How Long Do Bow Strings Last?

How Long Do Bow Strings Last?

Having your archery gear in top shape is really important for your performance. People always wonder how to maintain their equipment, and one of the questions that always come up is how often one should replace their bowstring. I’ve researched the topic and wanted to share everything that I’ve found.

A bowstring should typically last up to 3 years. Its lifespan depends on the storage conditions, on the draw weight on your bow, and on regular maintenance.

In this post, we’re going to explore the topic of bowstrings, how to maintain them, and how and when they should be replaced. There’s a lot you can do to extend the life of your string, and I’m going to detail some methods you might be interested in using.

Let’s go.

The lifespan of a bowstring

As I’ve detailed before, a bowstring in standard conditions should last around 3 years. This, of course, is relevant for hobbyist archers that keep good care of their equipment and take care of storage conditions.

When you’re releasing an arrow, your entire bow absorbs some of the released energy and vibrates. The bowstring takes a bulk of the released energy. These vibrations wear the bowstring, damages its strands, and cause it to lose elasticity. Over time, the bowstring loses some of its important qualities and eventually becomes dangerous to use.

Surely, the properties of the bow affect how much energy is stored and released. Your draw weight, draw length, brace height, and more have a large effect on how fast your bowstring will degrade.

Since it’s a portion of the stored energy that stays in the bow a causes the vibrations that end up damaging the bowstring, its degradation is proportional to the amount of energy the bow stores.

I’ve actually discussed the topic of kinetic energy in a previous post, and the idea here is that things that increase the amount of kinetic energy in your arrows, also intensify the vibrations. The more energy your bow can store, the faster your bowstring will become damaged.

Luckily, proper maintenance can significantly extend the lifespan of your bowstring. By applying was to your bowstring, you can increase its ability to resist the wear damage, and so, make it last longer.

Waxing your bowstring keeps it from becoming dry and frayed, keeps humidity out of it, and keeps it from developing twists. Most archery wax their bowstring when it feels dry, which is typically every 2 – 3 weeks.

Since waxing the bowstring help it from developing bad qualities, it eliminates much of the wear and tear caused by usage and elemental conditions.

Storage conditions also have a major effect on how long your bowstring is kept in usable condition. The main things to look out for are humidity and heat.

Humid conditions can cause the strands in your string to separate, rendering your bowstring unusable. Heat can cause the string to expand and the wax on your string to melt. These are serious string killers, so make sure to properly store your bow.

For these reasons, and much more, it’s important that whenever you can, keep your bow unstrung. I wouldn’t go as far to unstring your bow on every break you take from shooting, but if you’re not using to for over an hour, make sure to keep it unstrung.

If you’re wondering what are the actual best ways to store your bow, I wrote a detailed post on how to store a recurve bow. I have some great recommendations there, and things you might forget to consider, so make sure to read it.

How to maintain a bowstring so it lasts longer

As discussed earlier, maintaining a bowstring can be really simple and effective. To wax your bowstring, you’ll need some string wax (I like Bohning seal-tile wax, link to Amazon) and some cord (fabric or leather).

To wax your bowstring, follow these instructions:

  1. Inspect your string. Check that it’s in proper condition, that there aren’t disconnected strands, and that the number of twists is right. The bowstring should be strung on the bow.
  2. Apply the wax. Move along the entire bowstring, excluding the serving, and rub the wax on the entire surface. After you finish, the wax should be visible on the strands.
  3. Rub the wax into the string with your fingers. We don’t want the wax to only be on the outside of the string, so you’ll need to rub it into the strands. The wax will melt into the gaps between the strands, giving you the best results.
  4. Use the cord to remove excess wax. To do that, wrap the cords around the bowstring in a loop, and push the loop over the entire length of the string. This will allow an even spread of wax over the bowstring, and remove the excess wax.

After following these steps, you’re basically done. Your bowstring is now maintained and ready to use. This process, as I’ve noted before, should be done each 2 – 3 weeks for optimal string conditions. If you’re shooting a compound bow, your cables should be waxed as well.

How do I know if my bow needs to be restrung?

Visually inspecting the bowstring should become a part of your routine before any shoot. You don’t want to have an emergency in the range, so you better make sure to check your gear to stay on the safe side.

There are a few things that’ll signal that it’s time to replace the bowstring.

  • Signs of frying. Basically, you’re looking for a widespread “fussiness” of the string. Don’t panic if you’re seeing a little bit of fussiness, as every bowstring might have some small wear. If it’s on most of the string, it probably time to replace it. If it shows signs of splitting, it’s time to replace the string.
    Pay extra attention to the points that are under more stress, like the nock, peep sight, or silencer. If you see major wear around these stress points, it’s time to replace the bowstring.
  • Overstretching of the string. Basically, if you begin to feel like the draw length of your bow has increased, it might be a sign that the string became more elastic, which means it should be replaced.
  • Any damage you might have accidentally caused to the string. If you’ve accidentally cut some strands of the string or caused any damage to it, replace the string as fast as possible.

If you’re shooting a compound bow, your cables should be inspected as well – they’re under a lot of stress, just like the bowstring.

This helpful youtube video explains this really well, and have some great visual examples:

In any case, plan to replace your bowstring every 2 – 3 years, depending on how often you use it.

If you don’t replace your bowstring in time, you’re running the risk that it’ll tear. Not only does that cause damage to the bow, but it’s also extremely dangerous. I’ve mentioned wear as one of the major causes of bowstring snapping in a previous post, but it’s not the only one. I recommend you read the article to learn more.

How to replace a bowstring

I’ll start by suggesting that if you don’t know what you’re doing, go to a local archery pro shop or get the assistance of a more experienced archer. It’s quite common that people damage their bows by improperly unstringing it, and you can avoid it if you’ll be physically taught by someone with experience.

If you’re shooting a compound bow the process of changing is way more complex, and should probably be done by a professional. There are ways to replace the string yourself, but I recommend staying safe and getting some help.

If you’re using a recurve, the process is quite simple, and you should be familiar with it. It’s basically how you normally string the bow, just using the new string.

The steps of stringing a recurve bow:

  • Get the bow and the string ready. If you have a takedown bow, assemble it. Locate the string groves at the top and the bottom limbs, which will hold the bowstring.
    Make sure that your new string is ready, that it’s properly sized, and that it’s of the right kind.
  • Put a stringer on the bow. This is done simply by placing the stringer saddle on the top limb, and the pouch end at the bottom limb. Make sure that they’re secure and hold the bow.
  • String the bow. Step with both your feet at the center of the stringer. Hold the bow on the riser, and pull it upwards, flexing the limbs. This will now allow you to slide the new string in place, into the groves.
  • Release the stringer. When the bowstring is secure in place, you may release the pressure on the bow, and remove the stringer. You can now check that everything is in place, that the string is properly set and that it’s secure in the groves. Your bow is now ready to go.

As you can see, the process is quite simple. Any recurve archer is familiar with stringing and unstringing a bow, so you’re probably going to be fine finding help if you need it. It’s no different from any other time you string the bow.


In this post, we’ve discussed everything regarding bowstring and their lifespan. You’ve learned how often to expect to change the bowstring, how to maintain it, how to spot a string that needs replacing, and how to actually replace it.

Other than that, you do need to make it an annual habit to get your bow checked at a pro shop. It’ll ensure that if there was something you might have missed, it’ll be caught in time.

With that in mind, I hope you’ve learned something today. Enjoy!