How to clean skateboard bearings

November 10, 2020 | Skateboarding
Skateboarding bearings: keep them clean and lubricated to make the wheels spin faster | Photo: Shutterstock

Skateboard bearings are relatively low-maintenance. Nevertheless, occasionally, you may need to clean them to ensure wheels turn smoothly and to increase their lifetime.

A complete skateboard has eight bearings - two per wheel.

The rings that sit between the wheels and the axles have changed a lot since the early days.

In the 1970s, every now and then, these small steel balls would fly out of the wheels and down the street on their own.

Today, everything is simpler, and skateboard gear and parts are easy and cheaper to replace and maintain.

With precision-bearing skateboard wheels, skateboarding became faster, more versatile, and adapted itself to almost any type of terrain.

However, sooner or later, all bearings get dirt and full of sediments from being exposed and in close contact with asphalt, concrete, soil, puddles, and rain.

Therefore, regular maintenance is vital to keep them rolling fast.

Bearings: a complete skateboard has eight bearings, two per wheel | Photo: Creative Commons

Cleaning and Lubing Vs. Buying New

In most cases, all you need to do is lube them and spin the wheels but, every once in a while, you need to give your bearings a full cleanup to revive their original characteristics and improve the skating experience.

So, from time to time, remember to run a quick inspection to see if anything needs a quick adjustment or fine-tune.

Start by spinning the wheels. In a perfect scenario, they will spin easily, smoothly, and quietly.

But if one of them stops spinning quickly, loosen the nut a little until you can move the wheel a tiny bit along the axle.

If it still doesn't spin smoothly, the bearings may be old or dirty. And that's when you've got to do something.

Bearings are rated by their ABEC (Annular Bearing Engineer's Committee) factor, i.e., for its quality and smoothness.

The classification goes from 1 to 9.

An ABEC 9 represents the best - and usually more expensive - bearing; an ABEC 1 is a raw, durable, and cheap bearing.

An ABEC 3 or 5 bearing is enough for the beginner and intermediate skateboarder.

For most riders, the bearing is a disposable item.

But make no mistake: it is way cheaper to clean your skateboard bearings than buying a new set of these circular devices.

Solvent removes dirt and grease from any small crevice in the bearings.

To clean your bearings, you'll need the following tools and supplies:

A skate tool;
A razor blade, thumbtack, or safety pin;
A small container;
An old toothbrush;
Latex gloves;
Paper towel;
Acetone or isopropyl alcohol;
Lubricant;

Bearing shields: you need to removed them to clean and lubricate bearings | Photo: Creative Commons

Skateboard Bearing Cleanup 101

The skateboard bearing cleaning process will take you around 30 minutes, but it is worth it.

Now, here's how to properly clean your bearings:

1. Unscrew the axle nuts and take off your wheels;

2. Keep the nuts and the speed washers together, so you don't lose them;

3. Take the bearings out of the wheels;

4. Remove the bearing shields using the razor blade or safety pin;

5. Make sure to keep the shields together, so you don't lose them;

6. Fill the container with one inch of cleaning solvent;

7. Put on the gloves;

8. Drop the bearings in the container;

9. Swish them around and shake the container for 30 seconds;

10. Take the bearings out of the container and lay them on the paper towel;

11. Smack the bearings on the paper to get the excess solvent out;

12. Scrub the bearing with an old toothbrush to remove sticky or greasy residue;

13. Let the solvent evaporate;

14. Pour four drops of lube evenly into each bearing;

15. Spin it gently to spread the lubricant throughout the bearing;

16. Put the shield back on;

17. Put all speed washers and bearings back on;

18. Don't overtighten the axle nuts;

There are several skateboard bearing cleaning kits in the market, in case you prefer an all-in-one solution.

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