Tutorial: How to Clean Your Longboard Bearings

For our second tutorial I decided to stick to our theme of maintenance, although this time the focus isn’t on carnage from a fall, but rather your longboard bearings. After riding hard through dirt, dust, sand, and water your bearings will eventually show signs that some maintenance is needed.

When you notice your wheels no longer freespinning for as long or as fast as they used to, it’s probably time to give them a good cleaning. If you’ve recently skated in the rain, you’ll also want to give your bearings a once over, especially if you didn’t skate the board for a day or two after. Once water gets inside the bearing it can oxidize the metal and form a thin layer of rust, creating lockups. If this happens mid-run your wheel (or wheels, depending) will lock up and could throw you off balance and toss you off your board. So, to keep your bearings in tip-top working order follow our instructions on how to clean and lubricate your bearings and you’ll be skating hard all season long. The video is below, followed by text instructions.

Step 1: Remove wheels and bearings from the board.

Using a skate tool or socket wrench remove your wheels from the skateboard. Be careful to hold onto any spacers or washers that are between the nut and the wheel, if there are any there put them aside as you’ll want them when you reassemble the board. Once the wheels are off the board, use one of the bare axles to pry each bearing out of the wheel. Be gentle, applying only as much force as needed to get the bearing out of the wheel. Many wheels have a spacer between the two bearings that sits on the axle, if this is present take it out and place it aside with the other hardware from earlier. Repeat this step for each wheel, you should end up with 8 bearings total.

Step 2: Remove Bearing Shields

For this step you’ll need a razor blade or other sharp object. Remove the colored rubber/metal shield on the side of the bearing that exposes the actual ball bearings themselves. An example of what it should look like can be seen in the video above. Once all the bearing shields are removed set them aside and give each bearing a good rub down with a paper towel.

Step 3: Put bearings in rubbing alcohol

In an empty Gatorade or Vitamin Water bottle (the wide mouth makes this much easier) pour enough rubbing alcohol to submerge all 8 bearings in. Next, put the bearings in the bottle and shake for a few minutes, check to make sure the bearings no longer appear dirty. If they do, continue shaking the bottle until they appear clean. Once they do, remove them from the rubbing alcohol and use a paper towel to dry them off. Let the bearings sit and air dry completely before moving onto Step 4.

Step 4: Lubricating the bearings

Once the bearings have completely and thoroughly dried it’s time to lubricate the bearings. Using any skateboard bearing lube, such as Bones Speed Creme or Rockin’ Ron’s Rocket Propellant, apply two to three drops to each bearing. I cannot stress enough that you don’t need much of this stuff. Two or three drops and you’re good to go. Spin each bearing around a little with your fingers to get the lubricant onto each of the balls. Once you’ve done this, it’s time to start reassembling everything.

Step 5: Reassembly

Once you’ve applied lube to each bearing you’re reading to reverse the process we took to get here and reassemble your wheels and trucks. The first thing you’ll want to do is replace each one of the bearing shields. Before putting them on those nice clean bearings, however, you’ll want to give them a good cleaning using a paper towel and then simply put them back onto the bearing and press down. Make sure to just press hard enough to get them to stay, if you push them down too far there’s a risk of them rubbing against the individual ball bearings and creating friction that will end up slowing you down.

Once the bearings are reassembled you’ll need to put them back in the wheels. I’ve heard people complain about hurting their thumbs or being insanely frustrated by this step, don’t worry though, I’ve got a tip that will save you a lot of headache and thumbache. To push the bearing back into the wheel, first put the bearing onto the axle, then place the wheel on and push down, seating the bearing into place. Next, take the wheel off and place the other bearing followed by the spacer onto the axle. Put the wheel on and push down again, seating the bearing once again. Be careful the second time, as pushing down too hard could push the bearing on the other side back out. Make sure the wheel is facing the right way and screw the nut back on. Make sure the wheel lug is as tight as it can be without restricting the movement of the wheel or else you’ll have chattery slides and lose some valuable momentum while pumping and pushing.

That’s it! You now have clean, good as new (or better depending on the lubricant) bearings. Feels nice, right? Some bearing lubricants require a brief break-in time before you notice a vast improvement in performance, don’t panic, just skate it for a little bit. If it still doesn’t feel right repeat the process as you might not have used enough bearing lubricant.

If you have questions leave them in the comments or on our Facebook Page.

Bearings Debunked

We’ve all had questions about bearings and debated the pros and cons on different brands and ABEC ratings but few of us have gotten solid answers about the myths that surround bearings. Ask no more, as we’ve found answers.

Sk8.co.nz published a great FAQ regarding skate bearings way back in 2006 which I stumbled upon while reading Reddit. It sheds light on a lot of the common questions skaters have regarding bearings and offers some awesome advice. Like what? For starters, according to Sk8.co.nz for most skating applications you really don’t need anything higher than an ABEC1 or ABEC3 bearing. You’re probably saying, “WHAT?! You’re kidding me!” but check it out:

The fact is that no matter which of these bearings you use in skates or skate boards, after 5 – 10 minutes of use the tracks won’t just be eccentric, they will become irregular (albeit minutely) enough to be practically indistinguishable from one another. Your high priced ABEC 9 bearing might as well be a 50 cent ABEC 1 cheapie.

They also give some advice as to how you can get more speed out of your bearings. No, WD-40 won’t cut it (in fact it’ll slow you down as WD-40 attracts dirt, dust, and grime) instead you should invest in a high-quality oil-based bearing lube and make sure your bearing seals are nice and tight. These combined will have you going faster than before and make sure you have a consistent ride.

So what does it all come down to? Most of the bearing hype is just that — hype. Instead of investing all your money in an ABEC9 bearing go for a lower grade and put the savings into that new set of wheels you need so bad. As far as skating goes, you’re not gonna miss the precision you get from the higher grades, you’ll probably miss the dough you’d spend, though.

Check out the full FAQ here.