Your prized skateboard or the longboard is robustly built and requires little attention. But you literally have to baby them to keep them in their peak condition. If you’re cruising in the rain or have had to negotiate many puddles, its a darn good idea to remove skate bearings and give them a cleaning lest rust takes hold. Bearings are invariable of steel but at least one manufacturer makes ceramic bearings. It’s not a bad idea to keep a second set, used, but in good condition and a changeover when the wet season sets in. Here we show you how to clean longboard bearings (and skateboard too), dismantle and service those bearings without causing any damage.
How to Clean Longboard Bearings?
- Degreaser or solvent
- A knife blade for rubber shields
- Circlip pliers
- A warm, well-lit place
- A tray with a lid to soak your bearings in
- Some light grease or speed paste
- Bearings, Arbor Rally being the subject here.
Taking The Bearings Out
A bearing has tiny steel balls running in a circular track integral to the bearing. The bearing is bolted to the truck. The side with the ball bearings is attached to the wheel. This allows the wheels to rotate and the truck remains motionless. With two bearings to a wheel, a full set is 8. Longboard bearings come in a standard size and are such as to be suitable for any wheel. With good bearings, you will hardly notice that they are there.
Remove the axle nut. Slide the wheel outwards till the inner wheel is located at the end of the axle. Jemmy the bearing out of the wheel with a motion like opening a bottle of beer. Flip the wheel over and repeat for the other wheel…
Pop The Bearing Shields
You can see how dirty the bearings are.
There are two kinds of seals – rubber (as shown here) and of metal held in place by circlips. These can be removed by circlip pliers. The rubber shields can be gently pried open using the tip of the knife blade.
There are some brands of bearings with non-removable shields. At least one company, SMB Bearings has developed a bespoke re-lubrication method for non-removable shields. The other option is you just chuck the bearing away and fit a new one.
Soak And Clean
Almost all the things you will require to clean and service the ball bearings, apart from the grease, are household items. Fill the bowl with ½” of acetone or Isopropyl alcohol, and place the bearings, balls down in the bowl. Allow to sit for half a minute.
Tap them on the bottom of the bowl and spin the ball bearings in your hand till you don’t feel any more grit coming out. Once you get a bearing clean, spin it dry and place on a clean paper towel, ball bearings down. You can place them in a jar with solvent or degreaser (even lemon juice will do), wait for a couple of minutes. Shake it thoroughly which will really blast all the gook out of the bearing assembly. Remove, soak in methylated spirit, hand clean each thoroughly and place it on a paper towel to dry. A handy option is using a hair drier.
Grease and Re-seal
Relube the bearings with a touch of grease or oil. No need to dunk it in. Too much of grease constricts wheel movement, just a film is enough. Though the chances of damage are greater if something was to get in. Though oil is a lube alternative, it has a tendency to spin out of the bearings due to centrifugal force leaving your bearings to run dry, get heated and ultimately damage the wheels by melting. You can use medium grease like white lithium in bike shops. This composition keeps your bearings clean for some time. More so if you ride in the rain quite a bit. The flip side is your wheels will spin slower. Bike grease is fine. Marine grease will work. Silicon or Lithium grease, sure. Molybdenum grease is probably overkilling. The best bet is skateboard specific lubes like Speed cream or similar light grease.
Gently place the seals back with a light press. They will snap into place. Lightly coat the metal with a film of grease to keep it dry.
Note: There are a few differences between steel and ceramic bearings, so the cleaning process will also be different. Don’t follow the same procedure for ceramic bearings.
Conclusion- All Done
Congratulations, you just finished cleaning and regreasing your skateboard bearings. You are probably sacrificing a little speed, but that will be made up by the lesser resistance of the bearings now that they are free. It is a good idea that you check the wheels before using them every time by twirling the wheels with your hand. Unfamiliar sound or the board veering to one side are signs of some deeper bearing trouble. If you use grease, clean at least every month if not earlier. For oil, half this interval is a must. Now get yourself that well-deserved coffee. Its time to cruise.