How to Clean Skateboard Bearings
Cleaning Skateboard Bearings
Clean bearings are fast bearings. Dirt and gunk will inevitably build up on the inside of your bearings and cause the ball bearings to slow down or seize up altogether. If you want your skate bearings to last, regular maintenance is key. Minor issues can be solved by dripping a few drops of lubricant on the outside of each bearing, then giving them a spin. If that doesn't help, you'll want to give them a deep clean.
We'll teach you to clean your skate bearings in 5 easy steps. Follow along or jump to one of the steps below:
- Remove Wheels
- Remove Bearings & Shields
- Soak Bearings in Cleaner
- Dry and Re-Lubricate
- Replace Shields and Mount Bearings
- People sometimes confuse cleaning skateboard wheels with bearings, thinking that they need to clean their wheels when in fact you only need to clean your bearings.
- Longboards use the exact same bearings as skateboards, so this process will also work for longboard bearings.
- If your bearings have metal shields, your ability to clean inside them will be limited, but still beneficial. If they have rubber shields or no shields, you can easily bring them back to life by following the steps below.
Before you start, you'll need a few tools and materials. Once you have everything together, we'll teach you how to clean your skateboard bearings at home in 5 easy steps.
- Skate tool (or wrench)
- Tray (to store hardware)
- Razorblade or safety pin
- Rag or tooth brush
- Container or bowl (for solvent)
- Bearing lubricant
Begin by removing the axle nuts with your skate tool or wrench and sliding the wheels off of your truck axle. Make sure to keep track of the washers between the axle nuts and the inside of the axel and the bearings. We find it best to organize and store the axle nuts and speed washers in a small tray so you don't lose any small pieces of hardware.
Next, you'll remove your bearings from your wheels by prying them out of your wheels using the axle of your truck. To do this, slide the wheel half-way onto the end of the axle so only one bearing is on the axle. With the axle securely catching the inside of the bearing, twist the wheel outward and around as you pry the bearing out. Flip the wheel over and repeat.
Once your bearings are out of the wheels, pop off the bearing shields with something sharp and pointy like a razorblade, thumbtack or a safety pin. Try not to bend and mis-shape the shield, doing so can cause it to rub against the ball bearings when you put it back on. Make sure to keep track of these in your hardware tray as well.
Tip: Some set-ups use bearing spacers that sit between the two bearings when in the wheel, while other bearings have built-in spacers. These are most commonly found in longboard wheels and bearings. If your bearings have spacers, be sure to keep track of them in your hardware tray.
With your bearings out of your wheels, you'll now need some kind of cleaner or solvent that is not water-based. Acetone, isopropyl alcohol and mineral spirits are all good options. When using solvents, wear gloves and avoid contact with your skin. Use a dish or wide-mouthed bottle as a container to soak the bearings for several minutes, occasionally swirling the bearings around in the cleaner. If necessary, you can also use a rag or old toothbrush to get in there and scrub a little. We highly recommend the Bones Bearing Cleaning Kit because it offers a mess-free way to vigorously shake your bearings in cleaner for faster results without damaging them.
Once the gunk has been removed, take the bearings out and dry them as quickly as you can. Tapping them face down on a dry rag or paper towel, and spinning them works well. You can also blow them with a hair dryer or compressed air if you have them handy.
The next step is to re-lubricate the bearings. This is crucial because skating a dry bearing will create damaging friction. We recommend using a skate-specific bearing lubricant like Bones Speed Cream or Bronson Speed Co. High Speed Ceramic Oil. Drip 1-2 drops of lube into the bearing, then spin it to evenly distribute the oil. Repeat for all eight bearings.
Tip: Don't use WD-40 as lube! The effects will wear off quickly, leaving your bearings dry and susceptible to rust.
The final step is to place the bearing shields back on, which is much easier than taking them off. Simply set them in place and gently press from the center out until they snap back on. Then you're ready to roll! Slap those bearings back into your wheels and roll along with that new bearing feel.
Tip: Make sure to replace the bearing spacers between the bearings before re-inserting them in the wheels, and place the speed washers back onto your truck axle before tightening your axle nuts.
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