Just like all devices with wheels, skateboard and longboard decks also have bearings that help optimize their movement and maneuverability.
You need to keep them well-cleaned and-lubricated so your performance is never compromised.
Here’s a starter guide on how to lubricate skateboard bearings.
When to Lubricate Skateboard Bearings?
It becomes difficult to know when to clean bearings when they are out of sight.
A rule of thumb is to spin the wheels for a close inspection. They will stop rather quickly and make more noise if they’ve dried out.
They will sound like high-pitched squeaking mice when you skate.
You want to lubricate your bearings when you address these issues to limit any damage and extend their lifespan.
Keeping them clean allows for a faster, smoother ride and saves on money.
How to Lubricate Skateboard Bearings
Tools to lubricate skateboard bearings
- Skate tool
- Hardware tray
- Razor blade/safety pin
- Water-free solvent
- Dish/wide-mouthed bottle
- Hand gloves
- Bearing cleaning kit
- Skateboard-specific lubricant
Step 1: Remove the wheels
Remove the axle nuts with the skate tool or a wrench and slide out the wheels from truck axles.
Keep track of washers that fit inside axles and bearings and between the axle nuts.
The best solution is to organize the nuts and speed washers and store them in a small tray so you don’t lose such small hardware pieces.
Step 2: Remove the bearings and their shields
The next step is to separate your bearings from the wheels using the truck axles.
Slide the wheel half-way to the axle-end so only one bearing stays on the axle.
Twist the wheel toward the outside while the axle is catching the inside of the bearing. Flip the wheel over to repeat the process.
Pull out the bearing shields with a thumbtack, razor blade, or safety pin once they are separated from the wheels.
Make sure the shields aren’t bent and misshaped or they might rub against the ball bearings when you put them on. Keep track of them when kept on the hardware tray.
Pro tip: Some setups have bearing spacers placed between the two bearings inside the wheel while others use built-in spacers.
Bearing spacers are mostly seen in longboard bearings and wheels. Keep track of the spacers on the hardware tray if your board have them.
Step 3: Submerge bearings in a cleaner
Use a non-water based solvent or cleaner like isopropyl alcohol, acetone, or mineral spirits to soak your bearings.
Wear gloves and avoid any contact with the skin when you use solvents.
Pour the solvent in a wide-mouthed bottle or a dish to soak the bearings and periodically swirl them around. Scrub them a little with a rag or old toothbrush if necessary.
Try a bearing cleaning kit that vigorously shakes them in the cleaner for a mess-free, quick result with no damage.
Step 4: Save the acetone for re-use (Optional)
A good chunk of the acetone can be filtered out for use in the future.
A coffee filter isn’t the perfect solution but you may experiment with several filters to find out the best result.
Acetone is a deadly chemical. Keep the used pieces in an airtight jar with a skull or crossbone mark on it.
Step 5: Dry and re-lubricate
Take the bearings out and dry them fast after the gunk is removed.
Tap them face down on a paper towel or a dry rag. Blow with compressed air or hair dryer if you have one nearby.
Skating dry bearings generate damaging friction so re-lubricate them with 1-2 drops of skate-specific lubricants. Spin them so the oil distributes evenly inside them.
Pro tip: Don’t use WD-40 for lubrication. The effects wear off quickly, which leaves the bearings dry and vulnerable to rust.
Step 6: Replace mount bearings and shields
Bearing shield installation is much easier than pulling them off.
You only need to set them in place and press them gently from the center so that they snap back on.
Press the bearings back into the wheels to roll along.
Pro tip: Replace the bearing spacers between bearings before you place them back into the wheels. Tighten the axle nuts after you put speed washers back onto the truck axles.
Grease vs Oil Lubricants for Skateboard Bearings
Many skaters find their skateboard wheels running faster when lubricated. Oil is less viscous and creates lower resistance when bearings rotate.
The only problem with oil-lubricated bearings is that they require frequent cleaning and relubrication.
Grease is better if you don’t want less hassle with bearings and wheel cleaning.
Marine, bike, lithium, and silicone greases are great for skateboard and longboard bearings. Molybdenum grease also does the job well but its a little overkill.
Spread the grease throughout the bearings with a rag or q-tip. Roll your bearings back and forth until they are sufficiently covered.
Reinstall the seal and make sure it snaps into the right place.
Grease the plastic seal and the metal parts on the outer side of bearings with some q-tips. Apply just enough to protect from rust and keep it moistened.
Why Over-greasing Skateboard Bearings Is a Bad Idea
A grease gun generates too much pressure due to overgreasing while hard grease forms from the high operating temperature.
The high pressure causes the crusty grease to break apart and propel into the bearing track.
Too much grease in bearing cavities causes the rotating bearing elements to start churning the grease and push it away so the temperature rises.
Tips To Clean and Lubricate Skateboard Bearings
- Don’t mix up the concept of cleaning your skateboard wheels and bearings. Learn when you only need to clean the bearings and not the wheels
- Cleaning inside the bearings is limited but beneficial when they have metal shields
- Longboards and skateboards have the exact same bearings; so, the cleaning rules are same for both
1. Can I use WD40 on skateboard bearings?
Ans. WD-40 drys out your bearings and draws in the dirt. A little is enough to cause the problem and the excess spins out when you replace shields or pop the bearings back in the wheels to start shredding. Take other options to avoid the hassle.
2. Can I use olive oil on skateboard bearings?
Ans. Stay away from lubricants like olive oil, vegetable oil, or car oil. Too much thick greasing may seize up the bearing rather than influencing a smooth move. Use minimum amount of grease if you have no other options.