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How To Clean Skateboard Bearings [FULL GUIDE]

How to Clean Skateboard Bearings [FULL GUIDE]

How To Clean Skateboard Bearings

To keep skateboard bearings fast and looking good they need to be clean and oiled.  When well kept, they are less likely to break which can leave you hurt or stranded if it happens.  Not all bearings are created equal.   Read on to learn about how to clean skateboard bearings.

 

Bearings in General

A bearing is a mechanical moving part that helps reduce friction. Usually they help rotating parts spin better.  There are a few different types of bearings. Skateboard bearings are known as ball bearings. They have metal balls that spin to help reduce friction. The ball bearings are held between an outer ring and an inner ring.  The outer ring is already the exact size to fit into the bearing cutout in skateboard wheels and is 22mm.  The inter ring is made to fit around the truck axle and measures 8mm.  These measurements are universal in skateboarding and it will be rare to find brands using different sized bearings or axles, but it can happen. The balls sit in grooves on both the outer and inner rings.  Inside of the outer ring and outside of the inner ring.  The balls are held in place by the crown, or ball retainer.  Bearings with metal shields can have c clips that hold the shield in place.  Other metal shields pop off like rubber shields do.  

 

How To Make Skateboard Bearings Spin Faster

The main reason people want to clean their bearings is to make them faster.  Your bearings might in fact need cleaning or oiling because they are slow. But try these few tricks first before cleaning them. It could be a simple fix and the bearing might not need extra lubrication or a cleaning.
  • Make sure your axle nuts aren’t too tight.  There should be a little wiggle room for your wheel to move on the axle, but not too much.  Sometimes we get boards like longboard completes that come with the axle nuts on too tight. The bearings will only spin for a couple seconds.  When we give the nuts a small counterclockwise turn, the wheels can spin for minutes at a time. So make sure to leave a little room for your wheels and bearings to move on the axle.  
  • Removing the bearing spacers in the middle of the wheel is a way to make the bearings spin faster.  The middle spacer helps to stop bearings from breaking. Bearings will be strong enough without the spacer to skateboard and be faster.
  • Another thing to check for is if the bearing not seated completely, or pushed into the wheel all the way.  This is not as common, but can happen.  This usually only happen right after installing bearings into wheels.  If the bearing is sitting in the wheel crooked, it won’t spin as fast. Push down on your wheel and pull up on it in all directions to make sure the bearings are both pushed in all the way. You don’t need to take anything apart to do this.  Often, riding the board will fix this problem too.
*The best way to make skateboard bearings spin faster if the is to clean/lubricate them. 

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What Makes a Skateboard Bearing Fast

 First understanding what makes skateboard bearings fast is important. This will help you determine whether your bearings need cleaning or upgrading.
 

Friction

The ability for a bearing to reduce friction is what makes a bearing fast.  If you push on flat, you will eventually come to a stop.  With better bearings you will ride farther with the same push. You will also be able to go faster at top speeds when riding down hills.  Friction is reduced in skateboard bearings with lubrication, quality materials, and good design.    
 

Best lubricant For Skateboard Bearings

Lubrication from bearing oil makes the parts of the bearings slippery. They grab less as they rub together, creating less friction.  Speed cream is the industry standard for skateboarding oil. You can buy it at your local skate shop. Tri-Flow from the hardware store also works well. Heavy oils like bicycle chain oil are not recommended. Do not use 10w-30 motor oil!  Bearings are small so lubricants needs to be light and thin.
 

Quality of Materials

The quality of the materials used to make the bearing also makes a bearing faster.  Ceramic balls are used in more expensive bearings. The ceramic is able to be made smoother than metal. It makes a big difference in how fast the bearing is. Ceramic also cools faster than metal. This is important to reduce the change of breaking a bearing. This makes them last longer. The type and quality of the materials makes a big difference in how fast the bearing is.   The design of the bearing itself can make a bearing faster. Some bearings have more precisely made ball bearings like Bones Swiss. The ball bearings are smoother, which reduces friction.
 

ABEC Rating: Precision 

How precise the parts of a bearing fit together also helps reduce friction in bearings.  The ABEC rating on bearings measures the tolerances, or tiny spaces between parts of the bearing. Technically, the ABEC rating doesn’t measure how fast bearings are.  The tighter the tolerances are, the better the bearing will work. This makes the bearing faster. There are a lot of factors that go into making a bearing fast. A higher ABEC rating doesn’t always mean the bearing is faster.

 

How to Tell if a Bearing Needs Cleaned/Oiled or Replaced 

If there is dirt on the bearing and it still spins, it needs to be cleaned.  If it’s making a loud noise as it barely spins before stopping, your bearing needs re-oiling and a couple spins to bring it back to life.  A stuck bearing that won’t spin at all usually needs to be replaced, but not always. Severe rust or a broken part inside can cause a bearing to seize.  If your bearing is clean, but doesn’t rotate very well, then it’s better to get better bearings. Many bearings like the ones that come with cheap completes are poorly made. They don’t have the capability to be faster. Buying a new set of Reds bearings for less than $20 is worth it every time in those cases.  Bearings work with the wheels to roll. Often times it is not the bearing that is slow, it’s the wheel. So figure out what you need for your specific setup. These are the main ways to know if your bearing needs to be cleaned or replaced.  If your bearing needs cleaning, there are different ways to do it.

 

How to Clean Skateboard Bearings: Ways 

There are a few ways to clean your bearings. It depends on whether you want to take everything apart or just want to put in a few drops of oil, quickly spin the wheel with a napkin and go.  

Leaving The Board Together

The quickest, most effective way to clean bearings is by leaving the board together. If you leave the board together, all you need to do is put drops of bearing oil in the bearings as you spin the wheel.  Spinning the wheel gets oil to all parts of the bearing.  It also helps break up dirt deposits on the inner moving parts of the bearing.  Spin it hard and fast.  Use generous amounts of bearing oil to flush the dirt out.  Notice how long and smoothly it spins before and after applying oil.  If your bearing is old and rusty, you will feel it working harder to break through the dirt.  You might have to use elbow grease and rotate the wheel by hand a few times back and forth before it can break loose.  Some rusted bearings are not able to be unstuck.  If your bearing is already semi-clean, then dont use as much oil.  Also know that it might already be fine and not spin any better.   After spinning the wheel until it rotates on its own, all you have to do is take a cleaning cloth and wipe everything off.  You can use a rag or a napkin of some kind.  Make sure your cleaning cloth doesn’t leave tiny particles behind.  A lot of them do.  Toilet paper and tissue are not ideal.  The best thing is cloth that you can throw away like an old sock or shirt.  Wiping extra oil off bearings usually makes them look and work way better.  Fold the cleaning cloth and get the corner in there.  Spin the wheel a few times and then remove the rag.  Notice the black dirt and old oil.  Switch to a clean part of the cleaning cloth and repeat.  Repeat adding drops of bearing oil then wiping until there is no dirt getting on the cleaning cloth. 

Taking the Axle Nut and the Wheel Off

If you take off the axle nut you can do a better job cleaning the bearing.  For one, the bearing shield can be cleaned underneath where the nut usually covers it.  Cleaning this inside gap around the shield is good to do.  
The washers on the outside of the bearings are also free to take off and clean.  Rub them between your fingers in your cleaning cloth.  Wet the cloth with bearing oil to get the rings clean and lubricated.
Cleaning your axle the same way by adding oil and wiping it off is highly recommended if you take the axle nut and wheel off.
You can take off take off the bearing shields, but for most, this is not recommended.  The shields get damaged and might not fit back on correctly. If your shields get damaged or won’t go back on, don’t worry, your bearings will work fine.  To remove them, carefully use a razor blaze to pry in the space between either the inner or outer ring and shield. This will allow you to pop the shield off. Watch a video of this here to get a better idea of what this process looks like.  We recommend using a razor blade not a paper clip because the paper clip can damage the rubber shield.  Metal shields are harder to detach and reattach than rubber shields.
After cleaning the ball bearings inside by wiping, align and push the shield back into place with your fingers.  Make sure it goes into position and seals all the way around to keep dirt out of your bearing.  Your shield might come off while you’re skating if you took them off and they didn’t attach properly.  Its best to remove them if they won’t stay attached.  
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Taking the Bearings Out of the Wheel

Taking the bearings out of the wheel is good to clean them out completely front and back.
Another thing you can do once the bearings are out of the wheel is soak them in cleaning agent. This works whether you take the shields off or not.  The soaking will help dissolve the hard to remove dirt.  After soaking, spin them in your fingers and this will remove the dirt.  Make sure to lubricate them afterwards.
Putting too much oil on your bearing after cleaning can collect dirt and clog up your bearings.  If the oil is dripping out of the wheel onto the graphic, you have too much oil.  Wipe some off and wipe the sides of your wheels off while you’re at it to keep them clean.  More oil isn’t better.
You cantake the bearing all the way apart further, but we don’t recommend this.  It is unnecessary 99% of the time.  There are small parts that often get lost like the ball bearings.  There are fragile parts that often get damaged like the crown and shields.  Its also difficult to get all back together.

How to Clean Skateboard Bearings With Household Items 

You can clean your skateboard bearing with many household cleaning products. Always make sure to re-oil the bearing after a cleaning.  WD40 is not recommended because dirt tends to stick to it. If you wipe the cleaning agent off completely and put bearing oil like speed cream on it, you can make it work.  You don’t want to clean your bearings and then have them immediately caked up the first time you ride though.  Using orange cleaners works well. For most normal cases though, we don’t recommend using cleaners. Using extra lubricant then wiping them off to flush out dirt works wonders.  
 

Where to Find Skateboard Bearings

You can find skateboard bearings on our website or at your local skate shop.

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