You should be treating your compound bow just like you would treat your car. In order to keep it in good shape and running smoothly, you have to do regular upkeep.
Whether you’re a hunter or a hobbyist, a compound bow is a big investment. To stay at the top of your game, you have to keep your compound bow well maintained.
Proper compound bow maintenance will keep things running smoothly and extend its longevity–in both appearance and performance.
But where do you start? With all the different parts of the compound bow, it can be challenging to put together the right maintenance checklist–and be sure that you’re handling every aspect of bow maintenance.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, an expert, or somewhere in between–bow maintenance is crucial for archery. Here’s a guide on how you can get started.
What Are Compound Bows?
You can tell right away whether a bow is a compound bow or not–just by looking at it. Compound bows can be identified by the pulleys at either end of the bow. The system of pulleys and cables give it what’s known as the “let-off” capability.
As the archer draws back the bow, they’ll reach the “let-off” point. Even if they start pulling at the full weight of the bow, when they reach that point, the draw will be reduced to a lesser weight. Then they’ll stay at this weight until they release the arrow.
This means that with a compound bow, you can fire a more powerful shot with less effort.
The wheels at either end of the drawstring help reduce the full weight of the bow, so you won’t have to struggle to keep the bow straight. You’ll have a stronger shot as well as a more accurate one. A compound bow can reduce the draw weight by 50% or more.
Compound bows are used in field archery, target archery, and hunting. There’s a wide range of styles, weights, and sizes, but they all have the same fundamental design.
What Makes It Different from a Traditional Bow?
All bows rely on stored energy. When you pull back the string, the bow is storing energy to shoot the arrow more quickly than if you just threw it with your hand. But compound bows and traditional bows are different in the way that they store that energy.
A traditional recurve bow is pretty simple. The further you draw back the bow, the more powerful the shot. The harder it is to pull back the string, the faster it will shoot the arrow. This is a direct transfer of energy from the string to the arrow.
With a compound bow, the wheels at either end of the bow are designed to reduce that weight. The energy transfer is a little more complicated. If the bow has a 50-pound draw weight, you’re not holding the full 50 pounds with a compound bow.
Because of this unique energy storage ability, compound bows let you take more careful aim. Another plus, you don’t have to be physically strong to pull back a strong bow–even children can shoot a compound bow.
Compound Bow Parts
Unlike a traditional recurve bow, a compound bow can be strung all the time, even when not in use. While this might mean less day-to-day maintenance, there are a lot more moving parts in the compound bow.
Here are some of the different parts that make up a compound bow.
The part of the bow that flexes when the string is pulled, storing and releasing energy
The wheels on either end of the limbs which help to create the let-off point and reduce the draw weight. Compound bows can come with one cam, two cams, or hybrid cams. More cams usually mean greater speed.
The string which is pulled to rotate the cams and flex the limbs. When you release the string, it launches the arrow.
The cables keep the limbs tied to the cams, allowing them to pull on each other.
This holds the cables off to one side so that they don’t get in the way of the arrow.
The riser holds the limbs and gives a space to mount items like the rest, stabilizer, and the sight. It also functions as a handle for the archer.
This is the distance between the grip and the string when the bow is at rest. A shorter brace height means the string transfers more power to the arrow, which allows for the arrow to fire at faster speeds. However, the longer the brace height, the more challenging accuracy becomes.
A Comprehensive Guide to Compound Bow Maintenance
The following guide can give you a good place to start your compound bow maintenance. Once you know what to do and how to do it, you can start putting together a schedule for cleaning, fixing, and maintaining your compound bow.
With these essential tips, you’ll be off shooting your bow in no time.
1. Listen to Your Bow
Every week, take the time to inspect your compound bow for any damage or regular wear. If at any time during your inspection–or while you’re shooting–you hear a strange sound or feel vibrations that shouldn’t be there, stop shooting.
Examine the bow for damage. If you can’t find the problem, take it to a shop to have it checked out.
Damage may start as a small irregularity, but it can quickly turn into a serious issue. What feels like just an odd noise could end up becoming a cracked limb. The sooner you can fix the little problems, the less likely it is that you’ll have to pay for a big repair later down the line.
2. Watch Your Strings
Check your bowstring and cables regularly. If you notice any damage or wear, replace them as soon as you can.
It’s generally recommended that you replace strings and cables every 12 to 18 months or every 2,500 shots. This will help you maintain optimum performance.
Apply bowstring wax to the string and cables. If you’re using the bow regularly, apply once a week. A few times a month or once a month will be fine if you use the bow on a less frequent basis.
Only use soft wax on your string, and don’t rub it in too hard. If you cause too much friction, you could create heat which could damage the cable.
3. Don’t “Dry Fire”
Don’t ever “dry fire” your bow, or shoot the compound bow without an arrow in it. If you ever do accidentally dry fire or misfire without an arrow, check the bow for any damage. Inspect the limbs for any cracks or signs of wear.
Also, take a look at your arrows to make sure none of them are bent.
4. Keep It Synchronized
Your compound bow’s cams need to be synchronized in order for it to fire.
The position of the cams can affect the timing, draw length, and ability to store energy. If your cams aren’t in sync, you might find that you’re struggling with aim or the arrow falls short. It can also lead to premature bowstring failure.
At full draw, the cams should rotate and reach the let-off point at the same time. If one cam isn’t in the same position as the other, one of the buss cables needs to be adjusted.
If you don’t know how to adjust a cable, it might be best to leave this one to the professionals. Just keep an eye on your cams to make sure they’re functioning in perfect sync, and take it to the shop if you think there might be an issue.
5. Never Draw Too Far
Don’t draw the string past its designated draw length. If you consistently draw too far, you’ll put stress on the cables and cause them to break over time.
Take a close look at your cable and see if you have any dents or cracks. Some smaller dents are normal, but if there are too many or they seem deep, your cable may end up snapping over the course of a few weeks or months.
6. Avoid Excessive Heat
Keep your compound bow away from any heat source. Excessive heat can cause limb failure or break down the materials of your string and cable. This can stretch your cables out and weaken them.
Even just the heat of a sunny day inside a closed car can damage your compound bow. Anything over 100 degrees Fahrenheit could lead to severe damage to all parts of your bow.
7. Always Lubricate
Help things run more smoothly by keeping your axles well lubricated.
Use high-quality oil without any cleaning agents. The oil will help keep the cams and cables moving smoothly, so you can draw back without too much friction.
If your compound bow has cams with needle bearings, don’t use oil. The oil could break down the grease that they’re packed with and cause damage to the bow.
8. Tuning Your Bow
Paper tuning your bow is one of the best ways to check if your bow is functioning well and your arrows are flying true. Here’s how you do it.
- Fix a piece of paper to a frame so that you can shoot through it
- Stand about 8 feet away from the paper
- Using good form, shoot an arrow through the paper
- Study the results
- Adjust bow if necessary and repeat the process
This process allows you to study the shape of the hole or tear that your arrow made in the paper. The specifics of this tear will tell you a lot about what adjustments you need to make to your bow.
For example, if the tear is too long up or down, you might need to adjust the nocking point. If it’s too long left to right, you might have a timing problem or your spine is too stiff.
At the end of the tuning process, you should have a clean, straight hole in the sheet of paper–and a well-tuned bow.
9. Proper Storage
You won’t be shooting your bow all the time, so it’s important that you give your compound bow a good place to rest.
Store it in a dry place, preferably locked in its designated bag or container. Don’t expose your bow to the elements, and be sure to dry the surface of your bow before storing it. Moisture can cause the bow’s material to bend and it can warp the surface.
To protect from moisture, store a bow along with a pack of silica gel. The gel will absorb any excess moisture that may have remained on the bow.
10. Go to a Professional
Just remember, your compound bow is a mechanical device. There are a lot of parts and maintenance can get complicated.
While day to day bow maintenance can help keep your compound bow in top shape, it still requires periodic inspection and service by a professional. It’s recommended that you bring your bow in at least once a year for professional inspection.
They can best identify any serious problems and fix them–not to mention touch up on some of the maintenance that you might not have known about.
The Bottom Line
All it takes is just a few minutes each day to take care of your bow–and keep it in peak condition for when you need it the most.
With compound bow maintenance, a little extra care can go a long way. From inspecting your bow to adjusting and waxing the cables, it might take some time for you to set up a maintenance schedule.
Depending on how much you use your bow, aim for a bow maintenance routine that works well for you. And remember, if you take good care of your bow, it will take good care of you in return.
Ready to get started with a compound bow of your own? Check out our article on buying the best compound bow for you.