If you’re a skateboarder, chances are you’re already familiar with the little donut-shaped metal pieces inside your wheels. Skate bearings are key elements of a skateboard that connect the wheels to the axle and allow them to roll faster with less friction. They pretty much run the show!
If regularly cleaned, lubricated, and maintained, they also lengthen the lifespan of your skateboard, allowing you a quality, brand-new skating experience for a long, long time!
Here is a comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide on all things maintenance of skateboard bearings - perfect for both beginners and experts. What’s more, we’ve also compiled a list of the best bearing lubricants in the market.
With usage comes wear and tear! The frequency and depth of cleaning depends on the environment in which you skateboard. Skateboards used indoors run efficiently for longer as compared to skateboards used outdoors with exposure to humidity, dirt, mud, puddles, and concrete.
You should clean your skateboard bearings, simply because it’s the easiest thing to do! A bearing can be jammed by a small stone, plastic wrap, twig, or even hair, increasing friction in the wheels. If you continue skateboarding despite the skateboard not rolling smoothly, it may stop abruptly, break, or cause injury.
Why go through this hassle when you can easily keep your bearings (and yourself!) protected by following these 5 simple steps to clean your bearings. Let us show you how!
There are several ways to clean your skateboard bearings, from sophisticated chemicals and tools to everyday household items. We’ve compiled the most accessible guide for you, that you can follow with very little effort. So, let’s begin!
Before you get your hands down and dirty, you need the following materials:
● skate tool / wrench
● razor blade / safety pin
● small container
● cleaning solvent
● old toothbrush (optional)
● paper towels
● compressed air can (optional)
● bearing lubricant
The first step of the cleaning process is removing the wheels. Don’t worry, it’s not hard! Using a skate tool or a wrench, unscrew and remove the axle nuts (and the speed washers) and keep them safely together. Next, slide the wheels off the axle.
#Pro tip: Prepare a small hardware tray to keep all the small elements!
As you slide each wheel off the axle, stop when the innermost bearing is just on the edge, and pull it out using a swift upward (or downward) flip movement, and voilà, it should come out! Repeat this on both sides of each wheel and put the bearings aside.
Next step - removing the bearing shields. The best way to pop off bearing shields is to use a thin, flat, and sharp tool such as a razor blade or a safety pin. Taking precautions to avoid any damage, remove one shield from each bearing to expose the dirt and ABEC balls within. Rubber shields are easy to remove while metal shields often have C-shaped clips on the outside for easy removal.
#Pro tip: Things will only get dirtier from here, so keep paper towels handy.
Next, we come to the most satisfying step of the process - the cleansing! Take any non-water-based cleaning solvent - acetone, methylated spirit, isopropyl alcohol, or a degreaser, as well as a dish, disposable cup, or a wide-mouthed container. Put the bearings in the container (balls side up) and soak them completely in about an inch (or more) of solvent, depending on the size of the container.
Once you’ve sealed the container - either leave the bearings for a couple of minutes, swirling occasionally, or shaking the container for thirty seconds. Then throw the solvent out, add more clean solvent and repeat the process until no more gunk is coming out. You can also scrub the bearings lightly with an old toothbrush.
Lastly, take the bearings out and place them on a paper towel to remove the excess solvent. You can also use a lint-free cloth, or a compressed air can to dry the bearings completely!
#Pro tip: Always use safety gear (gloves and glasses) when dealing with cleaners and avoid contact with eyes or skin.
Step 4: Don’t Forget to Lube Your Skateboard Bearings
Once you’ve completely dried out your bearings, add a couple of drops of skateboard bearing oil, lubricant, or grease to each bearing. Next, spin them around to distribute the bearing lube evenly.
#Pro tip: Develop your lubricant knowledge! Generally, the thinner your bearing lubricant or oil, the faster the bearings will spin, but the higher their chances of breaking down will be.
Now comes the easiest part - sticking all the hardware back together. Place the bearing shields back on, put the bearings back into the wheel, slide the wheels back onto your truck axle, tighten the axle nuts, and you’re done!
#Pro tip: Remember to leave nothing in your hardware tray. Replace the bearing spacers between the bearings as well as the speed washers.
So far, we’ve covered the how of cleaning skateboard bearings in detail, now let’s jump into the when and how often.
The truth is, there is no one size fits all. As a rule, you should spin your wheels before skating and watch and listen for aberrations. If one or more of your wheels make funny noises, are louder than usual, or stop abruptly or quickly after only a few rotations, it’s probably time to clean them. Regular cleaning also helps detect broken or damaged parts early on.
Investing in a good skateboard bearing lube can be an absolute game changer! Several varieties of bearing lubricants exist in the market depending on the needs of the skateboarder and the viscosity of the product.
We’ve listed down for you the best skateboard bearing lubricants of 2022, that will make skateboarding a smooth, enjoyable, and safe experience for you!
1) Ionic Flux Gold Series is a low viscosity bearing oil with military grade nano-additives that reduce rolling resistance and optimise performance. It is made specifically for application before races, supports steel and ceramic ball bearings, and can be reapplied in no more than 10-hour intervals of use.
2) Ionic Flux Black Steel is a low viscosity bearing oil with corrosion inhibitors and additives to purge dirt and moisture. The bearing oil supports steel ball bearings and can be reapplied every 60-80 hours of use.
3) Ionic Flux Black Ceramic is an ultra-low viscosity bearing oil intended specifically for competitive skaters using hybrid ceramic bearings. It supports ceramic ball bearings and has a recommended reapplication interval of 40-60 hours of use.
Skateboard bearings generally require little maintenance and last long periods of time. To maintain longevity, you should always invest in quality expensive bearings over cheap ones, avoid skating on sedimentary surfaces that might obstruct them, and remember to regularly clean and lubricate them.
If you still find yourself in doubt about the cleaning process, please feel free to reach out to us here, we’d be happy to help!