One of the great things about the sport of skateboarding is that it requires little daily skateboard maintenance. In fact, decks are even designed to be both durable and disposable.
You may go through a series of decks but keep your same trucks for years. The useful life of wheels falls somewhere in the middle – between decks and trucks. How long a wheel lasts depends where and how you skate with them.
The low maintenance nature of skateboarding doesn’t mean that you can completely neglect keeping your board in shape. Skateboards are made up a few different components that can lose their functionality over time, if neglected. Give them tender loving care to keep them working at optimal levels.
Sometimes a cleaning or adjustment just makes sense. It’s also much safer to take the time to do minor adjustments before you head out to skate. For anyone that’s had a wheel pop off while skating, you’ll know that it’s not the wheel that feels the pain!
Maybe you just got a new board and don’t know where to start making adjustments. Or perhaps you’ve had a board for a while and noticed that it’s just not working for you the way it used to.
I’m here to walk you through the basics of skateboard maintenance. I’ll teach you how to get the most out of your board at all skill levels.
This guide will help you troubleshoot many of the basic issues. However, to get the most out of your board, you may want to consider signing up for Jordan Richter Skateboard Academy’s camps and group classes. You can also sign up for private lessons where we can troubleshoot some specific issues you may be having.
Skateboard maintenance tools before you start:
- Collect together various sizes of crescent or socket wrenches. (9/16,”1/2” & 3/8” are some of the common nut sizes you’ll see on your board.)
- Phillips head screwdriver or Allen key
- You can also use an all-in-one skate tool that combines all of these tools together.
1) Trucks Adjustment
The metal axle assembly on the bottom of your board is known as the trucks. The level of tightness of the trucks controls how simple or hard it will be to turn your board.
Tighter trucks are recommended for beginners. This reduces the number of variables that a skater has to deal with while they’re learning. However, as you grow and develop your balance and skills, loosening the trucks will make it easier for you to navigate your board.
To adjust the truck, first flip the board upside down. You’ll see a large nut at the end of the “kingpin” bolt in the center of the truck. You’ll only need to take a wrench to the one 9/16” nut on each truck.
If your nuts are tight, try loosening each truck nut a quarter turn at a time. Try the board out after each adjustment to feel how it rides differently.
You’ll find that a full turn will give a very noticeable change.
Pay attention and be sure to never over loosen the nut to the point that you risk having the nut fall off the kingpin.
You may also find that you develop a preference for a tighter truck on the front or back. However, I recommend keeping the trucks the same tightness level for consistency as you develop.
PRO TIP: If you find that your trucks are still too tight even after loosening your kingpin bolt to the last thread, you can remove the top metal washer that covers your bushings. This will give you some extra thread to play with and also will make your truck more responsive.
2) Bubbles in the grip tape
You may find that you have some bubbles under your board grip. This can happen if the sandpaper-like top of the board grip was not applied evenly.
No worries though! Slip a razor blade or pin under the edge of the grip to make a small opening. Then push the air out and “pop” the bubble between the grip and board. This is a relatively easy skateboard maintenance trick. It works wonders to get those annoying bubbles out from under your grip tape.
Just bear in mind that the more you skate a board, the stronger the grip will become. This issue is best fixed sooner rather than later.
3) Axle nuts adjustment
On each of your two axles your wheels are attached with one ½” nut per wheel. To ensure your wheels are properly attached, tighten each nut as far as it can go without stopping the spin and movement of the wheel.
Also, as you move the wheel from side to side you should only be able to feel a slight amount of wiggle room. It is possible for nuts to work themselves loose from time to time, so wheels are an important issue to check as part of your regular skateboard maintenance.
4) Truck mounting bolts adjustment
Each of your trucks is attached to your skateboard deck with a set of four bolts and four ⅜” nuts. Some companies use Phillips head bolts, while other use Allen wrench bolts, so it’s good to keep both on hand for skateboard maintenance.
Many high-quality boards will have nylon locking nuts. These generally offer a very stable and long-lasting grip. However, exposure to extreme heat can loosen the nylon grip over time.
If the nuts do get loose, you can tighten them back up. However, keep in mind that nylon-locking nuts need to be replaced if you do ever decide to completely remove them.
5) Cleaning your bearings
Bearing cleaning can be a lengthy process, so it’s really not worth taking everything apart if the wheels are still spinning decent. That being said, if you have a wheel that is simply not spinning at all, you should probably consider a cleaning.
Your option when cleaning is to just do all the wheels at once, or just focus on the one wheel that is in most dire need. What you choose will probably depend on how much time you have, and the state of the rest of your wheels.
To clean, first you’ll want to remove the axle nut and the wheel. Set both of these pieces, and the washers you removed from either side of the wheel, somewhere safe. It’s best to work at a table so that your pieces won’t roll away from you.
Next, you’ll need to pry the bearings out of the wheels without damaging them. Some skaters just use the exposed axle to do this bit, but there are actually skateboard maintenance tools that can make this process much safer, faster, and easier.
Here is a detailed explanation on the dangers of dirty bearings, as well as expert directions in how to clean your bearings yourself.
However, if you are not up for the challenge of cleaning, you can easily just replace your bearings for the same results.
6) Cleaning and replacing your grip tape
As mentioned above, bubbles are one aspect of grip tape that may need to be addressed. However, there may come a time when the tape gets so dirty or worn that you consider replacing your grip tape altogether.
Some skate shops sell erasers that can help you remove stubborn marks on your grip tape. You can also address problem areas using a damp used toothbrush. Just be sure to blot the stain to soak up any moisture. Rubbing or scrubbing with a fabric or paper towel will make a big linty mess.
Take care not to get the board or any of the metal bolts wet as you’re cleaning.
You can also remove the old grip and replace it. It’s a bit of a tedious process, but doesn’t take too long. It will take you 15-30 minutes with the help of a razor blade or even a hairdryer.
While the hairdryer method of heating small portions at a time does make it a bit easier to pull off strips of grip, it also makes things messier. Keep that in mind going in.
Be sure to get off all the remaining old grip and glue you can so that you can apply the new grip cleanly and evenly.
7) Other general care instructions
In general, it’s best to avoid getting your skateboard wet or expose it to very hot or cold weather.
It’s best to not store your skateboard in a car trunk in the summer or outdoor shed in winter. If you do so, you run the risk of damaging or warping the deck. This will also end up reducing its life and making the board harder to ride.
While skateboards were meant to get dented and scratched over their lifetimes, it’s also good to keep in mind that the decks are actually designed to be somewhat disposable. While decks can take a certain amount of wear and abuse, you may still need to replace them.
If we missed something or if you have any skateboard maintenance tips to share, feel free to leave a comment below. You can also shoot us an email if you have a question about skateboards you don’t see answered here.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy your fixed up board!
Keep pushing forward!