You got your new longboard and you have been running it for a while. Do you want clean longboard bearing? Roads, streets, pavements, alleys, sidewalks, and walkways — you’ve rolled to these surfaces already and even mastered the movements. Your movements are getting clean but your wheels are getting dirty. You might say that you have never used it in an unclean or muddy area, yes, you are right but dirt is everywhere. The wind carries dust and sand. Though you cannot see it, as time goes by it will accumulate.
Longboard bearings have very thin clearances so it will not tolerate the accumulation of dirt. The clearances can be easily blocked and the lubricant will dry because of the dirt. After some time, you will feel that your speed is getting slower. It will not also spin freely or a bit rough and they are getting noisy. If these happen, you totally need a cleanup. Clean your bearings or else they would be broken soon and you’ll need a new replacement which will cost you more than maintaining the bearing you have now.
Cleaning is also needed if you have just ridden your board on a watery surface or in the rain. Long exposure to water and moisture will cause it to rust. So you need to prevent rust to save the cost of buying a new bearing.
So let’s get started!
Cleaning Materials We Need Clean Longboard Bearing
- Skate Tool – You will need this for taking off your wheels. Another tool can be a ½ socket wrench.
- Degreaser/Cleaner/Solvent — Citrus cleaner is popular because it is less harmful compared to alcohol and thinner but it leaves a residue. Since this cleaner is water-based, you need to dry your bearings right away because water that comes in contact with the bearing may cause rust. Solvents that are commercially available are not really pure. For example, isopropyl alcohol, carburetor cleaner, and acetone. You also need to dry them fast. Alcohol-based solutions that other boarders use are methyl and ethanol. Engine degreaser and petrol is another alternative. It depends on you which will you choose. But we are recommending you to use environmental-friendly solutions.
- Lubricant — Light grease is the best suggestion. But of course, it still depends on your opinion. Here are your choices but you need to weigh it down. Thin grease will make your bearings spin faster but your bearing will be short-lived because it may break easily. Medium grease will be more resistant to dirt but your bearings will spin slower. Thick grease will keep the water out but will attract more dirt. By the way, some lubricants need a break-in for the bearings to move smoothly. Just a little time then it will get back to what it used to be.
- Old Rag — Choices can be old clothes or old towels. It can be old but it should be clean.
- Small Container — Use a safe container with a lid and a cap. Not a thin glass that may easily break or a plastic container that reacts with chemicals.
- Knife Blade/Paper Clip/Any sharp tool — A thin knife or a sharp tool but most probably choose an item without a very sharp blade that can cut or tear. It should be just enough to pop out the shield.
- Dryer (optional) — You will need this if you want to dry your wet bearings fast after spinning it into the towel or maybe to make sure that everything is dry up to the inner part that the rag cannot reach.
Remove the wheels using the Skate Tool. Or you can use a wrench to remove the nut just like uncapping a bottle with a lid. Then get the bearings from the wheel using the axel. Just rotate the wheel on the axle and snap it off. Then wipe the bearing with the old rag. Just to keep the outside dirt away. Repeat this step until all of the wheels and bearings of your boards are separated.
Warning: If there are space rings or washers keep it in a place where you will not lose it like a tray. Just keep the parts together. You don’t want to lose something when putting it back together.
Remove the bearing shield. There are two kinds of shield — rubber and metal. Rubber shields are so easy to take off. You just need to use the knife blade to slide off the shield upward. You can also use any sharp objects like push pins or a paper clip. It should pop up easily. If your shield is metal, there is a “c” clip that you need to take off to get the bearings out.
Warning: Do not bend, tear or cut the shield as you take it off or else it will not fit perfectly again when you put it back. Also, do not clean the shield with any solvent. The solvent may damage the shield causing it to expand or blistering the surface. Just clean the shield with a clean rag or with water. Dry it completely before putting it back. This applies to rubber shields only.
Put the bearings into the container. Soak it with Degreaser/Cleaner/Solvent. It is better if the container has a lid and a cap so that you can shake it well. You need to shake it to remove all the dirt on the bearings. Shaking for 2-5 minutes will do. You can also replace it if it is already so dirty. Replace it until the solution is clear enough or you are satisfied with its cleanness.
Warning: A glass container may break while you are shaking it. Don’t put a lot of force and pressure. A plastic container may also melt because of the solvent. Use a container that you are surely safe.
Precautionary Measures: Wear an eye protection and gloves in case some mishaps happen and you came in contact with the chemical solution. Make sure also that you are in a well-ventilated area.
Optional Step 3a: Remove the cage and the balls. Just do this if you are an experienced cleaner already and if you really want to clean the bearing thoroughly. But this is not really necessary especially if you are a beginner. Can you put back together the bearing if you disassembled it 100%? If your answer is yes, then do it. First, use the knife blade or a paper clip to push out the cage. Push it out on the space between the balls. Do not pry out because the cavities might be damaged. If the cavities are damaged, it will slow down on speed or may fail. Then take out the race and the balls. Do not lose any of the balls. Do this step using a tray that will catch any of the falling parts. Continue with soaking in Step 3.
Dry the bearings. Use a rag or a towel. You can also use a hair dryer to make sure that no solution or water is left in the inner part of the bearing though most degreaser evaporates after some time.
Warning: Some still uses water to rinse off the solution. If you did, make sure that there’s no water left on the inner parts because it may cause rust to form and you’ll be looking for a new replacement of bearings soon. So make it sure that it is completely dry.
Precautionary Measures: If you are drying it, without rinsing with water, make sure that all of the chemicals you use went into the rag and not into your hands. It is better to use hand gloves.
Optional Step 4a: After drying, reinstall the cage. Use the paper clip or a screwdriver to spread the balls. Then put the retainer back. Then check the balls if it spins freely. If not, you need to repeat it all or we considered the idea that we had damaged the bearing and should consider replacing it with a new one.
Lubricate your bearings. Put the right amount — not so thin and not so thick. If you will be using Bones Speed Crème or Rockin’ Ron’s Rocket Propellant, just put two to three drops on each bearing. If your lube is so thin it will give you a good roll speed and don’t collect a lot of dirt but your bearings are prone to breakage. Too much grease will attract more dirt and you will have to clean it again soon but it will make your bearings last longer. So put a light grease. Then make sure that it is evenly distributed on the balls and inner parts of the bearing.
Warning: Others may be tempted to use the bearings without lubricating it because it spins faster without lubricant. But after some time, it may freeze and we don’t want it to happen. Oil is a form of lubricant but it is not so advisable to be used because it makes your bearing very fast which may lead to the melting of your wheels.
Wipe the excess lubricant and put the shield back in place. It will not be difficult to put it back if you remove it correctly without doing any damage on the shield. Put one side of the shield against the visible balls with the brand name facing you correctly if there is. Then, press it gently and run your thumb into the circular area to flatten it.
Warning: This is a non-contact rubber shield so it must not come into contact with the bearing balls because it will affect its speed.
Put the bearings back to the wheel. There is a tool for properly pressing the bearing. Do not use a tool that will put pressure on the shield because it will dent the shield and may cause slowing down on your speed. Then put the speed rings after the bearing and check if everything is aligned to make sure that the wheel will spin smoothly. Then, attached it now to the axle. You’re done!
Why Do Bearings Need Maintenance
Cleaning your longboard bearings are very important. Bearings — expensive or cheap —last longer when it is being cleaned and maintained every now and then. So you need not spend a lot on bearings as long as you clean them, they will be good enough.
Cleaning also is a preventive measure against rust. When you rode in the rain or after the rain sure everything under your board will get wet including the inner parts. When you ignore this, the rainwater mixes with the chemical content of the parts and there comes the rust. But if you clean it right away, it is as if opening your umbrella before you get wet. You are preventing rust.
If you ignore your noisy, dirty and unlubricated wheels, chances are great that you will be damaging your wheels, bearings and worst, it might be even your own self. The dirty and unlubricated bearings will cause more friction and heat. Later on, the bearings will just stop working. It will freeze. What if you are riding it then it suddenly stops? What will be the effect? The bearing will create an unbalanced force that will throw you away or cause you to fall from the board. You will then get injured. So to avoid the worst scenario, always clean the bearings and lubricate it.
Before starting the cleaning process, if you have been already using the longboard for a long time, first inspect the condition of the bearing. Check if they are still worth to undergo a cleaning process or just consider buying a new replacement. If the bearings are already damaged, it will not be useful anymore. Do not waste your time for such. Just buy a new one and learn how to maintain to make it last longer.
Time allotment for cleaning is just too short. It can range from 30 minutes to an hour. In a minimal time, you will be doing something that will be worthy of some bucks, something to make your wheels and bearing last longer and something for your safety. Do not set it aside so that you will not face something that you would not like to happen.
If you are done, you are now ready to ride your longboard again!