Broken Crossbow String: Everything You Need to Know

Broken Crossbow String: Everything You Need to Know

Posted by Brad Patsy on Nov 14th 2019

It’s no secret that crossbows are becoming more and more popular with today’s archery hunters. Each year, more states are making it legal to hunt with a crossbow.

The great thing about crossbows is that a person can become very accurate with one, with little to no practice. Crossbows often come sighted in from the factory, so a new owner can literally take a couple of practice shots and be on their way to the woods.

The bad side to this is that many crossbow owners are not familiar with how their crossbow works and can get confused when something goes wrong — like a broken crossbow string.

Starting in July every year, not a day goes by that we don’t get a call from someone asking how to fix a crossbow string. When this happens, we always try to help them figure out what caused the string to break. Most of the time, they just say the string was junk and they’ll never shoot that brand again (or something similar). The truth is unless it was made incorrectly, a bowstring doesn’t just break. There’s always something that causes the failure.

This article will shed some light on:

  • How to make crossbow strings last longer
  • What makes crossbow strings break

Age of the Crossbow

The first and most obvious reason for a broken crossbow string is age. You can avoid dealing with a broken string by simply changing it out. Many crossbow users shoot less than 20 shots a year, so they think the string will last many more years than the compound bow strings they used to shoot. This is not the case! Crossbow strings are under much greater tension. Most are in the 150-pound pull range, versus 60–70 pounds on a compound bow. It’s a good rule of thumb to replace your crossbow strings every other year and cables every other time.

Crossbow with scope

Bolt Not Seated Tight Against the String

Probably the number one cause of broken crossbow strings is the bolt not being seated tight against the string. If the bolt isn’t tight, the string will jump over or under the bolt, resulting in a dry fire effect. Many times when this happens:

  • The bow will be louder than normal.
  • The bolt will only go a few feet.
  • The fletching may be torn or damaged.
  • The string will likely break at one or both of the end loops.

Broken Nock or Bolt

Another issue that we see a lot of is a broken nock or bolt. Today's crossbows are super accurate and many times during practice, you’ll pack several arrows in a tight group. This can be bad, as a nock or bolt can be damaged. With the force during the shot, a cracked nock or cracked bolt can let go, once again resulting in a dry fire situation. Remember that dry firing will damage your bow and result in a broken crossbow string.

Incorrect Nocks

The use of incorrect nocks is another issue. Every brand/model of crossbow has a specified nock to be used. There are several styles, so it can be confusing. It’s always best to either check your owner’s manual or with the manufacturer to be certain the correct nocks are in your bolts. 

Proper Care and Maintenance

It’s important that proper care and maintenance are executed with your crossbow strings. Crossbows are tougher on strings compared to vertical bows; it’s just the nature of the beast. As a result, they require a little more TLC. Prevent a broken crossbow string with proper maintenance:

  • They need to be waxed more frequently
  • A good rail lube is a must

We had a customer who bought a replacement string for his crossbow and sent a picture with a complaint. He said he had only taken five shots and the center serving was starting to unravel. I asked what rail lube he was using. His reply was, “What is rail lube?”

Improper Discharge

Something we don’t see a ton of but do get a couple of horror stories about each season is improper discharge. The best thing is to shoot a normal field-tipped bolt into some sort of target. I’m not a big fan of discharge bolts, some are better than others. What not to do is simply hold the crossbow at your side and fire into the ground. If the bolt hits the ground before it clears the string, there will be issues.

How to Fix a Crossbow String

Whether the string wore out over time or broke suddenly, the solution is the same: replace your crossbow string. When it’s time to replace the string, make sure you have all the necessary tools like wax and rail lube. You may also need a bow press or cable stringer. It’s recommended to replace your string as soon as you notice any signs of fraying or if the string starts to look a little fuzzy.

If you’ve never changed your string before, it’s recommended that you find an experienced fellow archer to teach you how to safely replace the string.

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