Skateboard bearings are the round metal pieces that fit inside the wheels to mount the wheels to the axle. Regardless of wheel size, all skateboard bearings are the same size and will fit any skateboard wheel that Warehouse Skateboards sells. The universal measurements for bearings are 8mm (core), 22mm (outer diameter), and 7mm (width).
Skateboard bearings are sold in sets of eight, as each wheel requires two bearings. You can browse Warehouse Skateboards' vast inventory of skateboard bearings, which are available in a variety of colors to suit your personal style.
Skateboard bearings are measured by an ABEC rating, which rates the quality of materials and precision used in manufacturing the skateboard bearing. The higher the ABEC rating, the more precise the bearing will be. This rating system includes grades 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. The closer you get to an ABEC 9 rating, the more speed and less friction your skateboard will have. Here are some general guidelines for ABEC ratings.
ABEC 1 skateboard bearings tend to be the least expensive, the most crude, and the least accurate. The quality of the steel is not very high.
ABEC 3 skateboard bearings are generally inexpensive and do not roll smoothly or quickly.
ABEC 5 skateboard bearings are standard for most types of skateboarding. This rating gets you a fast speed at an affordable cost.
ABEC 7 skateboard bearings are very fast, smooth, and cost slightly more.
ABEC 9+ skateboard bearings are extremely fast! They are great for downhill skating and skaters that want to move insanely fast.
There are a handful of companies that do not use the ABEC rating scale, such as Bones Bearings. Bones Bearings uses their own rating system known as Skate Rated. Their bearings do not follow the ABEC ratings because they are superior in performance and the ABEC rating ignores many quality factors on which Bones Bearings prides itself.
Skateboard bearings may be small, but they are incredibly complex. When you first order skateboard bearings, you will probably think of them as one part of your skateboard. It isn't until you need to do maintenance on your bearings that you will have to split them open and learn about what's inside.
Skateboard bearings are comprised of seven smaller parts:
Skateboard bearings perform best when each different part is functioning properly. You will definitely need to clean your bearings on a regular basis, as dirt buildup can eventually stop your bearing, and thus the wheel won't be able to turn. If you skate street, you'll need to clean your bearings twice as often. Check out Cleaning and Lubricating Your Bearings for the 101 on bearing maintenance.
Most skateboard bearings are made of steel. With steel bearings, the overall quality of the steel, the sealing, and the interior ball bearings varies from brand to brand. The rule of thumb tends to be that the more expensive the skateboard bearings, the higher the quality. Inexpensive bearings tend to be made of cheaper materials; more expensive skateboard bearings contain better sealing, more inner ball bearings, and higher-quality metals. You can really feel the difference when you come to a sudden stop on your board; your skateboard wheels may screech or stiffen up as a result of cheap bearings that are more susceptible to rust and dirt. Paying a few bucks more for some higher quality steel bearings is definitely a good investment.
Some companies now offer ceramic skateboard bearings, which are extremely smooth, produce very little friction, and won't expand in the heat. They are slightly more costly than standard metal bearings, but are considered very high quality and don't require as much maintenance.
Since ceramic bearings hit the market, there has been a lot of debate in the skateboarding world about whether or not they are actually superior. They are definitely more expensive, usually ranging $70-$100 (regular bearings start around $15). While it's generally true that you definitely get what you pay for when it comes to skateboards, does the more expensive ceramic material actually make for a better performing skateboard bearing?
The short answer is, maybe. Ceramic bearings have ceramic balls, and more of them, but all of the other parts are still made of steel. However, the steel and sealing tends to also be of much higher quality in ceramic bearings. Essentially, the decreased friction and smooth ride you get with ceramic bearings is due partially to the ceramic balls inside, but also the higher quality steel outside. This combination of materials is why ceramic bearings tend to be pricier. In other words, ceramic bearings perform better partially because of the ceramic and partially because of the higher quality steel.
The balls in ceramic bearings have a super hard exterior, but the interior is ceramic powder. The advantage is that they are lightweight, but if the exterior of the ball is damaged, it pretty much falls apart (though this is extremely rare). Ceramic bearings also contain more balls, which further enhances their ability to perform.
Skaters loyal to ceramic bearings not only love the precision performance they get, but also that they require so much less maintenance. Ceramics don't rust, and thus don't need replaced nearly as often as steel bearings.
Bearing spacers are small metal cylinders that fit into a skateboard wheel between the bearings. Their purpose is to reduce the weight distributed to each bearing, which can make your turns smoother and more stable and also extend the life of your bearings. Skateboard bearings are totally optional; longboarders and casual skaters likely won't put enough pressure on their boards to ever need them, though they are definitely a good investment if you want to slide, do a lot of tricks, and generally skate hard. Bearing spacers are typically inexpensive, and can be made from steel, aluminum, or other types of metal.
Unlike bearings, bearing spacers are not one-size-fits-all. Bearing spacer size is measured by two things: axle diameter (not to be confused with axle width!) and overall spacer width. For example, 8mm x 10mm is a very common bearing spacer size. The first number (8mm) refers to the diameter of the axle, and the second number (10mm) refers to the overall width of the bearing. Most truck axles are 8mm in diameter, so determining axle size is pretty straightforward--you may even see the first number dropped from some bearing spacer measurements. Determining the overall spacer width you need is not an exact science, but generally large longboard wheels will take 10mm, and skateboard wheels will take 8mm. When you purchase new bearings, the set may come standard with bearing spacers, but they can also be purchased separately.
To install bearing spacers, begin by sliding in your first bearing. Then flip the wheel over and press the bearing spacer in. It should be held firmly in the wheel core; if the bearing spacer moves or rattles around at all, that's a sure sign that your spacers are too small. Once the spacer has been pressed into place in the center of the wheel, slide the other skateboard bearing into place.
Speed washers are thin, metal washers that are slipped over the axle between the nut and the bearing, and the hanger and the bearing. Though they go by many different names (speed washers, speed rings, bearing washers), all speed washers have the same purpose: to reduce friction in order to help the wheel turn faster. They serve as a buffer between the nut and the bearing, which allows your wheels to rotate quickly while also protecting the bearing face from damage.
Speed washers are an optional addition, though any rider planning to skateboard at high speeds will definitely want to invest in them. You can replace them as often as you see fit--it really depends on how much and how hard you skate. When they start to appear worn down, or if you see any rust or corrosion, simply remove your nut and slide on new speed washers. Speed washer size is based on axle diameter, and since the vast majority of truck axles are 8mm in diameter, that is most likely the size you will need. If you purchase complete trucks, many sets include a speed washer for each wheel, though you can also buy them separately. Warehouse Skateboards sells speed washers in packs of 100, which should last you for quite a while!
Check out the wide variety of skateboard bearings in stock.
For more information on skateboard bearings and other components, check out How To Build A Skateboard.
For the 101 on cleaning and maintaining your bearings, check out our Skateboard Bearing Maintenance Guide.
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