The more you skate, the more dust and dirt gets into your bearings. To maximise their lifespan and keep ‘em spinning fast ‘n’ free, it’s important to properly clean and maintain your skateboard’s bearings.
While a regular few drops of lubricant can help, it’s not ideal to oil dirty bearings and you really can’t go past a full clean to eliminate all the gunk that can cause them to break or degrade with general use.
Here we’ll run through what you’ll need to clean your skate bearings and how to go about it.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
While there are a lot of skate-specific tools and fluids, you can get by with regular (generally) household items. Here’s what you’ll need;
- Skate tool (wrench/spanner and allen key/phillips head will work if you don’t have a T-Tool, or you can just grab one HERE)
- A tray or somewhere safe to store the hardware you remove.
- Container or bowl for cleaning, ideally something closed and watertight (make sure it’s suitable for the solvent chosen, some materials will react to the solvent and melt or create noxious gasses, potentially damaging your health and physical surroundings)
- Bearing puller/screwdriver (Alternatively you can use your truck axle)
- Fine blade/pushpin/drawing pin/thumbtack/boxcutter for rubber shield removal (If you have metal shields with C-clips, you can remove rhythm with this, just be sure not to warp them and clean them with the metal shields alongside your bearings, preferably in a separate container.)
- Cloth/rag and/or toothbrush/small brush
- Compressor/canned air/paper towel/heat gun/hair dryer
- PPE - nitrile gloves, safety goggles & mask ideal
- Bearing press (optional)
Step 2: Remove Wheels, Bearings & Shields.
Remove the wheels from the trucks with a skate tool or wrench/spanner, be careful not to strip the axle nut thread if your axle ends have worn down, place hardware in the tray/safe spot so they don’t get lost before reinstallation.
Now remove the bearings from the wheels with a bearing removal tool per it’s instructions. If using a thick flathead screwdriver or the truck axle you removed it from, put through the inner race and apply pressure diagonally (as little as possible), moving in a circular motion around the circumference of the bearing to avoid straining 1 area of the bearing. After a rotation or two (or maybe you’ll need to ramp up the force just a little bit) the bearing should pop free from the wheel. You can repeat this process for the other side or use the axle to pop it out from the rear - make sure that if you’re doing it this way, you don’t damage the bearing shield/cage/balls in the process.
Now that the bearings are out of the wheels, use your blade/pin to very carefully, trying not to damage the rubber or warp it’s shape, remove the bearing shield/s (and if you opt to, the cage or crown holding the bearing balls in place)
Step 3: Clean
Now that your bearings are removed and partially disassembled, it’s time to clean all the parts. Now is a good time to put on your PPE.
Using mineral spirits, paint thinner, isopropyl alcohol or acetone (water-based cleaners CAN work, but must be dried and lubricated immediately to avoid rust) on your cloth or brush, goo over the outer of the bearings to get any obvious bits of dirt or grime build up, then place into the chosen container and agitate the bearings in your chosen cleaning solution.
Safely remove and replace the cleaning solution as it gets dirty until there’s no more dirt to remove from the bearings.
Step 4: Dry
With the bearings degreased and clean, we need to dry them to remove any remaining cleaning solution
Using an air compressor or canned air is a super simple way to do it, just make sure your eyes and surroundings are protected from the cleaning agent flying out as the bearing spins up.
If you don’t have these tools but have access to a heat gun or even a hair dryer, using these on the cold setting can get your bearings properly dry in a few minutes, make sure you’re not using hot air and if the air pressure isn’t high enough from the appliance you might need to manually spin them whilst drying to get it ready for lubrication.
If you don’t have access to any of these don’t fret, a dry rag or paper towel along with spinning them up with your hands will eventually get them dry, it’ll just take a while longer than the previous methods.
Step 5: Lubricate
Now your clean bearings are dry, they need to be lubricated with a couple of drops of your oil of choice to reduce friction and keep the metal part finish smooth and intact - There are some skate-specific brands making bearing lubricant (such as Bones Speed Cream or Bronson Speed Oil), and while these are a good choice as they’re developed for the exact application, you can use other lubricants such as singer oil, white lithium grease, etc. (don’t go overboard with any of ‘em and if using an alternative lubricant, make sure it’s safe to use with the bearings materials and check them regularly to see how much dirt is building up in the grease).
Once applied, spin the bearings around until it feels like the insides are evenly coated in the oil.
Step 5: Reinstall Bearings
Once adequately oiled, it’s time to reinstall your bearings into the wheels - There are some bearing presses on the market that make this process smooth and safe by having specifically sized dies to hold the wheel and push the bearing in with the right amount of dispersed pressure.
Without using a bearing press, your trucks will work fairly well, just pop the bearing into the wheel loosely, place the axle through the bearing and press it in against the side of the hanger that the axles comes out of - with even force this should work pretty good.
If using bearing spacers remember to place them in the wheel core before reinstalling the wheel’s second bearing.
Step 6: Reinstall Wheels
Time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and go shred, throw your wheels back onto the trucks and tighten ‘em up (But not completely! You’ll want to leave a little bit of space to the inner race isn’t being sandwiched and potentially damaged).
Step 7: Break ‘Em In!
Time to skate! After about an hour of rolling, your cleaned bearings will be properly broken in and are good to go until their next clean.
- DO NOT use standard WD-40, it may be tempting and could ‘work’ for a bit, but ultimately it will eat away at and destroy your bearings with use. Degrease and grease. Always.
- Our Cruisers / Longboards use the same bearings as street and park skateboards, so follow this same process to clean your cruiser or longboard bearings when required.
- Generally bearings with metal shields are fixed to the inner & outer race, this will limit the effectiveness of cleaning the bearings as it’s harder for dirt and gunk to get out of the bearing. Some have C-clips you can remove, just be sure not sure distort or lose any of the parts.
Did something go wrong while cleaning your bearings? Sometimes they’re a bit far gone by the time we get to ‘em, have a look at our range of Killer Speed Co. Bearings and find your replacement set today!