Skateboard Maintenance – Restore, Clean or Upgrade Parts


Skateboard components explosive view

Maintaining a skateboard will extend its lifespan and knowing how all the parts work and keep them in good condition could save you quite some money. Every part on a skateboard can be replaced and many of the components can be fixed without having to shop for new parts

This article is all about cleaning and maintaining skateboard parts and signs of wear so you know when to replace them. Before we start make sure you have the proper tools. I use a skate tool but you can also grab a few items from your toolbox.

  • Allen wrench/screwdriver depending on the hardware
  • An open-ended spanner for your kingpin, baseplate, and wheel nuts

Check the image on top of this page with all the parts so you have a reference in case the jargon gets over your head. Maybe open the image in a new tab for reference if needed.

Most Skateboard Parts Are Universal

Before I go down every part and show you how to maintain them it might be useful to know that every component can be replaced. Bearings are universal and fit all wheels, and all wheels up to 58mm can be replaced without issues. Around 60mm you need to get some riser pads to avoid the wheels from coming into contact with your board when you carve. So if you are thinking of putting on large soft wheels keep this in mind.

As for trucks and skateboard decks, make sure that the width of the skate trucks matches the deck. It doesn’t come down to the millimeter but they shouldn’t stick out too much or be too narrow.

On the subject of trucks, make sure the bushings are either cone barrel-shaped or cone-cone like the Bones hardcore bushings. Lastly, hardware (nuts and bolts to attach trucks) should be 1/8 inch long if you don’t use riser pads, 1/18 is you use shock pads and 1/1/4 inch if you use thicker riser pads. That’s all there’s to it, now let’s get down to business.

Maintaining Skateboard Bearings

old rusty skateboard bearings

I’ll start with bearings since they need to be maintained frequently. A rule of thumb is to clean them every season if you skate often. Here are a couple of signs when you need to maintain or replace your skateboard bearings.

  • Squeaky noises when riding
  • You skateboard slows down fast and requires more effort to push
  • One of the wheels isn’t spinning properly
  • They sound like if there’s sand in them when you spin them around
  • Your wheels stop spinning within 4 seconds after you give them a spin.

In order to remove your bearings, unscrew the axle nut on the truck and use a skate tool to remove the bearings. Stick the tool in the hole and apply pressure. Sometimes it’s hard to get them out so you need to wiggle a bit and force them out. Getting them back in might be harder in some cases. 

If you don’t have a skate tool you can use the truck axle to remove them, though it might damage the axle thread a bit, I’m not a fan but it works. 

Once you removed it’s time to clean your bearings. If you have closed (shielded) bearings this is a bit more difficult and requires them to soak a bit longer, open bearings are easier to clean and if your bearings are beyond saving, consider getting open bearings. DO NOT USE WD40! It will only attract more dirt and you can throw away your bearings after a couple of months.

  1. Get a cup and fill it with nail polish remover, the bearing needs to be submerged.
  2. Let them rest for about 15 minutes and shake the cup to remove the dust and sand.
  3. Repeat this a couple of times and remove them after an hour or so.
  4. Wrap the bearing in paper tissues and shake them, don’t be gentle. It will remove the rest of the dirt which resides inside your bearings.
  5. Let them dry by placing them on paper tissues and wait.
  6. Apply a few drops of silicone lubricant and spin them a few times between your fingers.

If you still feel like the performance of your bearings hasnt improved it might be a good time to replace them. Check my post about when you should replace your skateboard bearings and find out if you really need a new set.

Putting the Bearings Back In

insert bearings and spacers to skateboard wheels

Now that your bearings are clean it’s time to put them back in the wheels, though it might sometimes be a bit of a challenge. It really depends on the wheels but I once had a really hard time to get them back in. What helps is to lube the inside of your wheels (the sockets or core) and you won’t have any issues.

Just place them on your truck  (or use your skate tool) and apply pressure. They should pop right back in. Don’t forget to insert the spacers (if you have them, and if you don’t make sure you to get them).

That’s it, good as new! Saved you 20 bucks.

Maintaining Skateboard Trucks

old skateboard truck

Fortunately, skateboard trucks don’t require a lot of maintenance but sometimes parts of trucks suffer damage and in some cases, you can replace them without having to buy a completely new set. Truck parts that can be easily replaced are:

  • Washers
  • Bushings
  • Kingpin
  • Kingpin nut
  • Pivot cups

Time to disassemble the trucks, here’s how you do it:

  1. Remove the wheels
  2. Unscrew the hardware on top of your deck.
  3. Remove the kingpin nut
  4. Once the kingpin nut is removed, the truck will fall apart. Don’t worry, it easy to reassemble.
  5. Clean all the parts, remove sand and dust, and see if you can remove some of the rust.
  6. Replace the nuts and washers if necessary. If they are in bad shape, replace them.
  7. Clean the thread before you re-attach the kingpin nut.
  8. Check the bushings for cracks.
  9. Check the axle thread for damage.

If the axle thread is damaged you can restore the axle by rethreading it with the help of a quality skate tool. If you don’t you’ll risk damaging the thread further when you re-attach the nut.

Check your washers for deformation and replace them if necessary. It’s not a big deal but bad for your bushings as they might cut into the polyurethane.

Replace damaged nuts if they look beaten up, as for bushings keep on reading. Inspect the bushing seat for cracks, if you spot one you really need to replace your truck.

Adjusting the tightness of your trucks is easy. If they feel too loose when riding just tighten the kingpin nut a little. If they feel too tight and you’re having trouble turning, loosen them up a bit. Just do it gradually and make sure the nut stays attached properly. You don’t want it to come off while you ride, just get softer bushings instead and make sure to pick the right ones.

Bushings

old skateboard bushing

Often overlooked but skateboard bushings should be replaced when they make squeaky noises, are crushed, crumbled or have crack and tears in them. For this occasion, I grabbed my 20-year-old Thunder trucks and you can see the rusty washers and crushed bushings, but the truck is still in reasonable shape.

squashed bushings and deformed washers

Bushings are cheap and standard cone-barrel bushings are fine for most skaters. If you prefer your trucks loose, get softer bushings. If you like them tight, get harder bushings. Your weight determines how hard your bushings should be but it also depends on your personal preference.

Here’s how you replace them, for reference check the image above:

  1. Get a skate tool and remove the nut from the kingpin
  2. Check for tears, cracks and make sure they aren’t squashed.
  3. Insert the new (or old bushings) and reassemble your truck, make sure to place the bushings correctly.

Bushings help you carve and turn and replacing them can make a big difference in performance. 

Maintaining Skateboard Wheels

What’s there to maintain about skateboard wheels you might think. Well, you can swap them around! Maybe your rear wheels wear faster than your front and you could consider to move them around. This is how it works:

  • Place your left rear wheel on the right front of your truck.
  • Your right front wheel should move to your left rear truck
  • Same goes for your left front wheel, move it to the right of your rear truck
  • And finally, your right rear should go to the front of your left truck. Easy peasy.

Another option is to just flip the wheels. The graphic will be on the inside though, but they are often gone by the time you realize you need to swap your wheels. Not sure if you need to replace them or not? Check out this guide.

If the wheels are really dirty, remove the bearings and wipe the core. It will prevent the dirt from entering your bearings.

Maintaining Skateboard Decks

This is a tricky one, decks are meant to be trashed and replaced, graphics are there to be destroyed, but that first boardslide often hurts a bit. A skateboard is meant to be abused, that’s what it’s all about, doing gnarly stuff and trashing your deck. 

Once chips start to appear on your nose and/or tail, you know it’s best days (and sometimes hours) are over. Cracks near thez trucks are a bad sign, you’ll probably snap that deck in half in 30 minutes. It sucks, but it’s just how it works. You can glue back the chips or sand down the razor tail, but at some point, you just need to replace your deck.

If you are on a tight budget, a cheap blank deck is an option but make sure they come from a reputable woodshop. Check out the links if you want to learn more. 

On to maintenance.  You can clean your deck or grip tape but be careful using water.  You don’t want the water being absorbed by your deck. So let’s see how you can maintain your grip tape.

Maintaining Grip Tape

Ok, this isn’t something you really should do a lot but if the dirt on your deck bothers you, you can actually remove it. Usually, a bit of dirt doesn’t really matter but if your deck is really dirty it can compromise your grip. usually, a brush can get most of the dirt off but don’t expect to get it super clean.

Another option is to use grip gum, I recently tested this and had some mixed results.

Whatever you do, don’t use water to clean your grip tape, your deck will absorb the water and your grip tape might start to peel off after some time. If there is a lot of dirt, or worse dog poo, leave your deck in the sun for a while, it should be easier to brush off the dirt. 

When all hope is lost you could always just replace your grip tape. Use a hairdryer and heat the grip tape and start pulling it off. Sometimes you can rip it off in one go.

Peeling off old skateboard grip tape using a hair dryer preview
Click for the full image

Check the Hardware

Often overlooked but the hardware that attaches your trucks can rust and break. Make sure they are in good condition and replace them if necessary. It’s only a few bucks to avoid your trucks from coming off when you least expect it. Make sure you get the right size and you can often find them in your local hardware shop.

Conclusion

Whether you want to keep your skateboard in good condition, need to replace old parts or just want to clean components, it’s always good to inspect your skateboard for signs of wear and tear. Quality skateboards and parts can take a beating but at some point, they will break. 

Make sure to clean your bearings every season and check your trucks and deck for cracks occasionally. Keep your skateboard out of the rain and don’t leave it outside. Even the sun can warp your board if it’s hot enough. Store your skateboard in a dry place, store in on a shelf or hang it on a wall to prevent people from stepping on it.

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Ruben Vee

I'm an aged skateboarder, but I still shred responsibly. I started skateboarding 25 years ago and I'm out there whenever I can. Insta @skateboardershq

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