How To Clean Skateboard Bearings
Cleaning skateboard bearings is an important part of skateboard maintenance. Clean bearings roll faster, saving you energy and allowing you to focus on what’s in front of you. You’ll need the following tools to keep your bearings clean:
- Skate tool
- Razor blade or a thumb tack to pop the shields
- Bearing cleaning kit
- Cleaning solution
- Rubber gloves and eye protection
When To Clean Bearings
If you’re asking yourself, “Why is my skateboard so loud?” or “Why is my skateboard so slow?”, chances are the answer is that your bearings aren’t spinning as well as they used to and are in need of a deep clean. First check to make sure that the axle nut is not too tight, this can prevent the wheel and bearings from spinning properly.
Other signs your bearings need cleaning are a hissing sound when spinning or, with the board upside down, your wheels stop spinning shortly after being rolled with your foot.
Cleaning your bearings involves the following steps:
- Taking your wheels off and prying the bearings out of your wheels.
- Removing the dust shields on the outer rings of the bearings.
- Placing your bearings in the cleaning kit and cleaning them.
- Lubricating your bearings.
- Reassembling your bearings and wheels.
The following sections explore each of these steps in depth.
How To Remove Skateboard Wheels and Bearings
The first step in cleaning bearings is to remove the wheels from your skateboard and the bearings from your wheels. To do this:
- Use a skate tool to remove the nut holding your wheel to the axle (be careful not to press down too hard with the skate tool as this risks damaging your bearings).
- Pry the bearings out of the wheels using the axle of your skateboard truck.
How To Remove the Dust Shields from your Bearings
The next step is to carefully remove the dust shields from each of the bearings. We remove the dust shields because cleaning solutions can damage the rubber shield. Removing the shields also allows the cleaner to penetrate more of the bearing, resulting in a deeper clean.
To remove the dust shields:
- Insert the tip of your razor blade or thumb tack under the inside edge of the dust shield.
- Carefully pry upwards until the shield pops off.
How To Use a Bearing Cleaning Kit
Cleaning kits are generally made up of a plastic container with a screw-on lid that has an axle attached to it. The axle includes bearing spacers and a wing-nut to secure the open end.
To use the cleaning kit, follow these steps:
- Place the first bearing on the axle with the exposed side facing the lid. This will allow the cleaner to flow through the bearing when shaken and remove all the dust.
- Next, place a bearing spacer on the axle.
- Follow the spacer with the next bearing in the same orientation as the first.
- Repeat this until all eight bearings are lined up on the axle, each separated by a spacer.
- Secure the end of the axle with the wing nut.
- Fill the plastic bottle about one third full of cleaner and secure the lid so that the bearings are inside the bottle.
- Give the bottle a good shake for 10 to 20 seconds and then let the liquid settle.
- Remove the lid and lay the bearings out on a cloth or paper towel to dry.
- To remove excess dirt, tap the bearings on the paper towel with the open side down. Do this rather than spinning the bearings as that can spray cleaner in your eyes and clothes. You can even use an old toothbrush for hard-to-remove dirt.
- Allow the bearings to dry fully before lubricating.
Some skaters like to repeat the above process three to four times to ensure the deepest clean. The goal is to repeat the process until the cleaning liquid is clear and not clouded with dirt.
How To Lubricate Skateboard Bearings
Lubing bearings will help prevent them from breaking or rusting. Use a dedicated skateboard bearing lubricant to ensure the best performance. Do not use WD-40 as this is designed to dry moisture which is not what we want for skateboarding.
To lubricate your bearings follow these steps:
- Lay your bearings flat on a cloth.
- Apply one drop of lubricant to each ball bearing.
How To Reassemble your Skateboard Bearings and Wheels
Your skateboard bearings should now be cleaned and you should be ready to reassemble your skateboard.
Setting up your bearings will require configuring your dust shield and bearings on the axle of your trucks using washers. Then, you’ll have to attach your wheels to the bearings and secure them with a nut.
For a more detailed explanation on setting up bearings, check out our dedicated article “How to Set Up Bearings.”
Once assembly is complete, you are ready to roll. By following these steps and investing in a bearing cleaning kit, your overall skateboarding experience will improve without needing to purchase new bearings.
Can You Clean Bearings With Vinegar?
Technically yes, although it is recommended to use Acetone or some kind of rubbing alcohol as they leave no trace or film on the bearings. Vinegar or citrus-based cleaners can leave a thin trace on the bearings which can give dust a place to settle. If you do use vinegar, be sure to use clear white vinegar rather than balsamic or apple cider vinegar.
How To Clean Bearings on a Longboard
Longboard bearings are quite similar to street skateboarding bearings with the difference being that they tend to suffer less impacts and can therefore be made of different materials such as ceramic.
Ceramic bearings or hybrid bearings with ceramic components can be cleaned in the same way and with the same cleaning solutions as described in this article.
For a detailed explanation on the different types of bearings and their uses, check out our dedicated article on “How to Choose Skateboard Bearings”.
When To Replace Bearings Altogether
If any component of your bearing is broken or cracked, it is time to replace your bearings.
You will notice damaged components by their inefficient spinning, by them blowing out completely as you are rolling, or upon inspection when disassembling your bearings for cleaning. Keep a keen eye on the components as you don’t want your bearings blowing out at high speeds.
After following the steps in this care guide, you should now be able to identify when your bearings need cleaning and how to clean them. This will not only keep you safe as you cruise your preferred terrain, but will also keep your bearings lasting as long as possible.