The bearings are a small, unnoticeable part of your skateboard, but they’re absolutely critical, and they have a huge impact on how your skateboard rides. If you don’t regularly clean your skateboard bearings, you’ll certainly notice a difference.
They are the only protection for your wheels against the grime, dust, and dirt that a skatepark or city street can offer. But they also gather all these things, which can quickly lead to dirty bearings.
Just like most things, what you put in is what you get out. If you don’t clean your bearings, you won’t get a smooth ride. Skating faster, smoother, and even longer is possible with clean bearings.
Cleaning them is also, fortunately, a relatively inexpensive endeavor. You can considerably improve your skate experience by cleaning your bearings for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.
Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran skates, never forget to clean your bearings and reapply some lubricant regularly to keep your skateboarding experience as smooth as possible.
If you’ve spent the day skating in a particularly dirty area, such as somewhere with lots of dust or sand, it’s a good idea to clean your bearings as soon as you get home.
Remember, a bearing that is clean is a fast, smooth bearing. Dirt and gunk will eventually accumulate on the inside of your ball bearings, causing them to slow down or stop working altogether. Even if you have metal shields on your board, you still need to clean your bearings.
Proper maintenance is also essential to the lifespan of your bearings. If you want your bearings to last as long as possible and want to avoid having to purchase new bearings, you need to take good care of them.
Frequently, you should spin the skate bearings and dribble a few drops of lubricant onto their outsides, which will generally solve any minor issues. But every once in a while, they’ll require a deep clean. Let’s talk about the steps you should take when it’s time to give those bearings a proper cleaning.
Table of Contents
General Tips Before You Begin
- There’s a misconception that both the skateboard wheel and bearings need to be cleaned. In reality, only your bearings need to be cleaned. However, it doesn’t do any harm to clean your skateboard’s wheels and skateboard trucks at the same time.
- The same bearings are used in skateboards and longboards, so this process works for both.
- Gather all your cleaning materials before you start so you can focus on the task at hand.
- Wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp tools or solvents used in the process.
What Are Skateboard Bearings?
A skate bearing is a small circular device that allows the wheel to roll and will determine how fast and smoothly the wheel rotates. Each bearing is composed of five major parts: the shield, the inner race, the balls, and the retainer. There are eight bearings on a skateboard, two bearings on each wheel.
Bearings can quickly get clogged up with dust, sand, dirt, and other debris that your skateboard gathers. If the bearings are dirty, they won’t rotate smoothly, which will have a huge effect on how your skateboard wheels work and the general feel of your board.
Gather Your Materials
You’ll need a few tools and materials before you begin. You must disassemble each bearing when you start the cleaning process.
As a preventative measure against confusion, it is a good idea to have everything you need gathered and available at your workspace so you can focus and don’t have to leave it.
Here are some of the cleaning materials and tools you should have ready before you start taking apart your skateboard bearings.
- Skate tool or wrench
- A small tray or dish to store and organize hardware
- Razorblade, safety pin, or paper clip
- Clean rag
- Tooth brush
- Container or bowl for holding solvent
- Bearing lubricant
- A hair dryer or compressed air
How To Clean Skateboard Bearings
- Remove The Wheels
First things first, start by removing your truck axle’s wheels by using your skate tool or a socket wrench and removing the axle nuts.
Ensure that the washers between the axle nuts and the inside of the axel and the bearings do not get lost, so place them in a dish or tray to keep them safe.
Tip: There will be lots of small pieces and hardware as you disassemble your bearings, and you don’t want to lose any of them, so having somewhere safe to put parts is highly recommended.
- Remove Bearings and Bearing Shields
The next step is to remove the skateboard wheels’ bearings with the axle of your truck by carefully prying them out. In order to achieve this, slide the wheel halfway onto the axle, allowing only one bearing to be on the axle.
Twist the wheel outward and around as you pry the bearing out with the axle securely catching the inside of the bearing. Flip the wheel over to repeat the process.
Take off the bearing shields once you have removed the bearings from the wheels with a sharp object such as a razorblade, a safety pin, or a thumbtack.
The shield should not be bent and twisted since doing so might result in the bearings rubbing against it when it’s put back on. Also ensure that these items are organized in your hardware tray.
Once you’ve removed the first bearing, you’ll get used to the process, and the rest should be easy.
Some wheels have a separate bearing spacer between the two bearings, while other wheels have spacers integrated into the bearings.
You are most likely to find longboard bearings with separate bearing spacers. Remember to keep track of any spacers that come with your bearings in your hardware tray.
- Soak The Bearings in Cleaner
After you have removed the bearings from your wheels, the cleaning part begins. For this, you will need a non-water-based cleaner or solvent. Acetone, isopropyl alcohol, and mineral spirits are all good choices. Since some cleaners or solvents could cause damage to the skin, wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
For several minutes, soak the bearings in cleaning solution, occasionally swishing the bearings in the cleaner to make sure it gets in all the cracks and crevices. If you want to do an extra thorough job, try using a rag or an old toothbrush to scrub the bearings.
- Dry, Then Lubricate
Once the dirt has been removed through the cleaning process, remove the bearings and dry them as quickly as possible. For this, you can use a dry rag or clean paper towel or even dry them with a hair dryer. It is also possible to blow them with compressed air if you have it available. You don’t want to leave your bearings wet or damp.
Next, and very importantly, it’s time to re lubricate your bearings. Dry bearings cause damaging friction, so re-lubricating is vital. Spin the bearing to evenly distribute the oil after you have applied a few drops of lube. Continue with the remaining eight bearings.
Beware, WD-40, motor oil, petroleum jelly, or cooking oil are NOT good lubricants for this job. Your bearings will become dry and susceptible to rust as soon as the effects wear off. Instead, it’s best to purchase a professional-grade lubricant that’s made for use with skateboard bearings.
- Replace Shields and Mount Bearings
It’s much easier to replace bearing shields after taking them off. Set properly in place and gently press from the center out until they snap back into place. Mount your bearings again, simply reversing the initial process you took to take them off in the first place.
That’s it! You’re done! Roll along with the new bearing feel when you put those bearings back into your wheels.
Remember to replace the bearing spacers before reinstalling your wheels and to put the speed ring or washers back on your axle before tightening your axle nuts.
To keep your skateboard in good working order, you need to keep all parts in good condition, and the bearings in particular. They’re important for a smooth ride, and bearings that are gunked up with dirt and debris won’t allow your wheels to rotate properly and can cause unnecessary friction.
Follow these simple tips and make sure to clean your bearings thoroughly and regularly to keep your skating experience as smooth as possible.