How to fix the toe stop threads in your roller skate plate

While toe stops are not required equipment on a skate, having a toe stop pop out and not realizing it during a game, often leaves the skater with comical falls and a couple of failed attempts to get up until they realize it has happened. If you’ve ever had a toe stop pop out of your plate during a game, it can sometimes do some serious damage to the threads of your toe stop and within your plate.

This happened to me at my last game. Luckily, because of my homemade toe covers, my toe stop did not bounce all over the track on its escape from my plate. It stayed with me and flopped around limply at the end of my cover. If you want to see how my covers kept my toe stop from becoming a hazard on the track, check out my post on making your own toe covers.

Depending on your plate, you either use a wrench or hex key to tighten your toe stops into your plate

Depending on your plate, you either use a wrench or hex key to tighten your toe stops into your plate

There can be a couple reasons why your toe stops fail. One is you didn’t tighten them enough. I’m not a fan of the small toe stop tools skaters often carry around because you can’t get enough torque with the small handles. I like using full-size wrenches or a hex key with a vice grip to help ensure their tightness so they won’t jiggle loose with the bumps and friction skating brings.

The other reason is your toe stop may be near the end of its life and you’ve turned it out too far out for the stem to support your weight and activity. RollerGirl.ca created a great video talking about this very thing. Check it out below.

Looking inside, you can see the damaged threads

Looking inside, you can see the damaged threads

I suspect the later is what happened in my instance because the damage appears to be only about a 3/8” down into my plate. Plus during the game I was forcing the toe stop back in and re-tightening so I could keep playing. (You don’t realize how much you use your toe stops until one is gone.) So there was a lot of damage in the first few threads as a result.

Instead of shelling out hard earned dollars for new plates, you can attempt to fix the damage by using a tap and die set. The tool will allow you to fix your plate AND your toe stop, if you think you still have life left in the toe stop and want to keep using it.

Calling in help from a handy friend who has handy tools, I set off to do a DIY fix.

Before you try and fix it yourself…

Contact the shop where you bought your plates to see if the damage can be repaired or the plate replaced under warranty. If not, and you’re lucky enough to have a roller skate shop in your local town that does repairs, I would bring it to the experts first! Your skates are an investment and not something to mess around with!

What you need…

set

A tap and die set

Someone you can borrow tools from, which  include:

  • A vice to hold your skate and toe stop (I suspect you could have a friend hold your skate with a wrench, but it would be tricky)
  • A tap and die set containing a 5/8” with 18 NF tap and die. This is the toe stop stem size and the thread size. *These sets are expensive. This is where having a handy friend is… handy! Or you may be able to buy individual bits at your local hardware store.
  • WD-40 or oil

Because I had never done tapping or die-ing before, I found a great video (below) that explains the process. The video starts out showing how to re-thread a bolt, which would be the equivalent of fixing the threads on your toe stop stem. Then he shows how to tap a nut, which would be the equivalent of tapping the female portion of the toe stop on your plate. It’s a great resource and he explains the process very well.

The video also talks about a thread pitch gauge, which you don’t need to worry about, as I’ve listed the thread size above. But if you ever need to rethread your plate hangers or any other bolt around the house, that is the tool you would use to figure out the pitch of those threads.

As my friend was helping me fix my plates, I took some photos so you can get an idea of the process…

This is the tap. It is used to cut the female portion of the threads. AKA inside your plate.

This is the tap. It is used to cut the female portion of the threads. AKA inside your plate.

With the skate in the vice, be sure to insert the tap exactly square so you don't cut into the threads crooked.

With the skate in the vice, be sure to insert the tap exactly square so you don’t cut into the threads crooked. Work the tool back and forth to clean out the damage.

Before and after tapping.

Before and after tapping.

Using the die tool on the toe stop stem

Using the die tool on the toe stop stem

The fix took about a half hour and after watching my friend do the job, I’d be pretty confident to take on the task if I had to do it again (if he lets me borrow his workshop).

Have you had to go through the process of re-threading your plates or toe stops? I would love to hear your experience or any further tips and tricks you can share!

UPDATE Sept. 12, 2013 – after skating on the re-threaded plates I’ve noticed my toe stops aren’t able to stay in tight with just the hex key adjustment (applicable for the Avenger plates). So I’ve had to add a washer and nut at the base of my plate to help hold it in there. So while I have extended the life of my plates with this fix, it’s not perfect. Re-threading will make that connection looser than what it once was – something I was initially worried about when I set out to do this DIY and now confirmed.

Available at auto supply stores, like Canadian Tire

Available at auto supply stores, like Canadian Tire

ANOTHER TIP: Grand Poohbah wrote in the comments below to add white lithium to your toe stop threads to prevent corrosion and to help avoid them getting misthreaded or seizing up. He also reminds us to not put our toe guards in between the plate and the nut of your toe stop as the toe guard material will compress and the nut will not sufficiently lock down your stopper. See below for his full explanation. Great tips!

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How to adjust and/or change your roller skate toe stops

Tools for the job!

Using your toe stops is essential in derby and therefore should not be neglected. Between figuring out the correct length for your skating style and keeping them from falling off mid-practice, toe stops can be almost as confusing as choosing your first set of wheels.

Yesterday I received a new set of Gumballs, so I figured I’d share with you how I tech my toe stops while I’m changing them out. Please note that if you ask five different skaters on their chosen length, you will get five different answers. So the key is for YOU to keep a log whenever you adjust your tippy toes so you can track what works and what doesn’t.

My Current Toe Stop Settings

It’s helpful to know your most common starting position when you are adjusting your stops because often one toe stop will be longer than the other based on what foot you put in front.

I usually start with my right foot in front. This is a photo of me about to go down into my starting stance. See how my left heel is naturally much higher than my right heel in my stance? My toe stops are different lengths to reflect this positioning.

At a gear session with Coach Pauly, he said a good starting point for your front skate is to have your back wheels the same height as four fingers when you are up on your toes. That is what my right skate is currently set at. My left skate sits higher, which means your toe stop will be adjusted closer to your skate compared to the right skate.

Have I confused you yet?

Long story short, the closer your toe stop is to your skate, the higher your heel will be when stand on your stops. You need to find your balance of where you are comfortable when you stand on your toes.

There are many ways to gauge and record your toe stops… do what works best for you!

Any of these ways works to measure your toe stop height

Cherri’s Toe Stops (prior to changing them)

RIGHT FOOT
4.5 cm from skate
9 threads from skate
4 fingers heel height

LEFT FOOT
4 cm from skate
8 thread from skate
More than 4 fingers heel height

Now that I’ve established my current settings, it’s time to change to a new brand of toe stops. My stats will change on the thread count because of the brand change, but I plan to keep the distance and heel height the same as my previous brand.

Removing Your Toe Stops

I don’t like the little wrenches that come with many skate tools. They just don’t offer enough torque to loosen and tighten my stops effectively. Plus I don’t want to strip the nut of the skate. I always carry a large wrench in my bag for this job. I find it works best.

Lefty loosey

Once your nuts are loose, unscrew the toe stop from your skate then remove the nut and washer from the toe stop. They will be a little gunky so I take this opportunity to clean them and I also wipe out inside the hole of the skate.

Paper towel works fine. I don't use water.

Screw your nut and washer on your new toe stop and position it further than necessary down the stem of the toe stop. Remember, the washer goes between the nut and the skate.

Then insert the toe stop into your skate and screw it in until the desired height is reached. If your nut gets in the way, position the nut further down the stem.

Check your height

Once you are happy with your toe stop height, finger-tighten the nut down to the base of the skate.

Get it as tight as you can with your fingers so it won't move when you tighten it fully.

Using your wrench, tighten your nut. If you have finger-tightened it enough, the toe stop shouldn’t rotate as your tighten. But if it happens you may need to hold the toe stop in position while you tighten so it doesn’t move.

Right tighty.

When tightening my toe stops, I really put my back into it. I hate having to keep checking them to make sure they aren’t getting loose. So I lay my skate on its side, put my foot on the toe of the skate and pull up as hard as I can with my wrench.

Heave-ho!

If you have toe protectors on your skate…

DO NOT place them in between your nut and skate. The leather becomes compressed over time and it will slide out. Then the extra slack between the skate and nut will make your toe stop come loose. I just let mine hang loose. I guess I could also cut them off since the rest of the cover is secured by tape. I just haven’t done it yet.

Leave the piece of leather out of your nuts. (hehe)

Last step: Remeasure and log your new toe stop settings

RIGHT FOOT
4.6 cm from skate
5 threads from skate
4 fingers heel height

LEFT FOOT
4.1 cm from skate
2 threads from skate
More than 4 fingers heel height

Hope this helps some of you tech your own toe stops!

All pretty and ready to be broken in!