Nothing is worse than having your skateboard come to a sudden stop because the bearings seized. The best way to prevent this dreaded event is by cleaning skateboard bearings. Plus your skateboard will stop making noise and will roll faster.
So today we’re discussing how to clean skateboard bearings so your wheels will keep rolling smoothly.
How to Clean Skateboard Bearings
- Remove the wheels and the bearings.
- Wipe the bearings with a paper towel.
- Remove the shield to expose the bearings.
- Soak the bearings for 30 minutes in a solvent.
- Dry the bearings.
- Apply lubricant to the skateboard bearings.
- Put the shield back on the bearings.
- Replace the bearings in the wheels.
- Reassemble your skateboard.
How Often to Clean Skateboard Bearings
While it depends upon the environment in which you’re skating. In general, skateboard bearings should be cleaned every 2-3 months. A sandy or dusty environment will cause your bearings to need to be cleaned more often.
You can tell when your bearings need to be cleaned because the wheels will start making noise. Also, clean your bearings when the wheels won’t turn freely when you flick them with your fingers. To continue skating when the wheels don’t spin freely may damage your wheels or cause you to have an accident.
How To Clean Skateboard Bearings
When you’re cleaning skateboard bearings, the first step is to remove the bearings. Then you will soak the bearings in a cleaner, before lubricating them. Finally, you will put your skateboard back together again.
- Time: 1 hour
- Difficulty: Intermediate
What You’ll Need
- Newspapers or towels if you’re working indoors
- Skate tool or wrench
- Needle-nose pliers
- Small container or plastic bag to hold various parts
- Razor or pin – it needs to be small and pointy
- Paper towels
- Disposable cup or ceramic container
- Solvent: acetone or isopropyl alcohol
- Rubber gloves
- Skateboard lubricant or speed cream
- Hairdryer or compressed air (optional)
How to Remove Skateboard Bearings
Before you’re able to clean your skateboard bearings, you will first need to remove them from your wheels.
1. Prepare Your Space
If you’re working indoors you will need to prepare the space you’re working in as cleaning skateboard bearings can be messy. Lay down newspapers or towels to protect the space you’re working in.
2. Remove the Wheels
The first step is to remove the wheels so that you can get to the bearings. To do this, use the skate tool or wrench to loosen the nuts on the wheels that are holding the wheels in place. Remove the nuts and take off the wheels.
Place any loose nuts, bolts, and washers in the container or plastic bag you have to hold various parts. This will keep them from being lost as you work.
3. Remove the Bearings
If you look at the wheel, you’ll see the circular bearings in the center. Gently lift the bearings out of the wheel using needle-nose pliers.
Some boards have a speed ring, or spacer, between the bearings. Remove this as well after you’ve removed the first bearing from each wheel.
When you’re finished, you should have removed 8 bearings from your wheels.
How to Clean Skate Bearings With Isopropyl Alcohol
After the skateboard bearings are removed from your wheels, it’s time to clean them.
1. Prepare Solvent
Prepare the solvent that you will be using to clean your skate bearings. Do this by pouring about an inch of solvent into your container. You need just enough solvent to cover the skateboard bearings.
Put the container aside for now.
2. Remove Dirt and Gunk
Take a paper towel and gently wipe all the visible dirt and gunk from each bearing. Make them as clean as you can. If there’s a spot that won’t come clean, dip the towel into the solvent and scrub that area to help cut through the grime.
Removing the dirt and gunk now will help your bearings get a deeper clean from the solvent.
3. Remove Shield Caps
Remove the rubber shield caps from the bearings. The shield caps are usually red or black in color. As you remove the shield cap, be careful not to bend the shield.
Use a small, thin, and pointed object to carefully pry off the shield cap. You can use a safety pin, sewing needle, Xacto knife, or razor blade. A razor blade is most commonly used.
If it’s not working, try inserting your pointed object between the rubber shield cap and the bearing housing. You should be able to gently pry the shield cap up.
When the shield cap is removed, you should see tiny balls inside the bearing. This is where most of the grime is located.
4. Soak the Bearings
Place the bearings in the solvent container to soak. Carefully swish the container and let the solvent work. The solvent will turn black or brown as it removes the grime from your skateboard bearings.
If the solvent turns too dark, you can drain the solvent from the container and add fresh solvent to soak your bearings.
Allow your skateboard bearings to soak for 30 minutes or even overnight. You will need to swish the container once in a while to help move the solvent around.
5. Remove and Dry Bearings
Place a paper towel on a level surface. You will be placing the bearings here to dry. Then begin removing the bearings from the solvent.
As you remove each bearing, wipe it off with a clean paper towel and place it on the paper towel to dry. Wait about 10 minutes for the skateboard bearings to fully dry before you lubricate them.
How to Lube Skateboard Bearings
The final step is to lubricate your skateboard bearings before putting your skateboard back together. You can put your skateboard bearings back together without lube, but the lubricant will help your bearings last longer.
1. Make Sure Bearings Are Dry
Before you lubricate your bearings, you will need to make sure that your skateboard bearings are dry. You can use a hairdryer, or canned air if you prefer that over waiting for it to air dry.
If you use canned air to make sure that your bearings are dry, aim the air into the open bearing. The bearing should spin. If it doesn’t, spin the bearing with your finger while blowing the canned air into it.
Another option is to use a hairdryer to dry the bearings. Just turn the hairdryer on for a moment, give the bearings a quick blast, and turn the hairdryer off. The solvent should evaporate quickly.
2. Apply Lubricant
Once your skateboard bearings are dry, it’s time to lubricate them. Make sure that you’re using a lubricant made for skateboard bearings. Do not use cooking oil, motor oil, or WD-40.
If your grease is thin, add 2-3 drops to each bearing. Then spin the bearings to make sure that the lubricant is evenly distributed throughout the bearing.
A thick grease can be packed into the bearings. One recommendation is to add speed cream only to the sides of the bearings that face the wheels. This will lubricate your board, but won’t expose the lubricant to as much debris.
3. Replace Bearing Shields
Pop the bearing shields back onto the bearing making sure that the seal is complete. There should be no gaps. Be gentle and don’t bend the shields as you replace them.
4. Place Bearings in Wheels
Put the bearings into the wheels and push down firmly. You want to push the bearings down as far as they will go.
Then put the bearings on the truck of your skateboard. Push down with your body weight on the wheel. This should secure the bearing inside the wheel.
If you have a space ring that goes between the bearings, make sure to put it back.
5. Clean Axle & Reassemble the Skateboard
While the wheels are off of your skateboard, you may want to take a damp paper towel and clean the bolts, crevices, and axles of your truck. Then put the wheels back on your skateboard and tighten the bolts.
Make sure the bolts are not too tight. Your wheels should spin freely with just a touch of jiggling.
Is It Worth Cleaning Skate Bearings?
Skateboard bearings build up dirt and gunk inside the bearings. After a time, the debris will cause the bearings to slow down your skateboard or even seize. To prevent this, you’ll need to clean or replace your skate bearings.
Cleaning the skateboard bearings tends to be cheaper than replacing your bearings every few months. However, there comes a point when you will need to replace your skate bearings rather than clean them. This way the bearings won’t seize causing you to have a nasty accident while skateboarding.
You should consider replacing the bearings when:
- The bearings won’t spin after you clean and lubricate them.
- Your wheels are making squeaking noises.
- The wheels don’t spin for more than a few seconds.
- You need to push your skateboard like crazy to get it to move.
- If a shield or ball bearing is missing.
Extra Maintenance Tips For Bearings
There are a few maintenance tips you can follow to help your skateboard bearings last longer.
Don’t Skateboard In the Rain
Skateboarding in the rain or under wet conditions introduces moisture to your bearings. The moisture will eventually make your bearings rusty. It will also wear the lubrication away causing the friction to increase which will also cause the bearings to wear away faster.
Avoid Dust and Sand
Avoid skateboarding in areas with a lot of dust and sand if possible. The dust and sand get into the bearings and cause stress on the inner rings. If you must skateboard in an area with dust and sand, you will need to clean your bearings more often.
How Do I Make My Skateboard Faster?
If you’d like your skateboard to move faster, there are a few modifications you can make to your skateboard beyond just cleaning your bearings.
Use Larger Wheels
If you’d like your skateboard to go faster, first replace your wheels with larger wheels. The larger wheels have a larger circumference, so they will go farther for every rotation of the axle.
However smaller wheels are easier to control than larger wheels, so they’re better for tricks and technical work.
Use Harder Wheels
Skateboard wheels come in a variety of hardness, so use the Durometer scale to find the best hardness for your wheels. The Durometer scale is a 100 point scale that determines the hardness of the wheel. The higher the rating, the harder the wheel.
Harder wheels are faster than softer wheels, however, soft wheels grip the road better. Generally, if you’re skating at skateparks and on smooth roads you can use a harder wheel than if you’re skating on the street.
Use Narrow Wheels
Narrow wheels have less friction than wide wheels, so switching to narrow wheels will make your skateboard faster. They don’t grip the road as well as wide wheels though.
Can You Use WD-40 to Clean Skateboard Bearings?
No, you should not clean your skateboard bearings with WD-40. It will dry your bearings out and attract dust.
Can I Clean My Bearings With Hand Sanitizer?
Don’t use hand sanitizer to clean your skateboard bearings. It contains ingredients beyond alcohol that should not be on your bearings.
Can I Use Olive Oil on Skateboard Bearings?
No, it’s not recommended that you use olive oil on skateboard bearings. It will go rancid and cause your bearings to gum up.
Can You Over-Grease Skateboard Bearings?
Yes, you can and too much grease on bearings may cause accelerated wear on the bearings.
How Do You Clean Non-Removable Bearings?
If you have sealed bearings, you can simply drop them into the solvent to soak for a time. Skip removing the bearing shields. The solvent won’t be able to give the bearings as deep of a clean, but it will clean them.
Best Way to Clean Skateboard Bearings
The best way to clean your skateboard bearings is to make cleaning your bearings part of your routine. This will prevent rust, grime, and dirt from causing your bearings to seize.