Skateboard care for amateurs
April 30, 2020
Are you and/or your kids rolling around on skateboards this season? I love watching boarders — from the neighborhood tikes and grade schoolers to the teens and adults at skateboard parks to the pros on television. (It’s one of the Olympic events I’m looking forward to!)
A skateboard is a simple piece of sports equipment. It gets knocked around a lot, but it’s pretty easy to care for. These directions aren’t for serious skaters who clean, maintain, and adjust their boards for their specific needs. But if you or your kids have skateboards that you want to make last, here’s all you need to know about skateboard care.
BTW, these directions will also work for a longboard (a longer standard board) or cruiser (a thinner board that’s longer than a standard board but not as big as a longboard, used for cruising around rather than doing tricks).
Take care of the deck. The deck is the part of the board you stand on. It’s made of wood, so snip off any loose pieces of wood and sand any splinters. Store it in a dry, clean place. Avoid riding in the rain or through puddles, but if (when!) you do, dry the board off afterwards. Moisture can cause the deck to warp and deteriorate. Ditto extreme temperatures, so don’t leave your board in the hot car in the summer or the cold garage in the winter.
Maintain the grip tape. The grip tape is the sandpapery material on top of the board. It offers traction between your sneakers and the board. (You don’t want a slick surface to stand on!) Snip off any peeling tape and clean off dirt and grime regularly so that you get a solid stance on the board. A small, moist brush (like an old toothbrush) works for this job. Pat the grip tape dry when you’re done. If you have a bubble in your grip tape, simply pop it with a pin, and push the air out of the hole. Press the tape firmly to the board. For more advanced care, it’s possible to remove the grip tape and add new.
Adjust the trucks. The trucks are the axles, the two metal T-shaped parts underneath the board. A smaller truck gives a smaller turning radius. Tighter trucks slow down the turning of the skateboard, and looser trucks make the board turn more easily. (Beginners might prefer tighter trucks until they learn to control the board.) Turn the board over and loosen or tighten the main, large nut on the main bolt in the center of each truck. Make the front truck and the back truck similarly tight.
Keep the truck bolts snug. While you’re adjusting the trucks, make sure the four bolts that mount each truck onto the board aren’t loose. Don’t crank them so hard that they damage the board, just make sure they aren’t coming loose.
Clean and tighten the wheels. If your wheels are dirty, they can prevent a smooth ride, so wipe them with a washcloth wet with mild dish soap and water. Rinse with a clean, wet washcloth, and dry. (If you’re feeling ambitious, you can also remove the wheels, soak in hot, soapy water, rinse and dry, then reassemble.) Tighten the wheels by turning the single nut on the outside of each wheel. Make them as tight as you can but still have the wheel turn.
Take care of the bearings. The bearings are added to the wheels to give them a good spin. Water will cause them to rust, and dust will make them jam up, so keep them as dry and dust free as possible. It’s a good idea to keep your skateboard in a clean, dry area. For the best skateboard care, cover it when it’s not in use for a while to keep dust from settling in the bearings. Thoroughly cleaning bearings is a big job (beyond the, ahem, wheelhouse of most amateur skaters), but it might be necessary to fix a wheel that’s not turning. It involves taking apart the bearings, thoroughly cleaning and oiling them, and putting them back together. If you’re up for it, here are some good directions for cleaning bearings. Bearings can also be replaced.
It has nothing to do with maintenance of your board, but to take good care of yourself, be sure to wear a helmet and pads when skating!
Do you skateboard? Do your kids? Show us a pic! Do you have other tips or questions about skateboard care?