumulated inside. Sometimes an air compressor, or at least some “canned air,” is used to blow out the dirt. I also remove filters and clean or replace them per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Next up is checking and cleaning signal connections. If the equipment has faders and knobs, it’s time for cleaning and lubrication (again, per the manufacturer’s recommendations).
All electrical pins and connection surfaces are evaluated for corrosion and misalignment, and input and output connectors are given a thorough cleaning with an electronic cleaner such as Deoxit from Caig Labs. If connectors need to be repaired or replaced, this is the time to do it.
With the case still open, it’s a good ideal to double check all power cable connections, and if the unit has a fixed power cord, to make sure the strain relief is in good shape and the cord has no cuts or tears in the outer jacket. I also run my hand down the cable to feel for internal cable damage. If the unit takes batteries, they get a check, and the battery terminals are cleaned.
Before plugging in and powering anything, I make sure all cleaning fluids or solvents have dried. After a quick check to make sure the equipment is operating correctly, each component is sealed back within its case.
Rack-mount gear is a little harder to access without removing from the rack, but I strongly believe that doing maintenance is so important it’s worth the trouble. Note, however, that opening up some gear may void the factory warranty, so please read and follow all manufacturer instructions on maintenance.