Introduction to Modding
WARNING: The modifying of any truck or skateboard part from the original factory specifications could create an unstable and unsafe product, resulting in injury or death. Modifying any skateboard part has the potential to completely RUIN the part. Stoked Skateboards and the author do not recommend and/or condone the modification of any skateboard gear. This article is simply stating various modifications people have made to their products at their own risk. Furthermore, these modifications require tools that are potentially dangerous. Improper use of these tools could cause injury or even death.
Both Stoked LA and the author of this article assume no responsibility for any injury or damage done to yourself or your gear when performing any modification. If you try any of the modifications described and shown in this article, you are doing so at your own risk!
Ah, it’s good to get that out of the way. Don't say we didn't warn you! Let’s get started.
Want to know how to make your inexpensive Long Distance Pumping (LDP) trucks perform more like high-end precision trucks? This article will show you ways in which people have modified and upgraded their LDP trucks to improve performance. Some LDP’ers (including myself) have been modifying their trucks for years now and while some of these modifications only make a small difference, some will provide drastic improvements in the way your LDP setup performs. Another great thing about many of these modifications is that they don’t require an entire tool shed in order to be completed. However, a Dremel tool will be your best friend for completing many of these modifications. Also, note that a lot of these modifications can be done to other cast trucks, not just trucks being used for LDP.
Right on! Which Trucks Are We Modding?
For this article I’m going to be showing modifications that are intended for Bennett Vectors and Tracker RT-S trucks. These are two very common cast trucks used for LDP. As I mentioned, some of these modifications can be performed on other cast trucks as well.
The Bennett Vector Truck
For the Bennett Vector, I’m going to talk about six things you can do to greatly enhance the performance of your truck:
- Insert a Spherical Bearing into the Hanger
- Smoothing the Pivot
- Upgrading your Pivot Cup
- Replacing the Stock Kingpin
- Upgrading to a Cinnett Baseplate
- Facing the Hanger
Inserting a Spherical Bearing into the Hanger
Of all the alterations suggested in this article, I think this one will make the most noticeable difference. A spherical bearing in the hanger does a number of things for your truck:
Makes your turning/pumping more precise and responsive
Makes your kingpin less prone to breakage
With a spherical bearing in your hanger, your kingpin has somewhere to snuggly sit. Without it, your kingpin is more prone to bending over time (and possibly snapping at some point). LDP involves constant back and forth turning for long periods of time creating a ton of stress on your kingpin. The spherical bearing will reduce the “slop” that occurs when your hanger goes from side-to-side. With the spherical bearing, the hanger is perfectly (or close to perfectly) aligned with the kingpin. The kingpin will now sit in the center of your bushing seat no matter how much your hanger is turning. Below is a picture of a stock Bennett hanger. Also, notice the irregularities and unevenness throughout the bushing seat.
What you’ll need
- A spherical bearing (sometimes called a swivel bearing or steel ball joint swivel bearing)
I would recommend either purchasing Landyachtz’s spherical bearings (that they use in their Smokie truck hangers) or ordering them off of McMaster Carr’s website. If you order from McMaster Carr, you will need to order a spherical bearing that has a 3/8” inner diameter (ID). Item number 63195K14 on their website would be an example of what you need. Whether you go with a self-lubricating bearing (lined with a self-lubricating Teflon-like material) or a standard bearing is up to you. A standard bearing just needs a drop of oil or lube every once in a while. I’d recommend going with the stainless-steel option, though it’s not 100% necessary. It will handle water better if the bearing happens to get really wet.
The Landyachtz and McMaster Carr bearings both work fine. They have slight differences, however. The Landyachtz bearing has a slightly bigger outer diameter and sticks out a bit more than the McMaster Carr bearing. I’ve used both with success.
- A Dremel tool (or something similar) with a high speed cutting accessory. Dremel tool accessory number 115 works well for me, though other cutting accessories will work too. A metal file will work as well.
If you are using a Dremel tool accessory, it might be a good idea to buy a few backups as the aluminum of your truck will wear down the bits fairly quick.
- JB Steel weld or any other heavy-duty, steel-based epoxy.
What you’ll do
Remove the bushing seat. Depending on which spherical you buy – the Landyachtz spherical or the one from McMaster Carr – will determine how much of the bushing seat you will need to remove.
The goal is to remove just enough of the bushing seat so that the spherical bearing barely fits. With the Landyachtz spherical bearing, you’ll have to remove the entire bushing seat. With the spherical bearing from McMaster Carr, you won’t need to shave out the entire the bushing seat. Below is a picture of my Bennett hanger with the Bushing seat removed. On the right is the Landyachtz spherical and on the left is the one from McMaster Carr. Both have the same inner diameter, but the Landyachtz spherical has a larger outer diameter (which happens to fit very well in a completely shaven Bennett bushing seat). I chose to go with the Landyachtz spherical bearing so I carved out the entire bushing seat.
Once you have cleared enough space to fit your spherical bearings, you need to glue it in. JB Weld works well for me though I’m sure there are other steel-reinforced epoxies that would work too. I’d recommend gluing just a portion of the spherical to the bushing seat at first since the epoxy can be a bit messy. As it is drying, prop the hanger so that the bearing will hold still and dry without slipping. I used an old stereo remote to prop the hanger up so the bushing seat was pointing straight up. This should make it easier to allow the spherical to dry in the center of the bushing seat. Let it dry for at least 12 hours.
Once the epoxy has dried, fill in the remaining gaps with the epoxy. You might need to add some epoxy to the top so your bushings will have a flat surface to lie on. Allow to dry for at least 24 hours before skating.
You can see that I didn’t do the prettiest job in the world with mine. I purposely added a bit more epoxy than what I probably needed. I wanted to make sure that the spherical would hold for a long time. This one has lasted 2 years and many miles so far.
Recess your bushings
Like with any other truck with spherical bearings in the hanger, the bushings need to be accommodated. Below is a picture of a recessed bushing. Since the spherical sticks out a bit, you will need to recess the bushings quite a bit. For this, I used a Dremel tool and 1/4” sanding band accessory. You could also use an Exacto knife, but it will be a bit more difficult. Just carve out some of the bushing. To test out whether you took out enough, place your bushing on top of an un-mounted hanger and move the spherical bearing. If the bushing stays still, you have enough clearance.
2. Smoothening the Pivot
I think polishing the pivots of your trucks is a good thing to do with some cast trucks out there. Looking at a Bennett pivot, it’s pretty smooth, but it has some minor bumps and other irregularities and could be better.
What you’ll need
A few different finer automotive grits of sandpaper (a few varying sheets between around 200-800 grit) will do.
What you’ll do
Starting with the lower, rougher grit, aim to remove any irregularities you may see. BE CAREFUL not to sand too much so you don’t ruin your pivot. You shouldn’t be removing any noticeable amount of the pivot. You should just be smoothing out the bumps. Move on up to finer grit sandpaper. Once you’re done with your highest grit, your pivot should be nice and smooth.
3. Upgrade your Pivot Cup
Not a lot to say here. I recommend upgrading the stock pivot cups in a lot of cast trucks. I’d go with a harder Riptide or Riot pivot cup. 96a and up. The upgraded pivot cups should last longer than stock pivot cups as well. A harder pivot cup will make your truck more responsive, thus each pump and turn will be more efficient.
4. Replace Stock Kingpin
The stronger the kingpin, the safer you’ll be. Stock kingpins in Bennetts are a grade 5. Good enough for some casual skating, but as stated before, miles of LDP takes a toll on your kingpin (even more so without a spherical bearing). There have been numerous accounts of stock Bennett kingpins breaking over time, sometimes resulting in injury. Upgrade your kingpin to a grade eight bolt (available for cheap at Stoked Skateboards) or an aeronautical bolt (AN) which is even stronger than a grade 8.
Bennett baseplates with different sized kingpins and the varying thread heights.
If you decide to get an AN bolt, you will need the AN6-24 size. If you choose to purchase a grade 8 kingpin, you’ll need a 2.5” bolt. Though you could get a 2.75” or 3” bolt and cut off the thread. Less thread means that your bushings will be making more contact with the smooth part of the bolt rather than the threaded part. Use JB-Weld or a similar epoxy to secure the kingpin to the baseplate.
5. Upgrading Baseplates
After seeing a demand for a better baseplate design for Bennett Trucks, Cindrich Longboards came out with the Cinnett Baseplate – an upgraded Computer Numerical Control (CNC) precision baseplate made specifically for Bennett Trucks.
Cinnett Baseplates by Cindrich Longboards have several advantages over stock Bennett Baseplates:
- Cinnett Baseplates are available in various degrees requiring the need for less wedging.
- Simple installation and removal of kingpins. This is the biggest advantage of having a Cinnett Baseplate for me… (For anyone who has tried removing the stock kingpin from a Bennett Baseplate, you know how frustrating it can be!)
- Comes stock with a grade 8 kingpin.
- The CNC Cinnett Baseplate is much stronger than the cast Bennett Baseplate and will last much longer.
Stoked is the only skate shop where you can buy Cinnett Baseplates. See the Bennett vs. Cinnett Baseplates article in the Stoked Knowledge Base for more details about the advantages of a Cinnett Baseplate over the stock Bennett Baseplate. Well worth the investment.
6. Face the Hanger
For every cast truck out there, facing the hangers is a good idea. It’s not a necessity, but a faced hanger will allow your inner speed rings to sit on a perfectly flat surface, perpendicular (90 degrees) to the axles.
Some cast hangers are faced better than others, but even the slightest irregularities in the face of your hanger can prevent your inner speed ring from sitting perfectly flat. This can throw your bearings out of line which can also prevent you from fully tightening your axles. A properly faced hanger (in addition to properly fitting bearings, bearing spacers, speed rings, and a wheel with a properly positioned core) will provide proper alignment for everything on your axle. This should allow you to tighten down your wheels to the point where there is no “play” (play = when your wheels wiggle slightly on a tightened axle). Your wheels will sit snuggly on your axle and spin freely when everything on the axle is properly aligned.
Think of your axle – and everything that sits on your axle - as a system. If one part of your axle is out of line, the entire system can be disrupted. With a properly faced hanger, your wheels/bearings can be properly aligned and should perform better – roll longer and grip slightly better. Note: If you still can’t spin freely when being fully tightened, the only other option would be replacing the axle with a true 8mm axle or shimming your stock axles using a stainless steel shim stock. I’ve yet to try shimming my axles…
What you’ll need
- Counter Bore - The simplest way to face your hanger is by using a counter bore. Counter bores aren’t cheap, but you can easily face your hangers with one. (And you can charge your friends a couple bucks or trade bushings in exchange for facing their hangers!) You’ll need a counter bore with an inner diameter of 5/16”. There are other do-it-yourself tools that you can make as a cheaper alternative to a counter bore. For any DIY method, you can search online.
What you’ll do
- Dab a bit of the lubricant on the face of the hanger (where the axle comes out of the hanger).
- Simply place the axle of your truck through the counter bore and start turning the counter bore (or turn the axle if that’s easier for you)
- You’ll notice small amounts of aluminum shavings slowly coming off the end of the hanger. It shouldn’t take much more than a minute or so to complete each side of the hanger.
- With hangers that are already decently faced, it is difficult to visually see the difference between a faced hanger and an untouched hanger, but below is a side-by-side picture of my Tracker RT-S hanger. On the left, is an untouched Tracker RT-S hanger and in the middle is faced Tracker RT-S hanger. The furthest picture on the right is the faced hanger of a Bennett Vector. The faced hanger gives the inner speed ring a flat surface to lay on.
Modifying your trucks takes time and effort, but in the end I think it is worth it. Your trucks will perform better and you will save you money over buying precision trucks. As I previously mentioned, some of the modifications will greatly improve the performance of your trucks, while some of the other modifications may only make a slight improvement in performance. Of all the modifications discussed, the ones that I believe are the most worth your time are:
- Inserting a spherical bearing into the hanger of your Bennett
- Upgrading the kingpin of your Bennett and/or upgrading to a Cinnett Baseplate
If you don’t have any Bennett trucks lying around, pick some up at Stoked for a great price. They are great trucks for LDP and can be made even better when modified!