In my more than decade of experience snowboarding I have taught more than twenty people how to snowboard. At the beginning and end of each day I always make sure to drill good habits and etiquette into their minds, and one aspect of that is how often to tighten their bindings.
I personally recommend tightening bindings before every snowboard session since they will eventually loosen up over time. In addition to that one positive habit, there are other things any boarder can do to make sure their bindings don’t come loose at the worst possible time.
Here are the main reasons why your snowboard bindings come loose:
- Binding screws are not cross threaded
- Sometimes screws aren’t tightened properly
- Change of temperatures causes shrink and expansion
- Hardware needs to be replaced
- So Why Do My Bindings Keep Coming Loose?
- Thermal Contraction and Vibration
- So Is There Nothing I Can Do to Avoid This?
- 4 Tips to Make Sure Your Bindings Stay Tight
So Why Do My Bindings Keep Coming Loose?
There are actually a few potential reasons as to why a snowboard binding comes loose from the snowboard.
Sometimes it’s user error, but more likely than not, bindings have come loose due to nature and physics.
This loosening is something that will inevitably occur. A combination of thermal expansion/contraction and simple vibration are the primary mechanisms behind this.
Thermal Contraction and Vibration
Thermal contraction and expansion is the scientific principle that when things get cold, they shrink, when they get hot, they expand.
Snowboards and the bindings attached to them are constantly being exposed to freezing temperatures on the mountain.
After that they get exposed to different temperatures everywhere else. This causes expansion and contraction, no matter how slight.
This causes friction to change where the male threads of the screws meet the female threads on the board. This can, to a degree, cause the screws to loosen over time.
The physics that likely have a more important role in bindings coming loose has to do with vibration.
Regular vibrations can cause screws to unthread, and anyone that has snowboarded knows that snowboards are constantly exposed to vibrations through normal riding in a day on the slopes.
This, combined with the thermal contraction/expansion mentioned above, means that bindings will inevitably come loose over time.
So Is There Nothing I Can Do to Avoid This?
Not completely, however, doing the following four things (and a bonus fifth thing at the end) can make this natural loosening less likely to happen mid-day on the slopes, and can even make them stay tight for a very long time.
4 Tips to Make Sure Your Bindings Stay Tight
Let’s look at a couple of solutions to fix your loose bindings. Sometimes it just takes a couple of minutes to solve the problem.
1. Make Sure Screws Are Not Cross Threaded
Cross threading is when a screw is forced into the tapped hole (the hole with the receiving threads attached to the board) while the threads are not lined up.
This causes the threads to cut across each other, rather than thread together. It can also occur from over tightening a screw, as this will cause the threads to cut across each other.
To check if your screws are cross threaded, undo all the screws holding your bindings to your board. If they are cross threaded there will generally be some resistance here.
Next you simply look at the threads of the screws to make sure there are no chunks of metal missing from the threaded part of the screw.
If there are any chunks missing (even small chunks) I would recommend replacing the screw. Likely the tapped hole will have issues with new screws as well from the damage.
We can’t really replace the tapped hole, so at this point we just hope it accepts a new screw, if not, step 3 might actually help this, or you might have to adjust your stance on the board to use different holes.
2. Make Sure Screws Are Tightened Properly
Once we know the screws are not cross threaded, we want to make sure that they are tightened properly.
The next step to do this now that all the screws are out anyway from step 1, is to make sure your bindings are where you want them, then grab the proper screwdriver.
Binding screws tend to be standard across brands and can be tightened with either a #3 pozidrive bit/screwdriver or a #3 Phillips head screwdriver.
The pozidrive looks a lot like a phillips, but is actually able to apply more torque and is less likely to cam-out or strip the screw head.
The important thing here is to not use anything smaller than a #3, use of #2 screwdrivers are very likely to result in loose bindings or cammed out screw heads.
Once you have the right screwdriver, next you place a screw through the binding plate and onto the tapped hole.
Give it a slow and controlled twist counter-clockwise until you feel a little bump up and then down.
This ensures the threads are lined up and will not cross thread. Then turn clockwise about one full turn, this will thread the screw a little bit, but do not fully tighten yet.
Do this with the other screws as well to get them all started.
After that, tighten one screw 90% of the way, pick the opposite screw and take it 90% as well, then do the last two the same, except taking the 4th one 100% (do not overtighten).
Then finish tightening the other 3.* Partially tightening them while lining up the screws ensures they all line up properly and reduces misalignment and cross threading as well.
*While this is specifically for common disc plates and boards that require 4 screws, I recommend using this same system for any other binding attachments as well.
Burton’s 3D discs and boards (requiring 3 screws instead of 4) or the channel boards that require only 2 screws.
Still start by partially setting the 1st screw, then the remaining, and only after all screws are lined up should you tighten them down.
3. Add Thread Locker or Plumber’s Tape
If you’ve done the first two and find that your screws are coming loose abnormally often, not even making it through a full day, you might need to add something a little extra.
Here is where thread locker aka “loctite” comes in.
Now if you’ve ever bought brand new bindings, you’ve likely seen the blue tips on the end of the brand new screws that came with the new bindings, and possibly even wondered what that was for.
The blue tip is actually thread locker that has already been applied to the screws from the factory, this helps to keep them in place for longer by increasing friction between the screw and the tapped hole.
After screwing and unscrewing the screws several times, the thread locker will typically go away, and that’s okay, it’s designed to, if not, then the screws would be stuck in the tapped hole.
Just make sure you buy the blue thread locker or the ones that say “temporary” and not the red ones/the ones that say “permanent”.
Thread locker comes in a small bottle and is sold at all major hardware stores and is easy to find online as well. “Loctite” is the most commonly known brand of thread locker.
Plumber’s tape, aka pipe thread sealant tape, aka “Teflon tape” is an alternative to liquid thread locker, typically used for, you guessed it, plumbing applications.
It uses the same principle as thread locker. By increasing the friction between the screw and the tapped hole, it has the added benefit of creating a watertight seal.
But that doesn’t help us as any extra for our application
Whichever you choose, make sure you follow the application instructions on the packaging as improper application can cause the application to do nothing or make problems worse.
4. Buy New Hardware
If you’ve tried the above and found your screws just don’t line up right or have found that some of your screws are cross threaded, or lost a washer or screw, it may be worth it to spend the small amount of money on new hardware.
I would recommend buying this from your binding manufacturer directly. If this is not possible then I would either reach out to your local ski/snowboard shop.
If there’s one near you or purchase from a reputable online ski/snowboard retailer, my go to is evo but there are plenty of other online retailers out there.
Even if these are done and you find your bindings are staying tight longer, accidents still happen, and an easy mitigator is doing a quick tightness check before every session.
Which brings us to the bonus, and arguably most important tip, tip #5. Keep a “skate tool” on you while riding.
Most resorts have screwdrivers and tables set up around the resorts somewhere in case you need it, but they don’t always, and sometimes the screw drivers aren’t the optimal #3, and sometimes you actually need to do an adjustment mid-mountain.
Having a skate tool in your pocket can definitely come in clutch, and will act as a reminder to tighten your gear regularly. I keep a Dakine torque driver in my snow pants, it’s no better than any other driver though, find one the size and design you like and pick one up.