This guide should hopefully give you a better idea about looking after your skateboard. It breaks down the maintenance required and prevention tips for each component.
Bearings are the most common component to break from general usage because they are not maintained properly. First of all when buying bearings you should make sure that they are clean and undamaged before inserting into the wheels (check that the seals are on correctly). Most damage occurs when water or dust gets into the bearing increasing friction and ultimately reducing the performance or completely rendering the bearings unusable.
Another common form of bearing damage is inserting the bearings incorrectly. In our shop we use a specialist tool known in the industry as a 'bearing press'. I'm sorry the name is not more exciting than that! The bearing press will remove old bearings and replace them with new ones in under a minute. I'm not saying everyone should have one, but the more advanced skateboarder could consider it as you can pick them up from around £20. For you out there who would rather use a screwdriver then good luck, but be careful as a tiny dent in the shield can significantly reduce bearing performance. Once the bearings are in place make sure there are washers in between the bearings and truck axel and nut as this will reduce the risk of damage when tightening the nut on the truck and it will also reduce friction.
Bearings need to be well lubricated. Do NOT use WD40! Though it is useful for some types of lubrication, bearings need something smoother and longer lasting as they are constantly in use when skateboarding; basically bearings receive more use than your door or garden gate! Specialised speed lube or creme should be used and can be bought for only a few quid! A worthwhile investment as your bearings will be smoother and due to reduced friction will last much longer with reduced risk of rust.
Do not get them wet or dirty! For those of you who practice new tricks on grass you will probably find that your bearings are full of mud and your wheels are discoloured. The best way of preventing this is not to do it! I know it is easier and softer than concrete, but you will have to learn one day! If however your bearings do get muddy, sandy, wet or you generally want to give them a clean then this is what you should do: remove the bearings carefully, preferably with a bearing press. Check for damage, if the seal is dented or you see other damage then unfortunately you need a new set of bearings, but at least you now don't have to clean them! Do not dismantle the bearings when cleaning them! Using kitchen paper or something similar wipe as much off the bearings as possible getting all the lose material. Damp cotton buds are good for the next bit - wipe all the smaller material and oil off the bearings. Do not soak the bearings in water, only use a lightly damp cotton bud. Once the bearings are clean use a dry cotton bud to dry them. Place them on kitchen roll and leave them in a warm dry place such as by a radiator as this will remove any excess moisture. Finally using proper bearing lubricants lubricate the bearings and put them back into the wheels.
Bearing performance is measured on several scales. The most commonly known are the abec scale and the 'skate rated' indicator. I have another guide regarding skateboard bearings explaining the various scales and helping you buy the right bearings for you. Please see my guides and reviews for more information.
Wheels come in many different sizes and densities. Though there is less to know about wheel maintenance, you should consider the following. Soft wheels should be used in skateparks and on smooth surfaces. If you take them on the road then you may find your new wheels contain grit. Grit may make indents, get stuck in and even rip your wheels. If you intend to skate on roads then you need harder wheels. The density of wheels is indicated by either an 'a', 'd' or 'duro', being short for 'durometer'. Essentially they all mean the same thing and are an indication of the hardness or softness of a wheel. 78a is a very soft wheel and 110a is a very hard wheel. the majority of wheels come in between 99a and 101a. Unless you know specifically what you want then 99a - 101a should be suitable.
You should check your wheels before skating for cracks and other damage. Preventing cracks and damage is possible by cleaning them after use to stop water and dirt getting into cracks and dents. It is also advisable to avoid grit, sand, sharp objects and mud. If grit gets into the wheel then you shold carefully remove it as the force of your skating can push it further into the wheel and is a common cause of wheels splitting.
Most good trucks are made from materials such as titanium, aluminium and other non rusting materials. For those of you with steel trucks you need to keep an eye out for rust. Rust will reduce the durability of the truck and could break them. You should check in all the holes, grooves and indents for other damage and dirt that could contribute to rust and other failings of the truck.
Cushions, bushings and king-pins are all parts of the truck that sees use, but unlike the axel the damage is harder to notice. Regularly checking all parts is a good adea as bushings and cushions can split and king-pins may be made from a corrodable material and if the truck itself isnt then you may miss it.
When grinding you should make sure the curb or rail is waxed as the friction could cause problems. When grinding the axel will take most of the abuse, so making sure they are ok for skating is essential. If they are worn down too much then you need to replace them.
Bolts need to be tightened to insure that they are not too loose. Loose bolts can damage themselves, the deck and the trucks. Some bolts may also rust which reduces their strength. Regularly changing bolts, or using more expensive, but more durable bolts is advisable. You should also counter-sink the bolts into the deck as this reduces movement and will protect them more, not to mention making it easer to skate.
5) Deck and Grip
First of all keep the deck dry. Do not skate in the rain or when it is very damp as the moisture can reduce the strength of the adhesive glue that holds the layers of ply together. It can also reduce the strength of the adhesive holding the griptape to the deck. If damp soaks into the deck it may rot or weaken the wood making it more liable to snapping or sagging. Water on the griptape may also act as a lubricant which will damage shoes when riding.
Make sure the deck you are buying is 7 ply, hardrock Canadian maple! Other materials are ok for beginners, but Canadian maple is the most popular material and is proven to be superior for skateboarding!
Naturally decks will get damaged, if you notice big cracks then it would be wise to get a new deck. When failing to complete tricks some of my friands tent to throw their skateboards, though this is good at relieving anger, you are probably not doing the board too much good.
Hopefully you found this guide useful. If you have any other questions feel free to contact me. I also have an eBay shop: The Skateboard Shop