How To Clean Your Bearings
2 years ago by Graham Williams
Due to the recent terrible weather we’ve been dealt with this winter season, we thought it would be a good idea to remind you guys on how to properly clean your bearings. When we skateboard outside or in a dusty skate park, we tend to expose our bearings to all types of dirt, dust and water. If these elements make their way into your bearings it can cause friction, which makes your bearings noisy, slow and rough. In most cases if your bearings aren’t too badly damaged you can use a bearing lubricant to get them spinning like new again. If your bearings seem rusty or permanently “frozen” it’s always a safer bet to replace them with a new set to avoid throwing yourself off your board or not making it complete over the hand rail (nobody likes to rack.)
- Gently remove the non-contact rubber shield on the back of the bearing. You can do this using a push pin or small flat head screwdriver. Make sure you be careful as to not damage or bend the shield…it should pop out easily so don’t force it too hard. You can clean the rubber shield but don’t use any type of solvent. All you really need to do is wipe it down with warm soapy water and a lint free cloth. Make sure that they’re dry when you reinstall them, don’t install them if they’re still wet.
- If you own Bones Bearings, you will most likely see their signature “cage” retainer. According to Bones Bearings, the best way to remove this cage is to “take a straightened paper clip or similar object and place it in the spaces between the ball seats, then push the ball retainer out. Pushing alternatively in several different spots is often helpful. We recommend ONLY pushing the retainers out. If you pry them out, you will damage the ball cavities, ruining the surface of that cavity. This will, at a minimum, create more vibration and a slower bearing, and at worst, cause the entire bearing to fail. When you remove the cage, the balls can all shift over to one side and in some cases, may fall completely out of the rings.”
- If you have chosen to remove the bearings and the ball retainers, soak them in your cleaning solution (do not use WD-40, as this will damage the bearings permanently.) We recommend using a metal jar or can, as the bearings can crack thin glass. Gently swish the container around so that the bearings get moved around by the cleaner; this will make sure that the entire bearing ball gets cleaned and scrubbed. If the solution you’re using gets dirty, continue to replace it until you can swish the bearings around in the solution without it looking dirty (this means your bearings are squeaky clean.) If you decided to go the easy route and purchase one of our bearing lubricants, please revert to the instruction methods provided on the bottle.
- Once your bearings nice and clean, be sure to dry them immediately. The most effective way to dry them is with a can of compressed air. Using compressed air tends to be the best way to completely rid your bearings of dirt, grease and solvents.
- If you uninstalled the cages from your bearings, use a paperclip to spread the ball bearings out evenly and insert the cage so that it sits nice and correctly. Once it’s snapped into place, spin the bearing to make sure that it spins smooth and freely. If they don’t spin correctly, uninstall the cages and make sure that they’re installed correct (each ball should be over a ball seat.) If they are correctly placed and still not spinning freely, uninstall the cages and repeat the cleaning process.
- Once your bearings are back in place and spinning freely, go ahead and lube them up. Only use lubricant specified for bearings…again, do NOT use WD-40. If your bearings are made of steel, use two drops or so of bearing lubricant. If you’ve got Ceramic bearings, you’ll only need one drop to do the trick.
- After you’ve added lubrication to your bearings, go ahead and reinstall the rubber shields on your bearings. This process can be done using your thumb and a flat surface. Simply line up the bearing shield with the open bearing and press firmly, making sure it sits flat in your bearing.
- Reinstall your bearings! Do not use a tool that puts direct pressure onto your bearing shields, as they can dent and break easily, ruining your bearing. Most skate shops will have a bearing press available if you can’t seem to get them pushed all of the way onto the wheel. We like to slide a bearing onto a skateboard truck axle vertically, and then push on the wheel until it sits flush in the bearing seat.
We can’t tell you enough how important it is not to use WD-40 with your bearings. Although WD-40 seems like an obvious answer to lubing up bearings, WD-40 actually dries bearings out and leave a residue within the bearings, which can attract more dirt and dust.