I once bumped into a skateboarder at my local skate park and he barely had any wheels left. Probably the worst condition I’ve ever seen wheels in, but he didn’t mind.
Skateboard wheels last from 2 months to 2 years depending on the quality of the wheel, style of skateboarding and frequency. Simply put, A 55 mm/duro 99 wheel will last longer than a 55 mm/duro 99 wheel in similar conditions. Basically when there is barely anything of the wheel left and you’re about to reach the wheel core, it’s time to replace your wheels.
A skateboard wheels’ diameter slowly decreases over time due to friction and they’ll lose rebound. Hard wheels wear down and develop pitting and tears. Softer wheels usually chunk or show tears over time. There are ways to make wheels last longer, like swapping them around or avoiding powerslides (but where’s the fun in that?).
How Long Do Skateboard Wheels Last?
I’ve seen people skate their wheels until the bearings where almost visible through the wheels contact patch. While this is an extreme case, it should tell you that how long skate wheels last is relative. When you’re wheels are extremely worn, it will be harder to lock in grinds and you have to push harder to maintain speed. It figures that when the rebound is gone, impacts will also be harder.
Some wheels last longer than others and there are a couple reasons why. The hardness of skateboard wheels hardness are measured by the Shore durometer scale. The higher the number the harder the wheels (like 80A vs 100A. How long skateboard wheels last depends on the durometer scale, quality, how often you skate, diameter, and the type of skateboarder you are.
The surface you ride plays a big part in how long wheels last. If you skate smooth concrete all day your wheels will last longer than riding on rough surfaces. If you only skate mini ramps or bowls made out of wood or still your wheels can last for a decade.
If you’re a downhill skateboarder or perform power slides you need to replace your wheels more often than someone who only skates in concrete parks. In extreme cases a downhiller can take of 10mm of a wheel in a day, using soft wheels of course.
Taking good care of your wheels will increase their lifespan. Think of swapping or flipping the wheels and make sure other parts of your skateboard affect wear and tear. At some point you got to face the fact that you need new wheels.
Tips to Make Your Skateboard Wheels Last Longer
Your board wheels start shaping after the way you take a turn, after a while, they can get cone-shaped. It’s pretty common they wear down unevenly as you probably favor one side more than the other.
You can swap your wheels around about every 2 or 3 months, depending on how often you ride your skateboard. Rotating or swapping your wheels will increase prolong lifespan and your wheels will wear out more evenly. Here’s a good way to swap them around to increase the lifespan of your skateboard wheels.
- Place your left rear on your right front.
- Your right front should go to your left rear
- Your left front wheel should go to your right rear
- Your right rear should go to your left front.
You can also just flip the wheel, meaning you put the print on the inside. Not everybody likes this because they are too fond of the pretty graphics.
Now there are theories out that like freezing your NEW wheels to make them harder and last longer. There isn’t any solid evidence that this actually works so I wouldn’t recommend it. It probably has something to do with confirmation bias. You could also try to avoid power slides, but where’s the fun in that?
Replacing Your Wheels in 5 Easy Steps
- Use a wrench or skate tool and remove hexagon-shaped nuts from your truck’s axles to make the wheels come off. I always try to put the nuts back on the axle they came from and clean both with a rag. This is because I messed up the screw-thread once so be careful. Also, keep an eye on your washers, they tend to disappear sometimes.
- If you want to keep the bearings remove them as well. Bearings are fragile so don’t force them too much. If you don’t have any the right tools you can use your truck’s axles to take them off, but a tool is better. I recommend a skate tool as it has all the features you need to assemble your skateboard. Remove the bearings with a puller and pull them out carefully. Grab the edge of the bearing a try not to touch the surface.
- Place a bearing in your new wheel and push them in using your skate tool or your truck’s axle. Try to get them in straight, aligned with the wheel’s surface. Don’t forget your spacer if you have them otherwise you have to take it apart again. Add the other bearing and push it down.
- Add the washer back to your truck’s axle and place the wheel. Add the other washer and screw the nut back onto the axle. They shouldn’t be too tight as your wheel will have a hard time spinning. Also make sure it can’t fall off, if the nut is too loose it can cause accidents.
- Repeat the steps above until all four wheels are attached to your trucks.
Why Skateboard Wheels Wear
Friction obviously is the main reason why wheels wear down but there’s more to it. Your trucks could have bent axles which result in a-symmetrical pressure. This can happen with all trucks, but lower quality trucks can take less pressure.
Low-quality bushings, bad bearings or the quality of the wheel itself. It could be the skateboard deck or have to do with misaligned base plates. Your weight and probably even the weather conditions play a part.
Skateboard wheels are made of urethane, a material with many properties. Important properties that skateboard wheels need are hardness, compression set, tear strength and rebound.
Rebound is probably the most important. As the wheel spins urethane compresses and expands (rebound). This requires energy and causes resistance when you’re riding your skateboard slowing down your wheel.
Wheels Come Down to Personal Preference
So the circumstances matter to pick the right skateboard wheels. Just to give you some direction.
- In general, pick hard wheels when you skate concrete, skate park, bowls, verts and mini ramps.
- Pick slightly softer wheels when you’re a street skater and skate on gritty asphalt.
- Pick softer wheels if you’re more of a cruiser type and want a smooth ride.
Picking the right wheels that fit your style can make a huge difference in durability. While softer wheels wear down more easily you’ll have a bad time using hard wheels on a longboard.
Harder wheels are better for regular skateboards as it makes it easier to land tricks. Nobody is able to tell you what wheels are the best for you, it’s something you’ll need to find out for yourself. Although I can give you a general direction, check out my complete guide to skateboard wheels
Just make sure you maintain your wheels so you don’t have to worry about buying a new set. If they start showing signs of pitting and tear you should get a new set.