How to replace compound limbs – not as hard as you think!

Anyone who I’ve met seems to have this idea in their head that replacing your limbs on your bow is the biggest thing in the world. I’m here to tell you it’s not as bad as you think it is. Trust me if your not convinced right now at the end of this article you will be.

The steps to replacing your compound limbs are as follows:

  • Label everything
  • Get it laid out
  • Pressing the bow
  • Removing the axel
  • Removing the limbs
  • Installing new limbs and Axel

I know it seems like there’s lots of steps involved but trust me it’ll all make sense when you get going on it.

Label Everything

So you’ve got a new set of limbs and your looking to replace them. The first thing you need to do it label everything. Get some sticky tape and put some on each limb of the new set and the old set. Have you ever wondered what that number on written on your limbs was and why they weren’t the same? That number is what’s known as your limb deflection and as the name suggests it’s how much your limb deflects while at full draw. I’m not going to go into the exact science of why the limbs are set up the way they are but all you need to know is that they are set up like that for a reason. So what you’re going to do is right top right on the top right limb that’s on your bow and top left on your top left limb on the tape you put on the limbs, and you’ll obviously do the same for the bottom. This is going to make visualising this job a whole lot easier.

So now that you have the limbs labelled your going to write down on a piece of paper the number corresponding to each limb. So that we can match up your next set even easier for example (Top Right = 145). Do this for all the limbs on your bow. Now your going to take your new set and try match the numbers as best you can with what’s already on your bow. So try match the highest deflection on your bow with the highest deflection of limb that you have. So if on your bow the highest deflection limb is top left match it with the highest limb deflection you have, and that limb will be going top left.

Once that is done write on the tape on your spare limbs where they are all going i.e. Top Left, Top Right… this way it’s hard to mess it up.

I would then go one step further and lay the limbs out in the way you labelled them to make it a no brainer.

Pressing the bow and Removal of Axel

Nothing new here, your going to press the bow as you would normally. This next part is up to you. You can either remove the strings and put them aside or what I like to do is keep them on the cams and then remove the cams with the strings still on them. What this will allow you to do is keep the amount of twists you have in your string and cables, making it just that little bit easier to get back on track when you get your new limbs on. Regardless of what you choose the next step is to remove the axel.

Note: Your bow must be pressed in the bow press when removing your axel

Removing the axel can be a little tricky sometimes. Each model of bow or bow company has a different way of keeping the axel in place through the limb. Most times it’s a torque head that you will loosen on both sides. In other cases it’s held by what’s called a C clip. A clip can be removed with a Circlip Pliers. Once they are moved or the axel is loosen you can they remove it. On most bows there will be spacers on the axel to keep the cam in the correct position, it is extremely important that you build your bow the same way when you put the axel back through your new limbs later. What I do is I lay out on a clean table in order I get the spacers off the axel, so that when I go to put them back on I know exactly what order to put the spacers on. The bottom cam must also be identical to the top cam in terms of spacers so don’t be afraid to take the space to lay out the spacers as they come off the axel properly.

The axel is a tight fit so it may not what to come out. What I do is I get my pliers and I’ll gently tap the axel until it starts moving. Once it does you can pull it out from the other side. Your cam is now free, so grab it and place it to one side for now. You’ll then repeat the same process for the bottom cam. If you decided to take your strings off place your top cam above your bottom cam wherever you place it so you will not get confused what cam goes on top and what one goes on bottom. Even if you do most cams will have a serial number with either a T or a B on it signifying top or bottom.

Now everything is removed from your limbs it’s time for the tricky part. You now have to unpress your bow. Except this time without an axel in your bow your limbs will go out much further than they could before. You’ll know when your done because your limbs will end up straight. It is important that you take this slow. Don’t rush unpressing the bow I know it’s going to feel weird unpressing the bow that much but this isn’t a job we do often to be fair. Take your time make sure the arms of the bow press are in the middle if the limbs, and even if they are off slightly make sure they do not move and you’ll be fine.

Removing the Limbs

Now we can finally remove the limbs. I can’t speak for other bows but I do know for PSE’s to effectively remove the limbs you’ll need to loosen the limb pockets. There will be a torque bolt on the side of the limb on both sides that you’ll need to only loosen not remove to help get the limbs out. It’s important to note that with PSE’s there is a rubber spacer between the limb and the limb pocket, and when you remove the limb that rubber spacer may fall out so it’s important you keep it as with a new set of limbs you don’t get fresh rubber spacers. The bolt in question is going to be tight assuming you haven’t messed around with it from factory, I usually use a ratchet and a socket for this job to loosen it up and then afterwards tighten it up properly.

Once that bolt is loosened it’s time to remove the limbs. The limbs are held in by the limb pocket so you can’t just pull them straight out. There is a little divot which the limb sits in while it’s in the pocket. What you need to do is push the limb forward and the end that is connected to the limb pocket will then be released, all you’ll need to do after that is pull out the limb. And that’s that!

Installing Limbs and Axel

Installing is much the opposite as taking them out, so if you got them out okay you should have no problem installing them too. First you’re going to get your limbs into the bow in the correct orientation that you chose before you started ( top right, top left ). You’ll put them into the limb pockets the same way you took them out, slide them in at an angle and then push them down into the pocket so that the limb catches the divot. Next when the limbs are in you’ll tighten down the limb pocket bolts, ensuring that the rubber spacer is still in place. Once they are efficiently tightened on all sides it’s time for your bow to go back in the press. Ensure that your limbs are secure before you press the limbs this time. Although there is no axel in them they should not move, if you push the limb the opposite way to the divot as you were removing it it will pop out. This is not what we are checking for, push the limb the opposite way i.e. into the divot to see does it move. When we press the bow we will be pressing the limbs into the divot so that is the direction we need to double check are they secure from.

Now once the limbs are secure it’s time to start pressing the bow. The same way when you were unpressing the bow all you need to make sure of is that the arms of the bow press don’t move and you’ll press up the bow slowly.

Now an unforseen issue I had is that I didn’t know how much I needed to press my bow by as you don’t have the axel in yet and your strings will only allow you to put the axel in when it’s at the correct length. A way to combat this is to have a tape measure handy. Once you’ve pressed the bow enough check is your bow in spec or not. Measure where the hole where the axel will be to the other end of the bow where the other axel will go. Depending on what ATA your bow is you’ll know if to go more or less. So if you have a 38″ ATA bow you’ll probably need to press it down to about 37″ ATA to comfortably get your axel, spacers, cams and strings on. Once your bow is pressed enough it’s time to put the axel through. Before you do what I do is I grease my axel up before putting it back in the bow. It’ll be a long time before you have to replace the limbs on your bow again so who knows when you’ll be able to grease up the axel so you may as well do it now. This will help your draw cycle to feel much smoother. So once that’s done and you start putting your axel through along with the correct spacers and cam you can then fix your axel up with some fresh C clips or tighten the torque bolt up. Then all there’s left to do is to take the bow out of the press.

And that’s it you’ve successfully replaced the limbs on your bow, wasn’t so bad was it? It’s important to note your bow is going to feel a little different so you may have some retuning to do but that’s it! Happy shooting.

Rogan Cunningham

Rogan Cunningham is an archer and writer for He's a proud member of the National Archery Squad. He writes about his archery training, shooting, and traveling with the national archery team, and he also reviews all kinds of archery kit. He only writes about archery, what can I tell you?..... He's an Archer!

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