Small yet a vital part of every spinning wheel is the humble bearing. Ball bearings are small but provide the spin in anything that, well, spins. Skateboard wheels come with a set of wheel bearings with the steel ball bearings encased in a retainer and then sandwiched by an inner race and outer race. A wheel bearing shield covers the entire assembly. And since these are found in the wheel, you need to learn how to get bearings out of skateboard wheels so you can clean them.
Why clean your wheel bearings?
Wheel bearings are the inner portions of skateboard wheels. Because of their location, they are prone to dirt, dust, and mud which can accumulate and form encrusted piles of stubborn dirt. This can affect your performance as the bearings can stop and thus may affect the natural movement of the skateboard wheels.
Mud can jam into the shield while small sharp bits can tear the shield which is usually made of plastic. You can end up losing some ball bearings because of an open shield and this again can affect your performance as well as your overall safety.
If you want a skateboard which performs as expected and is safe to use, you must do wheel bearing care at least once a month or even more often if you use your skateboard on a regular basis.
How to remove the bearings from your skateboard wheel and clean these?
This is a step by step tutorial on how to get bearings from the wheel and to clean these as well. You may just be asking how to remove the bearings because you want to replace an old one or just check the status of your bearings after your performance but still the same thing applies with cleaning.
You will need the following:
- A small, sharp tool like a pin
- Socket wrench
- A solvent like acetone or paint thinner
- Grease, oil or bearing lubricant (don’t use WD40, this is too thick!)
- Small containers
- Paper towels
- Dishwashing soap and water (for cleaning the wheels)
- Soft brush like an old toothbrush
- Small basin
- Remove the nuts on your skateboard wheel assembly using the socket wrench. Carefully take the nuts and the washers out and place these in a small container.
- Place a small amount of acetone or solvent in a small container and let the nuts and washers soak for at least five minutes. Soaking will remove any stubborn oils and grease. After five minutes remove from the solvent and place these on paper towels and set aside.
- Pry the wheels out and then remove the bearing assembly from the inner part of the wheel. A sharp tap on the bearing case will remove this. If it won’t budge, you may need a tool like a flat screwdriver to get this out.
- Set aside your wheels for cleaning. Place a small amount of soap in a basin full of water. Soak the wheels in the soapy solution for 15 to 20 minutes and then use an old toothbrush to remove dirt. Rinse and then dry using paper towels.
- Take the wheel bearings and use your sharp tool like a pin to pop the shield out. Plastic shields are easier to remove because you simply slide the sharp tool in and pop it out. But be careful because a sharp pin or tool may puncture the shield and this may affect the stability of the cover.
If the bearing shield is made of thin metal, it will have a C-shaped clip to hold it in place. Remove the clip and the shield using the pin in between the two components. Place the shield in the small bowl of acetone or solvent for five minutes. Use a soft brush to remove any dirt found on the surface of the shield. Afterward, take the shield and place it on a piece of paper towel and allow to dry.
- Take the retainer out of the skateboard wheels and inspect it for missing ball bearings. Use a small soft brush to remove dirt from the bearings and soak these, ball bearing part down, in the solvent. Tap the retainers once in a while to remove any trapped dirt.
Take the retainers out of the solution after five minutes and place these on a piece of paper towel.
- Place the wheel bearing retainers back inside the outer race and then replace the inner race. Place a small amount of grease on the bearing assembly just before covering this with the shield. You are now done with bearing maintenance.
- Place the bearing assembly back in its place as well as your clean skateboard wheels and secure everything with the wheel nuts. Use a socket wrench to tighten the nuts.
- Check for wheel movements just before you hop on. Make sure everything is OK and that the wheels are turning fine before you take your board out.
What if your skateboard wheel bearings are stuck?
A common predicament for skateboarders who want to clean their skateboard wheels is a stuck bearing. The common scenario is the bearing assembly just won’t budge no matter how much prying and tapping.
Of the eight bearings on your skateboard, one or two might not want to go right away. Experts say that it’s always best to go slowly because prying too hard or tapping the wheels and the bearing very hard can damage the bearing or your wheels. But if you are trying to remove your skateboard bearings because you want to replace these, pry and tap as hard as you can.
You can try spraying a little WD40 on the bearing assembly to loosen the two. Just a small amount will do. In a matter of minutes, the bearings will be out without a scratch. You may try greasing the space between the bearing assembly and the wheel. This might get messy but this might work.
You can use a flat tool like a flat screwdriver, to pry the bearing out. You might also want to check some tools that are specially-manufactured by skateboard bearing companies like the Grind King tool used to maintain trucks made by the same company. This tool comes with a bearing removal nub which can remove bearings in a snap.
If the bearings just won’t move and you still want to use them, take your wheels to a skate shop for assistance. Experts are far more efficient and may have some tricks to remove bearings without damaging them. Don’t be afraid to ask for helpful tricks on how to maintain your skateboard while you’re at the presence of a pro.
How to tell if your wheel bearings need replacement
Every now and then, you need to clean your wheel bearings and a part of cleaning is inspecting the bearing assembly for any problems. One of these is determining if your bearings need replacement.
If you use your skateboard often and you subject it to a lot of pressure and stress then you need to check and replace your bearings at least once a week.
Inspect the skateboard bearings for missing ball bearings. If you spot missing bearings, discard the entire retainer assembly. You can purchase bearing retainers but most skateboard experts agree that you should replace the entire Skateboard wheel bearing assembly instead of just the retainers for safety.
If you spot cracks and moving parts on the bearing assembly, discard this totally. Inspect all the wheel bearings and if you spot something unusual, decide if you can replace or just repair your bearings.
Usually, branded bearing assembly comes in fours but some may be purchased one at a time. If you are unsure about the type of component that will work for your type of skateboard wheel, take your board to a skate shop.
Different types of skateboard bearings
Earlier we have learned how to remove steel skateboard wheel bearings but do you know that this important wheel component is not just made from steel? You can also find bearings made from ceramic, but these are very expensive.
1. Steel skateboard bearings
This is the most common material to make bearings. This is the best choice because the material is cheaper and is also very durable. Metal bearings are for first-time skateboarders and also for professionals.
The major downside of metal bearings is that these are susceptible to heat and thus this can alter the bearings’ strength and durability. Take note that there is a lot of tension that’s in the wheel and the axle and friction can turn into heat. Steel expands when exposed to high temperatures, therefore, your bearings can become ineffective when subjected to great amounts of heat over time.
The key to preserving metal bearings is regular maintenance. You’ll be able to extend the functional lie as well as the performance of your bearings with correct maintenance and care.
2. Ceramic skateboard bearings
Because heat can affect steel, manufacturers need a material that’s resilient to extreme heat and friction. Enter ceramic skateboard bearings. Ceramic bearings are durable and will never change its shape or affect its performance even when exposed to extreme heat.
Ceramic bearings are manufactured using silicon nitride. This is a material smoother than steel and is resistant to heat and pressure.
And just like steel, you need to maintain these bearings regularly for these to perform well and last for a long time. Ceramic bearings need to be lubricated and cared for. The downside of using ceramic bearings is that it is very expensive. But despite the cost, professional skateboarders prefer ceramic over steel.
Skateboard bearings come in different sizes
Just like there are different kinds and sizes of skateboard wheels, there are also different bearing sizes. There are standard and non-standard skateboard bearing sizes. Your skateboard wheels will tell you what size of the bearing will fit.
- 608 standard bearings – standard bearings have been the 608. This bearing has an outer diameter of 22mm, 7mm width, and an 8mm core. Most traditional and old skateboard designs come with standard bearing sizes.
- Non-standard bearings – this is a size that is other than the 608 standards.
What is the size of your skateboard wheels? Take a measuring tape and measure it. Or when in doubt, take your board with you when you shop for skateboard wheel bearings.
Skateboard bearing ratings
To preserve the quality of your skateboard bearings, there are rating systems in place. The ABEC system is the standard for quality of skateboard bearings for the past 35 years. ABEC stands for Annular Bearing Engineers Committee and it intends to check every brand of bearing and rate these accordingly.
ABEC wants to establish accepted bearing dimensions, tolerances and other standards for bearings to help manufacturers and users. With a standard for bearings, users may be able to use bearings in general applications and other uses. This rating is not the only system for selecting bearings in applications like skateboarding and skating.
There are different grades of bearings in the ABEC rating system. Bearings come in grades 1, 3, 5, 7 and grade 9 and the higher the number, the higher the tolerance level of the bearing, therefore, the bearing is more precise.
You need a bearing with great precision and small tolerances to work in high RPM environments. For instance, a skateboard that has 54mm wheels that turn 20,000 RPM can run at 127 MPH. Basically, skating is done at less than 30 MPH and the maximum speeds skate bearings can take is around 4,700 RPM. Also, 90% of skating falls below 2,000 RPM. This is at very high precision which is not really needed by skaters.
The ABEC also controls the diameters and widths of the inner and outer raceways, the shapes and the smoothness of the raceway’s surfaces. ABEC does not consider factors like impact resistance, side loading, the type of material the races are made, installation and maintenance.
All these factors may not be recognized by ABEC but are very important for bearing maintenance.
CERAMIC BEARINGS VS STAINLESS STEEL BEARINGS | VS EP 9 – Braille Skateboarding (Youtube.com)
BONES BEARINGS – How To Clean Your Bearings – Bones Bearings (Youtube.com)
How to remove skateboard bearings from stubborn wheels. – Ben Degros (Youtube.com)