Are you having issues with slow wheels or bearing spin? Do your bearings or wheels squeak when you’re skating? Here we discuss what makes roller skate and skateboard bearings slow and how to resolve these issues.
Let’s Start with a Little Bit of Bearing Education:
Bearings are an extremely important aspect of skating. It doesn’t matter if you are skating on a skateboard, inline (rollerblades) or quad skates – bearing maintenance is key to a smooth, safe ride. There are a few things you need to know before we go forward on resolving your bearing issues.
- Bearings are made with an ABEC rating. This ABEC rating is NOT a rating of how fast the bearings spin. Instead, it is a rating of how precisely the components of the bearings are made. In other words, the ABEC rating is a rating of QUALITY and imperfection tolerances. So, an ABEC-5 rated bearing has a higher tolerance for imperfections than an ABEC-9 rated bearing. The higher the rating, the less tolerance for minor imperfections. Thus, the higher the number the higher consistency (or quality) of the bearing. Hopefully that makes sense!
- Bearing oil or lubrication actually decreases the hand-spin speed, but increases the skate speed. This is counterintuitive, but true! Hand-spun bearings are fastest when they have little or no lubrication. However, once lubrication is added the hand-spin seems to slow down. Why is this? The answer is complicated, but it has to do with how little weight (friction) is on the bearing when the bearing is not being used vs. how much weight and friction is added to the bearing when it is being used. Weight on the bearing increases friction and lubrication helps fill the tiny gaps that kill your speed. So, the important thing to know is that hand-spinning your bearings will NOT give you an accurate picture of how the bearings will roll with 100s of pounds of weight on them.
- Bearings have “shields” that cover the inner balls of the bearing. Dirt, hair, grime, oil, and many other small particles will actually get inside your bearing shields and disrupt the spin of the bearings. This dirt is likely what is causing your bearings to squeak. These shields can be removed and the bearings can be cleaned. You just have to know how to handle this situation!
How to Resolve the Issue of Slow or Squeaky Skate Bearings in 11 Steps:
1. Unbolt your wheels from your skate or skateboard with a Devaskation 3-way tool. This tool works for skates or skateboards.
2. Remove your bearings from your wheels with a BankRoll Bearing Snatcher Tool.
3. Remove the shields from your bearings with a razor blade or thin prying tool. Be careful not to damage the shield.
4. Inspect your bearings for dirt, rust, and/or grime. If there is significant dirt and grime, you will likely benefit from moving forward.
5. Hand spin your bearings to test how they spin without shields. Are they slow and/or squeaky? Not for long!
6. Pour a cup (or two) of Mineral Spirits in a jar or container and soak your bearings (without the shields) overnight.
7. Remove your bearings from the Mineral Spirits and immediately rinse in a cup (or two) of rubbing alcohol. Shake lightly so that the alcohol can remove any excess material. Repeat this step until your bearings are clear of all gunk, oil, dirt, etc.
8. Let bearings dry on a paper towel.
9. Clean and oil the shields so that they are free of gunk. You can use rubbing alcohol for this step and a dab of BankRoll Bearing Oil once they are clean.
10. Add a drop or two of BankRoll Bearing Oil to each bearing. A little goes a long way.
11. Snap your shields back on your bearings and then install the bearings on your wheels.
Cleaning My Bearings Didn’t Work!
If the above steps didn’t help your situation, it might be time to replace the bearings. This is especially true if you have not maintained your bearings properly or if you purchased low quality bearings. If you need new bearings, we offer a variety of awesome skate bearings.
A Few Bearing Myths Debunked:
1. You do NOT need new bearings every year. You just need to know how to maintain the bearings you have. Your bearings should last YEARS! Yes, YEARS! The owner of Devaskation and World Champion skater, Skip Clinton, has had the same bearings for over 20 years. Annnd…. we’re pretty sure he can out-skate you!
2. Hand-spinning bearings does NOT tell you how fast or how high quality your bearings are. Check your ABEC rating and buy reputable brands to ensure you’re getting quality bearings.
3. Speed of bearings is not the end-all be-all of quality. Let’s face it, you can only skate so fast! And, in many circumstances you might only want to skate so fast because a crash at 30mph will likely hurt pretty bad!
Other Articles About Bearings:
Devaskation Guide to Bearings
Alternative bearing cleaning method
What are Ceramic Bearings?
What are Swiss Bearings?