Skateboards can eat up dirt, grease, and mud as you use them. Most of the time, it gets very hard to remove stubborn dirt especially when these are caked along with the wheel assembly and the wheel bearings. As a skateboarder, you need to learn how to clean skateboard bearings and how to properly maintain your board overall.
What happens if you don’t clean your skateboard bearings?
Sure, you can just forego cleaning your bearings altogether and just hose it down for the time being. You might think that it’s just too much work to disassemble the wheels and then the bearings to clean them. But soon enough, you’ll find out that you are making a huge mistake.
If you don’t properly clean your bearings, dirt, mud, and grime can accumulate and cake around the wheel assembly. This caked dirt can stop the wheel from spinning at any time and this is dangerous for any skater. You can lose control of your board and get hurt.
Even one wheel or two with caked mud can become a hazard. And even if you can’t see visible mud on the wheels, eventually, fine dirt and dust can become mud if you don’t maintain your skateboard wheels. So, how do you do it?
How to clean bearings on your skateboard?
Cleaning your bearings start with removing them from the wheel assembly. This is tough because mostly bearings that are very dirty tend to become stuck. It’s usually hard to remove just by using regular tools. Sometimes, you need to pry the bearings out from the wheel to clean it.
You will need the following:
- A flat tool like a flat screwdriver
- A hammer
- A socket wrench
- A small sharp tool like a pin
- A solvent such as acetone or paint thinner
- Grease, bearing lubricant or oil
- Small containers to hold the solvent
- A small soft toothbrush
- Several pieces of paper towels
- Remove wheels from the skateboard. Use a socket wrench to remove the nuts one by one, one wheel at a time. Take the nuts and keep them in a small container. Be careful not to lose these!
If the nuts are stuck, use a small amount of lubricant or grease. The nuts will surely pop out in no time.
- Try to remove the bearings with your hand. If these won’t budge, use a flat tool like a flat screwdriver or a hammer and gently tap the bearing from the wheel. Once the bearing has snapped out from the wheel, examine it.
- Skateboard bearings are housed in a special assembly known as an outer race. The ball bearings are inside a circular retainer while the retainer is inside a raceway. The middle of the raceway is an inner race which holds the retainer carefully. And finally, the shield covers everything.
Remove the shield by using a small tool like a pin. Simply slide the pin under the shield to pop it out. Be very careful if your bearing shields are made of plastic since a sharp tool like a pin can pierce the shield and damage it.
If your shields are made of a think piece of metal, it would have a C-shaped spring on top and this may also be removed by your sharp tool.
- Soak your bearing shield in the solvent. Pour a small amount of solvent in a container and soak the bearing shield in. Let the solvent naturally remove grime, oils, and dirt. You may also use a soft brush to help remove stubborn dirt. Let the shield soak for about five minutes and then let this dry on a piece of paper towel.
- Now, gently remove the bearing retainer where the ball bearings are. Before you scrub or remove dirt, inspect the ball bearings and for any damage on the retainer.
- Use a dry soft brush like an old toothbrush to remove surface dirt on the retainer body. Be careful not to scrub too hard because you might end up pushing the ball bearings off the retainer.
- When you are done removing surface dirt, place the bearing retainer in a container with solvent. Make sure that the solvent is enough to cover all the bearing retainers of your board. This will remove all the dirt and grime in and around the bearing retainer assembly. Let the retainers soak for about 15 minutes.
If after the allotted time, the retainers are still dirty, brush it with the solvent and let it remain in the solution for a few minutes more. When you are satisfied with the results, remove the retainers from the solvent dip and place it on layers of paper towels. Let these dry completely before replacing it inside the raceway.
- Clean the raceway as well as the inner race. This is usually made of metal so you may use any remaining solvent to clean this. Use the same soft toothbrush you used to clean the bearing retainers. Dry these using paper towels.
- After all, the components of the bearing are dry, place these back together. But before covering the bearings with the shield, apply a small amount of bearing lubricant or grease. Afterward, replace the shield over the raceway.
- Place the bearing back in the middle of the wheel and replace the wheel on your skateboard truck. Use a socket wrench to tighten the nuts.
- Before riding your skateboard, make sure that the wheels are moving ok. Push the skateboard to and fro to determine if there is something wrong with the wheels. Take time perfecting the setup before you use your board.
How to clean very stubborn skateboard bearings?
Sometimes, soaking and brushing with a solvent just won’t cut it. You still need a bit of elbow grease to clean very stubborn dirt off skateboard bearings. One way is to scrub the retainers in warm, soapy water. This will instantly dislodge caked dirt and stubborn grime.
Use a small pin to pick dirt off the retainers. Gently flush this with water and rinse. You must completely dry the retainers and all the other components of the bearing before reassembling these.
When do you need to replace your skateboard bearings?
Cleaning your skateboard bearings is not just about maintaining your skateboard but it is also about checking on the quality of your components. Take this time to check the bearing assembly as well as the wheels to make sure that these can still function well enough for your next performance.
Ideally, active skateboarders replace their components every week or once every two weeks depending on how often they use their boards. The more you use your boards in outrageous stunts you are likely wearing your bearings out.
Also, moving uphill or a heavy load can wear your bearings out and thus these may need to be replaced at least once every two weeks.
Also, if you find cracks on your bearing assembly like the raceway, retainers, and shield, you may need to replace the bearings right away. Missing ball bearings are also a reason to use a new one. Although some skateboard owners say that bearing retainers with missing ball bearings may still be repaired (by replacing missing ball bearings) the retainer clips may not be as durable anymore and thus this should be replaced as well.
If you don’t use your skateboard that much, you must replace your bearings at least once a month. If your board has been kept in storage for many months and years, replace the bearings before you take it out for a spin.
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Hard to remove wheels and skateboard bearings
Whether you want to maintain or you want to replace your skateboard bearing, a stuck bearing and wheel assembly is no fun to work with. To take these two apart, you need the right tool and a lot of patience.
Some skateboarders use a flat screwdriver to gently remove the wheels and the skateboard bearings. Prying this with full force can separate the two but may damage the bearings! So don’t apply too much force. But unless you want to replace your bearings, you may pry with all your might!
There are special tools provided by manufacturers of skateboard trucks. One unique tool is the Grid King truck maintenance tool which comes with a bearing nub. This will remove bearings fast without damaging any part of its assembly.
Another thing to consider is applying some kind of oil or lubricant in the middle of the bearing and wheel. This can help the bearing slide out with a dull tap. This way, the bearing will remain intact, you can reuse it, and the wheel will also remain scratch-free.
If you just can’t remove skateboard bearings and you desperately need to replace these, take your skateboard to a skate shop. Most of the time, people who replace bearings and make repairs at skate shops have some kind of special tool or may have techniques to remove stuck bearings.
Skateboard wheels maintenance
As you clean your bearings, you also need to give your skateboard wheels some TLC. If your bearings are very dirty, chances are your wheels are also caked with mud. Here are ways to clean these quickly:
Things you need
- Dishwashing soap
- Small dish
- Soft brush
- A flat tool like a screwdriver
- After removing the wheels from the truck, set the bolts aside.
- Use a soft brush to remove surface dirt. After you are done, use water and dish soap to scrub the dirty wheel. Rinse the wheel in running water.
- Place the wheels in a warm soapy water soak which can also help reduce dirt and grime. Allow the wheels to soak in the solution for about 15 to 30 minutes.
- After soaking, use a tool to remove any stuck dirt. Pick the dirt and grime out with the tool. After this, soak the wheels some more or for about 10 minutes to give the dirt time to dislodge from the wheel.
- Remove the wheels from the soapy solution and rinse completely.
- Pat these dry with paper towels or use a soft, dry cloth.
- Reconnect the wheels to the skateboard truck and you are done.
Other important maintenance tips
Skateboards these days are designed to receive very little maintenance. The decks are now resistant to wear and tear, the trucks are sturdier while the wheels are stronger. But if you regularly use your board, you still need to keep it well-maintained. The following tips can help:
Truck adjustment tips
The trucks have a level of tightness. Tighter trucks are ideal for novice skaters because this reduces the factors that first-time skaters have to deal with as they learn how to use their boards. But as you develop better balance and skateboarding skills, loosening this can make it easier to move the board.
To adjust the trucks, use a wrench to adjust the nut found on each truck. Just a small turn will give you very noticeable changes. Be sure not to loosen the nut too much that it could fall off as you skate.
Grip tape troubleshooting
If after applying a new grip tape, you spot bubbles on the tape surface, you don’t need to remove the entire tape and reapply. Use a small tool like a pin or a razor blade to open the bubble and squeeze the air out. This usually happens when the grip tape was not evenly applied.
Adjusting the axle nuts
You will find one ½ -inch nut on every wheel. To make sure that your wheels are attached properly, tighten the nut as far as you can move it without affecting the movement of the wheel. Move the wheel from one side to another. You must only have a very tiny amount of wiggle.
Never expose your board to extreme temperatures and avoid getting it wet. This can damage or warp the deck. Decks that are warped or cracked should be immediately disposed and replaced.