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Proper crossbow maintenance is necessary to get the maximum usage and lifespan possible out of your purchase. Also it should be done for safety reasons as a damaged crossbow can cause a dangerous malfunction.
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This article will explain how to properly maintain your crossbow, cover common problems to help you troubleshoot and fix your issue, and provide crossbow maintenance product recommendations.
Prior to using your crossbow, you should always inspect your equipment. Follow these points to do a full inspection:
Crossbow Maintenance Checklist
- Cables. Look for any fraying, snags, or thinning. Anything out of the ordinary, and the cable should be replaced. Apply cable wax as necessary.
- String. Same thing as the cables, you want your string to be as pristine as possible. String is put under a lot of pressure and can snap and cause a misfire, or injure someone hit by it. Apply string wax as necessary.
- Serving. Your serving should not have any cracks, rips, or show any damage. This should be lubed as often with serving wax to get the maximum power from your shots.
- Cams. Ensure your cams move freely and are not warped or damaged in any way. Your cams might have a visual indicator (dots for many models) that when visible will let you know your cams are in alignment.
- Limbs. Make sure the limbs bend properly and do not have any cracks or are warped. Cracked limbs can be extremely dangerous and should be repaired before using your crossbow as these parts are under a lot of pressure.
- Riser. View the riser to verify it isn't stressed or cracked.
- Rail. Check that the rail is free from obstructions. Apply lube wax as necessary.
- Screws. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces under a lot of pressure, so make sure you tighten your screws. Avoid over tightening though. I recommend using low strength Loctite for your crossbow screws.
- Retainer. Put an arrow on the flight track and make sure the retainer does not lift the front of the arrow upwards. Also check that the retainer can maintain a steady hold on the arrow while the crossbow is pointed downwards.
- Arrows. You should not shoot damaged arrows as it may cause a dry-fire like scenario, possibly damaging your crossbow. Damaged arrows will also cause your shot to be off and maim your target instead of getting a clean shot. The key piece to check is the nock, as a damaged one could cause a dry-fire.
Looking for a low maintenance crossbow? Check out our review of the Excalibur Micro 355 crossbow.
Maintaining Crossbow Strings And Cables
Before your first use of your crossbow on a hunting trip or for target practice, you will want to make sure to apply rail lube wax to the flight track. To properly maintain your string and cables, there is string wax available. For both wax applications simply apply the wax liberally, and then just rub your fingers across it several times to get full coverage. The video below has a good demonstration on how to keep your string and cables waxed properly.
Apply lube wax to your string and cable every 5 to 10 shots. If you see any 'white fuzz' appear, reapply lube wax immediately.
Maintaining Your Cams
Your cams are one of the main moving parts on a compound crossbow. To properly maintain your cams, you should use a lightweight machine oil. Apply liberally, but wipe off excess so it's not dripping.
Using The Correct String
Using a string that is too long or too short can be very bad for your crossbow. Using strings not recommended can damage the limbs and cams. String is cheaper than damaged limbs or cams and is easier to replace. Make sure to check your crossbow's manual to review the recommended string size.
Some crossbows have specialized retainers that are self-adjusting, meaning there is no input for you. If it fails to do its job at any point, then the only remedy is to purchase another retainer.
Proper Crossbow Storage
When you're not using your crossbow, it should be stored safely in a gun locker and out of reach from children. If a gun case is not a viable solution for you, we recommend using a crossbow case that is stored up high. If you need help finding a good case, review my crossbow case guide. DO NOT leave the crossbow cocked, and in general you should not leave it cocked for more than 4 hours at a time.
Some crossbow parts are prone to wear and tear and will still break regardless of how good your crossbow maintenance is. One of those parts is the arrow retainer. To avoid any downtime and being unable to use your bow, we recommend you purchase a spare arrow retainer. You'll thank me when you have an extra one and don't have to miss a hunting trip!
You will also want to be sure to always have a fresh supply of string, cable, and rail wax. If you plan on shooting your crossbow a lot, it wouldn't hurt to have a spare string, spare cables, and extra arrows.
Crossbow Maintenance Products
- Flight Rail and Trigger Lube
- String Wax and Conditioner
- Optics Cleaning Kit
Troubleshoot Common Crossbow Problems
If you're having problems with your crossbow, check our list of common crossbow issues and how to troubleshoot to fix it.
Arrows Aren't Flying Straight
Pse Crossfire Crossbow Owners Manual
Accuracy is the key to being a good crossbow hunter, so what do you do if your arrows aren't flying straight? Check the fletches for any damage. If your arrow appears fine, make sure the flight track is free of debris and is well waxed. Lastly, verify the arrow shaft is straight. It's possible after several hard hits that the shaft can become warped.
Crossbow Is Losing Power
Pse Fang Crossbow Owners Manual
The first thing to check if your crossbow is losing power is to check the limbs for damage. If any is evident, you will want to take it to a repair shop to have it fixed before shooting it again. If your limbs look OK, but you recently changed your string, make sure you replaced it with an appropriately sized string for your crossbow.
You will want to double check your crossbow manual if you're unsure of what the correct string size is. If all of that is fine, the last few things to check is that everything is lubricated properly. Lube your cams with lightweight machine oil, your flight track with lube wax, and your string and cables with string wax.
Frayed cables happen either through normal wear and tear, or from lack of proper maintenance. It is recommended to lube your cables every 5-10 shots. You should make sure they stay well lubricated. If you notice fraying, you should replace them immediately to avoid causing injury to yourself, or damage to your crossbow.
String Is Jumping The Arrow
If your string is jumping the arrow, the first item you should check is the nock on the arrow. If this is damaged, you should immediately replace the arrow as a damaged nock can cause a dry-fire. If the nock appears to be in good working order, you will want to carefully inspect your string next. Look it over in great detail for any signs of damage, or wear. If you do see an issue, it is time to replace your string.
If you're still having issues, make sure your rail and risers are free of debris and are well lubed. If your problem is still not resolved at this point, it's probably a good early indicator that the string needs to be replaced as it is damaged somewhere, whether you can see it or not.
String Doesn't Latch Evenly
While cocking your crossbow, make sure to pull back evenly. Failing to do so can cause your string to be uneven.
If you have any additional crossbow maintenance tips, feel free to share them in the comments below!
Crossbow Product Manuals
Below are links to the major crossbows on the market. Most links are to a PDF file, so you can save the file to your computer or smartphone to also reference out in the field. These product manuals are direct from the manufacturer.