A part of being a high-flying skateboard expert is gear maintenance. Pro is good because of his gear. You should care for your equipment most especially your skateboard wheels. This is a tutorial that will teach you how to clean skateboard wheels as well as your board’s bearings and grip tape. You can’t expect the wheels to work well when you have dirty bearings and tape.
Skateboard wheels DIY
Skateboard wheels are the dirtiest. These come in contact with dirt, dust, mud, and grime. Cleaning it by hosing down your board will not just cut it, this will only be a temporary fix. If you let dirt and mud remain in the inner workings of your wheel, this can affect the wheel movement, lock the wheel and may cause serious accidents.
The first step in cleaning a skateboard wheel is always to dismantle the wheels. Here is a step by step instruction on how to clean your wheels:
What you need:
- Socket wrench
- An old toothbrush or soft brush
- Dishwashing soap
- Small basin
- Paper towels
- Remove the wheels from the skateboard with a socket wrench. Unscrew the nuts from each side, remove washers and keep these together in a small container.
- Remove the wheels gently and use a small tool like a screwdriver to pry the bearings from the wheel. Place the bearings in another container. You will clean these separately.
- Take one wheel and clean it using soap and water. Use a soft toothbrush to gently remove dirt and stuck mud. Use a small tool or stick to get stubborn dirt off your wheels. Do this for all your skateboard wheels.
- Place hot water and dishwashing soap in a small basin. Soak the wheels for about 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, remove the wheels from the soapy water and give these one last scrub using the soft toothbrush.
- Rinse the wheels completely.
- Dry these with paper towels and set aside.
When to replace your skateboard wheels?
Cleaning your skateboard wheels is not just about removing dirt and grime but it is also the time you can inspect the condition of your gear. Inspect for wear and tear, moving parts chipped materials and lose nuts and bearings.
If you spot skateboard wheels with chipped surfaces or moving surface material or if the wheel body is moving. It is natural to feel some kind of wobble but too much means there is something wrong with the wheels and its assembly.
Sometimes, small, tiny cracks are not visible from the naked eye. You need to use your other senses like your hands to feel for these cracks and pits.
Use a flashlight to inspect the pits and cracks slowly. Once you spot these, discard your wheels. You will be better off with a new pair for safety. There are different sets of skateboard wheels, pick one that’s durable and will last you a long time.
Skateboard bearings DIY
New or old skateboards need to be cleaned down to the wheel bearings. This also gives you time to inspect the condition of your bearings. Remember, these should be in tip-top shape so you’ll be safe when riding your board.
A standard skateboard wheel has 16 ball bearings with 8 balls on each side. Here’s how to clean these tiny but vital part of your skateboard wheels:
Things you need:
- Oil or grease for wheel bearings
- Acetone or any solvent
- A thin tool like a pin
- Soft brush
- Small bowl
- Paper towels
- To remove the bearings from your skateboard wheel, you need a thin and sharp tool like a pin or needle. Before you see the bearings, you need to remove the bearing shields. These shields are usually made from plastic so you need to be careful not to puncture these with your sharp tool. Slide the pin along the side of the shield and pop it up.
Sometimes the bearing shields are made of thin metal with a C-shape clip holding the piece on the bearing holder. Remove the clip and the shield by sliding the pin in between. Doing so will easily remove the shield. Do this on all the wheel bearings of your skateboard.
- Place a small amount of solvent or acetone in a small container or bowl. The amount should be enough to cover the wheel bearings. This is the best time to check for the completeness of the wheel bearings. Any missing bearing or broken holder should be discarded. These should be replaced completely.
- Put the wheel bearings, bearing side down, in the solvent. Allow the bearings to soak for at least five to ten minutes. You may tap the wheel bearings once in a while to remove any trapped dirt inside the holder.
- After a few minutes, remove the wheel bearings from the solvent and place these on top a few sheets of paper towels. Let these dry.
- As you’re waiting for the bearings to dry, place the bearing shields in the solution to remove any dirt or mud on them. Use a brush if the dirt is stuck on the surface. When these are clean, dry them over paper towels as well.
- Place grease or bearing oil or lubricant on your bearings before placing the shields back. This will keep your bearings in good shape and your wheels in tip-top shape as well.
- Place the shields back on the bearings and press on it so these cover the bearings. You will hear a slight snap to indicate that these are ready to go.
- Reattach the bearing assembly to the wheels and your wheels to your skateboard. Tighten things up with the socket wrench.
- Check if your wheels are spinning well before riding your skateboard. Always remember to check and adjust your wheels and to see if these work well every time you maintain your wheels and bearings.
When to replace your bearings?
Once in a while, your skateboard bearings need to be replaced. The more you use your skateboard, the more likely you need to replace your bearings at least two or three times in a year. Any inappropriate movement of your wheels, rough spins or uncontrollable spins could mean that your bearings need replacement. But the best way to find out is still to clean your wheels and bearings to have a check.
When you see missing ball bearings, cracked or broken bearing holders, these are signs that it’s time for a replacement. To replace your bearings, take your old bearings to the shop so you can buy the right type and size.
There are expensive bearings and there are cheap bearings but you can’t tell the quality of a product from its price! The best way is to look for recommendations from your fellow skaters and from skateboard shops.
Grip tape DIY
If your wheels and bearings were dirty, just imagine how dirty your grip tape is! As one of your feet moves to propel you forward by moving on the ground, the other foot stays on the skateboard, over the grip tape. The grip tape becomes very dirty over time and needs extra TLC as well.
If you neglect cleaning and maintaining the grip tape, this will become very dirty and won’t be as efficient to hold you as you move. You might slip or slide from the board due to accumulated dirt over the tape as well.
Grip tapes are mostly made of sandpaper. As you may know, a sandpaper’s rough surface can easily accumulate dirt. Tiny pieces of dirt can turn into cakes of mud and grime if you don’t clean your grip tape.
What you need
- Pick up eraser or “grip gum” – this is rubber cement eraser sold in most skateboard shops and skating accessories.
- Soft wire brush
- Dishwashing soap
- Paper towels
- Clean Rag
- Place your skateboard on a level table with the grip tape up. Secure the wheels because you need your skateboard to stay put as you erase and scrub accumulated dirt and grime.
- Use the grip gum over surface dirt. Work your way all over the skateboard surface. You might need to work in sections to make sure that all the grip tape surface has been carefully treated.
Grip gum will remove dirt but only on the surface. You still need to scrub with soap and water to loosen deep down dirt which is usually stuck in between the grains of the sandpaper-like grip tape.
- Dip your soft brush in warm soapy water and brush the areas where you see deep-seated dirt. Use small circular motions when you brush. Brushing will loosen dirt and take it to the surface so the grip gum can remove them.
- Dry the grip tape under the sun. You will never be able to clean a grip tape completely when this is wet. If there’s no sun, use a blow dryer. The surface should be really, really dry before you can use the grip gum.
- Use the grip gum over the grip tape and once again, remove surface dirt. You can repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 as necessary. After these, your grip tape will look like new.
When to replace your grip tape
If your grip take can’t grip anymore then it’s time to replace it. You can see this when you look at the surface of the tape very closely. Highly-effective grip tapes have intact grains and are very rough (like sandpaper!) while grip plates that are able to give up have almost no grains on the surface.
There are replacement grip tapes available from local skateboard shops and supplies. Grip plates come in different textures, sizes, and designs. To make sure that the grip suits your skateboard, take your board with you when you shop.
Quick cleaning tips
Make it a habit to clean your gear after every use. This extends the life of your board and will reduce accidents as well because you will be using a clean and safe gear every time. It’s also practical to clean your board the minute you get home if it is caked with mud or oil. Forgoing this can result in dry, caked mud that can be harder to remove.
If you don’t have time to remove the wheels and inspect everything, use a hose to hose the dirt down. Invert the skateboard and aim the hose on the wheels. Aim the stream of water towards the area where the dirt is packed.
Use a brush to clean all the other parts including the underside and the grip tape surface. Use a soft, dry cloth to dry your board. Leave it to completely dry or use a blow dryer. After it is dry, use the grip gum for a quick fix.
If the board look essentially clean when you get home, just a quick brush would help. Use a soft brush to clean the grip tape and the wheels. Let the boardslide on the floor to check the wheels.
Where to take your skateboard for service
Sometimes your DIY skills just won’t cut it and no matter what you do, you just can maintain a broken board. Let’s face it, skateboards get the most pressure because these are often tossed over, thrown in the air and jumped on. It seems very likely that you will need a new board every once in a while!
If you can’t manage repairs or you don’t have the tools and the patience for it, let the professionals handle it. There are professional people who can help you with skateboard repairs and replacement parts. These people are mostly found in skateboard shops and accessories shops.
If you don’t know a mall with a skate shop or a store that sells skateboard accessories then it is very likely that these shops have repair personnel. These people can handle parts replacement and cleaning as well for a reasonable price.
With all these easy skateboard cleaning tips, you’ll have the cleanest and safest skateboard at the park.
- How to Clean Your Bearings the Easiest Way Tutorial – Braille Skateboarding
- How Its Made – 1405 Skateboard Wheels – How Its Made
- DIY Custom Skateboard GripTape! #4 – Dale Decker