Riding a longboard is exciting and fun, but sooner or later that new setup will start to show its age. Dirt and grime will build up on your precision-engineered components, drastically reducing their ability to do their jobs. Don’t replace those dirty parts, though. With a little elbow grease, you can likely restore your longboard to nearly its original condition. Here are three simple steps to a like-new longboard.
Step 1: Learn each part and how it works
The first step to restoring your longboard is to learn its components and how they function. Knowing this information, you will be able to determine if the parts are worth saving. If you don’t let things get too far out of hand, each of the following parts should be serviceable.
The deck is the part of the setup that you stand on, and it is the main component on a longboard. The top of the board is covered with grip tape to help you maintain traction as you skate. Longboard shapes can vary dramatically, but most have a few things in common.
Decks are usually made from multiple layers of hard rock maple, though other materials like bamboo or aluminum are sometimes used. Aluminum decks require the least maintenance, and they are nearly indestructible to boot. Maple is the standard choice because it offers strength, stiffness and flex, all in the proper amounts.
The wheels on your longboard are made from polyurethane. Historically, skateboard wheels were made from other materials, like metal or clay. Those old-style wheels could not achieve great speeds, though, and they produced a rough ride. The modern urethane longboard wheel has its origins in the 1970s. Once urethane wheels became available, the material quickly took over the marketplace.
Manufacturers differentiate wheels by size and the hardness of the urethane. Sizes are given in millimeters, and they represent the diameter across the wheel. The hardness – or durometer – is given as a number, which is followed by the letter A. The lower the number, the softer the wheel. Most Yocaher longboard wheels have a velvety 78A durometer.
The trucks are the metal parts that bolt onto the board. They enable us to steer, and they also serve as the suspension for the setup. The main parts of the truck are the axle, hanger, kingpin, baseplate and bushings. The hanger pivots on the baseplate as the rider leans, while the bushings resist that lean to provide suspension.
Many modern longboard trucks feature reverse kingpins, which face outward. This design improves the stability of the truck, while also limiting the twitchiness that skateboard trucks are known for. The geometry of the pivot and kingpin varies from truck to truck, which is what gives these components their own particular feel.
Longboard bearings (and skateboard bearings) are precision equipment, engineered specifically to allow your wheels to spin as fast as possible. They consist of stainless steel ball bearings, which are contained within a polished track – called the outer and inner race. The balls are retained on their tracks by a cage called a crown. Metal shields affix to the outside of the bearing to repel dirt and debris.
Bearing manufacturers rate their bearings based on criteria established by the American Bearing Manufacturers Association. The ratings work on a sliding scale, based on the tolerances of the component parts. A subcommittee of the ABMA, called the Annular Bearing Engineering Committee (ABEC), determines the tolerances for each group. There are five divisions, given in odd numbers from one to nine, with nine having the highest tolerance.
Step 2: Maintain each part
This is where the urethane meets the road. Some of the following chores can get quite dirty, so make sure you have an appropriate location to do the work. If there are chemicals involved, ensure your workspace is properly ventilated. Once you have your materials gathered and your workspace prepared, it’s time to get busy.
Wood and bamboo decks are susceptible to moisture, but aluminum decks are less so. The main thing to remember is to simply keep your deck clean and dry. Keep your board indoors, away from the elements and out of water.
Liquid is the enemy of most any longboard. Even getting caught in a single rain storm can cause a deck to split at the layers. When that happens, a deck will become spongy and could lose its stability. So, keep your board dry at all costs!
These components absorb a lot of abuse, and their time is always short. There is not much to be done about that, though. The urethane will wear down simply from riding the board, and sliding will only make that happen quicker.
The occasional rotation is the only maintenance that wheels require. Switching the wheels’ positions on the board encourages them to wear evenly, and it prevents coning. Flip them (outside to inside) if possible, and move them from front to back and left to right.
There are not many moving parts on a longboard truck, but that doesn’t mean they are maintenance-free. You should, at a minimum, check the tightness of the truck bolts. Do not over tighten them and draw the bolt heads into the deck.
Periodically, remove the trucks from the deck and clean them lightly. Take the nut off the kingpin and remove the hanger from the baseplate. Clean the urethane bushings with water-displacing lubricant to prevent the squeaks. Also, use the lubricant to clean the bushing seats, axle and kingpin. You can leave the baseplates on the board when you clean the trucks, or you can remove them to clean beneath them.
Few things riders can do have as much effect on the function of a longboard as properly maintaining their bearings. As we roll on the pavement, little specks of dirt and debris imbed in the bearings. As the grime builds up, the speed of the bearings naturally begins to fall. Left unchecked, this condition can lead to permanent or catastrophic damage to both bearing and rider.
To clean your bearings, first remove them from the wheels. You can use the axles to pry them out if you don’t have a special tool. Place them in a container, and spray water-displacing petroleum lubricant on them. Swirl them in the lubricant and allow them to soak for a while before removing them to dry. Use a different lubricant on the bearings than what you used to clean them. There are lubes made specifically for bearings, but other oils (like sewing machine oil with Teflon) will work just as well.
Step 3: Test it out and ride on!
With freshly cleaned and lubricated bearings, you can now reassemble your longboard. Re-attach the hangers to the baseplates, and take care not to cross thread the kingpin nut. Try to tighten both kingpin nuts equally.
Next, place your board on its side and place a bearing on one of the axles. Place a wheel over the bearing, and use the palms of your hands to press the bearing into its seat in the wheel. Flip the wheel and repeat the process until all eight bearings are inserted. Thread a nut onto each axle, tightening the axle nuts until they are snug but not overly tight.
Finally, bring the tools you used to assemble your board with you on your first ride, making adjustments as needed. If you want your longboard to turn tighter, loosen the kingpin nut. Conversely, tighten the kingpin nut further for a more stable ride. If your setup rolls slowly, there is probably an over-tight axle nut. Find the culprit and loosen it slightly, repeating the step until the board rolls effortlessly.
With a little care on your part, your Yocaher longboard will last you for many years. Though the individual components may wear out with use, you can replace each of them as needed. We offer a full line of replacement parts for each of our longboards.
Periodic adjustments of kingpin and axle nuts will keep your setup operating smoothly. Do not forget to check the truck bolts for tightness regularly, as hard use can cause the nuts to back off these little bolts. Other than that, there’s nothing left to do but ride on!