7 Maintenance Tips Your Compound Bow Needs


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Person demonstrating bow string maintenance and inspection

In an age where so many things are disposable it can be confusing to a new archer whether or not their compound bow requires regular maintenance and what that might entail.  After owning compound bows for over 25 years, some of them for many years at a time, I have the answer for you.

Compound bows require some basic maintenance and care, much of which you can learn to do yourself.  Some more difficult tasks are best performed by a pro shop such as string and cable replacement or cam timing.  With proper care a compound bow can last many years.

At first it may seem intimidating to learn that you need to perform some maintenance on your compound bow but many of the tasks are simple things you can learn to do yourself.  Periodic check ups and service at your local pro shop will take care of the rest.

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Compound Bow Maintenance Tasks

Most everyone who drives a car knows that it needs regular maintenance.  You wouldn’t expect to never change the oil for example.  Well compound bows are no different, but don’t worry that doesn’t mean it’s complicated.

Performing these regular maintenance items will ensure a long happy life for your bow.  I wrote another article all about how long compound bows last in case you’re wondering.

Compound Bow Maintenance Intervals

Maintenance TaskInterval
“Mini-inspection”Every Session
Wax BowstringAs Needed or Bi-weekly
Clean & Lubricate Cams/wheelsMonthly or 1500 shots
Check Cam Timing (dual cam bows)Monthly
Complete Cleaning & InspectionAnnually
Replace String and Cables2-3 years
Bring to a Pro shopAs Needed

The above are just some basic guidelines to give you an idea of how much and when maintenance is required.  But let’s take a little bit closer look at each of these 7 items

1. Perform Mini-Inspections

Mini inspections are simply paying attention to your bow and looking it over before shooting.  This should be done EVERY time before you shoot your bow.

Before you shoot you want to visually inspect the following

  • Check limbs for damage/cracks
  • Check riser for damage or loose handle
  • Check strings & cables for damage and fraying
  • Ensure Cams/wheels appear straight
  • Make sure all accessories are tight

Your inspection doesn’t really stop there though, it’s on going.  While you’re shooting, listen for any new or odd sounds.  It’s not uncommon for things to loosen up and vibrate.  I once had a stabilizer that seemed to never stay tight.

If anything feels or sounds weird, take a moment to check things over before continuing to shoot.

2. Wax Your Bowstring

This is one of the most basic yet crucial tasks that you will regularly perform on your bow.  Luckily it’s also very simple.

You should be inspecting your bowstring as part of your “mini-inspection” anyway (see above)  but it bears mentioning twice.  A quick look is probably all that’s needed every time you shoot.  

Look for string fuzzies which indicates it’s probably past due for some wax.  Also keep your eyes open for damage such as broken strands or fraying.

Even if you don’t see signs of needing wax, it’s a good idea to wax your string and cables periodically.  I’d say every other week during shooting season is ample.  Simply rub on your favorite bowstring wax.  You can also buy bowstring cleaner which is used before the wax and helps prolong string life.

3. Clean and Lubricate Cams and/or Wheels

The cams and wheels of a compound bow are largely what makes it a compound bow however they’re often taken for granted.

Every time you draw and fire your bow, the cams or wheels rotate.  There’s plenty of opportunity for dirt, dust, and other crud to attach itself.  

Compound Bow at full draw showing the top cam

Being such an integral part of the bow, it’s worth taking the time monthly to check the cams over well and clean any unwanted nasties out of them.  You can use a cotton swab to get into the nooks and crannies.

The cams ride on an axle that goes through the end of your bow limb.  It’s important that this remains lubricated so as to reduce friction and offer smooth operation.

After cleaning, simply add a drop of lubricant where the axles pass through the limb.  A silicone or Teflon based lubricant is preferred.  Do NOT use penetrating oils such as WD-40.

4. Check Cam Timing

Compound bows that use cams (and almost all do these days) require that they be timed or synced properly for best results.  This is even true for single cam bows, contrary to popular belief.

Over time and use the cams can come out of sync causing performance issues with your bow. It’s nearly impossible to paper tune a bow out of timing. 

If you change strings or cables the timing will most likely need to be adjusted as well.

The good news is, this is pretty easy to check at home.  It helps to have a friend or family member watching the cams as you draw the bow.  The cams need to roll over and hit their stops at the exact same time to be properly synched.

On single cam bows there’s usually a timing mark or hole to align the cam perfectly with the centerline of the cable.

If your timing is off you should probably take it to a pro shop to be adjusted unless you have a bow press and knowledge of how to use it properly.  Adjusting the timing requires twisting of the cables.

5. Complete Cleaning & Thorough Inspection

I mentioned above about the “mini inspections” and you should obviously keep your bow wiped down and clean on a regular basis to prevent corrosion but in addition it’s worth going over the whole thing annually.

A great time to do this is at the end of the shooting season whenever that may be for you.  For me this is usually late fall once it starts getting cold out and the snow is threatening.

If you take your time and clean your whole bow carefully and methodically it also gives you the opportunity to closely inspect for any damage or abnormal wear.  If you find anything needing repair you can take care of it now instead of when you want to be shooting or hunting.

6. Replace String and Cables

Think of the string and cables on your bow like you would the tires on your car.  They work well for quite a while but eventually they wear out and need replacing.

The time frame on this can vary depending on care and usage but typically every 2-3 years you’ll need to replace these. If you notice any nicks or fraying replace them.

This is best done by a pro shop, although you can learn to do it yourself if you invest in a proper bow press.

7. Bring Your Bow to a Pro Shop or Bow Tech

This is sorta one of those “as needed” things.  If you encounter any issues or notice anything upon one of your inspections, you should bring your compound bow in for a check up from a bow tech.

Even if you don’t notice any issues, it’s wise to hand your bow over to a pro shop occasionally for a “tune-up” and to get some expert eyes on it.  Some say annually, which is probably best but at least every couple years. 

Save time and money by doing this and a cable change at the same time.

Bottom Line

If you take good care of your compound bow it should require only minimal maintenance and last you as long as you want it it. The key is to store and use it properly and keep it clean and tuned up.

And remember, never ever ever dry fire a bow. To learn more you can check out my article on what happens to a compound bow when it’s dry fired.

Jason Brooks

Thanks for taking the time to read my article, I hope you found it helpful. I've been shooting bows for over 25 years off and on and am always interested in learning as much as I can. To read more about me, CLICK HERE

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