Repairing Inline Skates: A DIY Guide

When to Repair vs. Replace Your Inline Skates

Hello Hello. Stephen @whataspoon here. In the store, a frequent inquiry we receive pertains to whether we can repair existing skates or if the customer should consider purchasing new ones. This article aims to provide a response to that query.

When starting out, it's crucial to assess whether your skates offer replaceable components. If you're using soft boots or recreational skates, chances are the buckles, straps, and cuffs are fixed and not removable, making it challenging to find help at most skate shops for any repairs needed. These types of skates often come with an integrated liner, complicating fixes if it gets torn. Rust-covered bearings that refuse to spin usually indicate the need for complete replacement. More detailed information on bearings will be provided in the following section. Visible wear on wheels, with the plastic core exposed, indicates the necessity for new ones. Additionally, with soft recreational skates, the frames are typically permanently affixed to the boot, meaning any damage to the frame may require investing in a new pair of skates.

Consider the expense factor as well. If you're considering refurbishing an old pair of skates from the 90s to relive those nostalgic moments, weigh the costs of replacing wheels, bearings, buckles, and screws against purchasing a new set. Surprisingly, the price difference may not be significant, especially considering the availability of quality skates starting at £120. Often, individually sold wheels are usually premium aftermarket options, pricier than stock wheels typically found on new skates. These are usually sold in sets of four or eight. Additionally, availability could pose a challenge. Finding specific buckles, bolts, and screws is increasingly difficult nowadays. If the necessary parts aren't accessible when you need them, it might be prudent to explore new skate options with more readily available and replaceable components.

Common Inline Skate Repairs and How to Fix Them

Let's cover the most popular replaceable parts first which would be the wheels, bearings, axles and bolts. Most inline skates whether they are plastic, soft boot or Carbon fibre should have the option to replace the wheels and bearings. On some older models or on skates sold by toy shops there may be some examples where you cannot remove the wheels of the skate but it is very uncommon as all wheels suffer from regular wear and tear more than any other part of the skate as they are the part that actually comes into contact with the ground most often. Most inline skates will have removable axles holding the wheels and bearings onto the frame of the skates which you can remove to then remove the wheels. On some older models it may be difficult to find replacement axles if any are lost or damaged which may result in you needing to search hardware stores for some similar axles or to upgrade frames or skates.

Wheels will need to be replaced if they look to be conned on one side or if they are now too small after wearing away over time. You can tackle the issue of the wheel conning on one side by turning around and switching the positions of the wheels in the frame from time to time as they start to wear down. The inside of the wheels tend to wear down more than the outside and the front and back wheels tend to wear down more than the inner wheels. Switching their positions around will allow them all to wear down at the same time making this set of wheels last longer than it would if you did not switch them around. To learn more about wheels check out this buyer's guide on wheels here. Bearings would need to be replaced if they are seized up after getting wet whilst skating in the rain or if they break under a heavy impact landing. There are many different types of bearings. Some are stronger than others and some are more resistant to wear and tear. To learn more about which bearings would be best for you, check out our buyer's guide here.

The next thing we usually find ourselves fixing most often in store are buckles and straps. These are usually made from cheap materials on most skates so it can be common for them to break due to an impact whilst skating on with user error whilst tightening them. Most plastic and carbon fibre skates will have replaceable buckles and straps but (like I mentioned above) if you have a soft recreational skate, the buckles and straps may not be removable. This might result in you needing to replace your old soft boot skates or leaving you to find some kind of DIY solution. Not all plastic skates have screws holding buckles and straps to the skates as some of them are riveted on. After drilling off the rivets these can then be replaced with screws and threads. I recommend that when tightening your buckles and straps that you use both hands and take your time especially with ratchet straps that tighten as you move the lever. If you do this carelessly with one hand you can destroy the ladder straps causing them to slip when you try to tighten them.

The inner lining of most skates will be soft and padded. After long periods of forcing your feet in and out of the skates the lining inside behind your heel may start to tear. The padding that protects you from the internal metal threads inside the skates may also thin out overtime. Both of these issues can become incredibly uncomfortable overtime forcing you to look for solutions. Most soft/recreational skates and carbon fibre skates will have a non removable liner inside making it increasingly difficult to find a solution for these issues. If you can get into the lining and sew to fix these issues then fantastic but this is not always an easy job. Getting a new pair of skates would be a more plausible action. To help prevent tears from happening you could try to use a shoe horn whilst putting your skates on and off to stop your heel from damaging the back of the skate whilst coming in or out. For plastic skates life becomes a little easier in this department as most of them will have removable liners. Most liners will fit in any skate, even if the size does not match exactly. There are people who have placed size 9UK liners in size 8UK shells for example. If you have any damage on your removable liners then you can search for some new ones. Again most liners sold separately will be more expensive than stock liners but it is possible to find some cheaper options if you really look for them. Sometimes people buy skates and never use the stock liners because they have their trusted aftermarket liner that they use in every new skate. These people may choose to sell the stock liners online so be sure to have a look at buy or sell pages and ebay. Many of the aftermarket liners are made of more durable materials which will last way longer than the stock liners. My intuition liners for example, don't have thick padding that can rip, just a nice smooth surface that my heel can slide past as I put my skates on and off which means that they will probably never rip in this way. To find out way more about liners check out this buyers guide here.

The last really common repair we do in the shop would be to drill out axles or bolts that are stuck in frames or boots. This can be caused by user error if the customer is not using their skate tool correctly as they try to remove their axles or bolts. If the skate tool is sitting at the wrong angle as you spin it then you can slip and round the shape of the hole which will then make it extremely difficult to remove. Most axles or bolts will be HEX or Star with sharp points to make removing them possible but if you round these edges then the hole becomes a circle making it impossible for a skate tool to remove them. Another way this can happen is if you skate in the rain, or cold weather where there is salt on the ground. If you are not removing your axles very often they might seize up, the axle could stick to the frame, the bolt could stick to the skate or the bearings could stick to the axles. In these cases, even if you are using a good skate tool in the correct way, the axle or bolt may refuse to move, causing you to round the hole after many attempts to remove. For both of these cases we use an extractor tool which we can attach to the end of my electric screwdriver that I keep at Slicks. One side of the extractor drills clockwise into the bolt to create a nice shape in preparation for it's other side which then spins anti clockwise and grips the axle or bolt and pulls it out. If you have any axles or bolts that need removed then visit us in store or get yourself some extractor tools from a hardware store and try it yourself with a drill or a wrench.

What You Need in Your Inline Skate Repair Kit

When repairing my skates, the most common tools I'll be needing are my good quality skate tool, my extractor tool and electric screwdriver. I personally use the Sonic Tool which you can find here. The sonic tools feature a Phillips screwdriver, a bearing remover, two hex or star keys (depending on which one you have) and a few more useful tools. Find out how to use a Sonic tool to its full potential in the following video.

If you do not have a Sonic Tool or something similar then a standard hex key the same size as your axles and bolts would be very useful alongside a screwdriver to remove buckles and straps. Sometimes having a hammer nearby can be very handy also just in case some excessive force is needed to remove a stuck bearing. All of these tools should be able to fix most of the common repairs on inline skates.