Introduction: Routine Skateboard/Longboard Cleaning Method
In the Beginning...
When I first started riding to work regularly I found that my board would get quite dirty, especially since I work in San Francisco (those of you who live or work here know what I mean). In order to make sure that I properly maintained my longboard I started researching online for methods and best practices. This instructable is a culmination of my findings.
Typically I will clean my bearings once every four to six weeks, depending upon usage. I have definitely noticed a difference in speed and smoothness of my ride when the bearings are clean (I liken it to the feeling you notice when you just had your oil changed in your vehicle). Either way, a routine cleaning will help to maintain the longevity of your skateboard or longboard and allow it to perform at its best.
Where Credit is Due
What I'm about to describe is not my own creation. Rather, it's a patchwork of suggestions and solutions that I received from both friends and online resources. Unfortunately, there are just too many to name specifically so for all of you who have ever created a blog, a video or a discussion on the topic of bearing maintenance prior to me publishing this, thank you! Your work inspired me to keep my hardware clean and my wheels spinning!
This process should take you about 30 to 60 minutes to complete and requires the following items:
- Isopropyl Alcohol: This is the stuff that you can buy at any pharmacy. It's not about the brand, just the percentage. I usually like to get the highest percentage that I can find because after all, it's going to eat through some truly nasty grease.
- Disinfecting Wipes: These you probably already have lying around your home. However, you'll probably want to get your own canister of them as this process will put a lot of dirt and grease on your hands... and consequently on the canister and the other wipes.
- A Glass Jar: Pretty much any glass jar will work. In the picture you can see that I chose to use an old drink container. The real key to it is making sure it has a sealable top.
- Skate Bearing Lubricant: I'm not one to drop names when it comes to brands. However, the Bones Speed Cream is fairly inexpensive, easily obtainable and lasts for a long time.
- SIM Card Extractor Tool(optional but recommended): You will need this for certain types of bearings. You could use a few staples straightened out, but this is just way more convenient and probably free at any mobile phone store.
- Skate Tool(optional but recommended): While standard tools will work just fine, sometimes having an "all in one" sitting right by your side is a time savings and worth it, especially since these things aren't that expensive.
Step 1: Remove the Wheels and Pull Out the Bearings and Spacers
This is pretty much self-explanatory. Basically the first step is to take the wheels off the board and disassemble them. Make sure not to lose any of the nuts, washers or spacers as those should be cleaned as well. As such, when you do take the nuts, washers and spacers off, put them into the glass jar. We'll deal with the bearings next.
Step 2: Disassemble the Bearings
Not all bearings are created equal! I tend to buy bearings based on their ability to be cleaned which is why I bias myself towards bearings like the Bones Super Swiss 6 bearings (which is what is pictured above). I have tried other sets (in fact I just bought a pair of Heady Shake Pro bearings which a friend highly recommended), but for the money and quality, I am a Super Swiss 6 rider for life.
To disassemble the bearings with the rubber shields, the easiest thing to do is to take either a SIM extractor tool or a few staples straightened out and push gently through the bearing in-between the balls (NOTE: you should not have to push hard. If you find that you are pushing hard, you're doing it wrong and you may damage the bearings).
Once the bearing and rubber shield have been separated, place both pieces in the glass jar.
Step 3: "Shake, Shake, Shake, Senora!"
With all of the components in the glass jar, pour just enough alcohol into the jar so that they are completely submerged. Seal the jar and give it a good shake. I typically leave the components in the jar as long as it takes me to wipe down the wheels and board (approximately five to ten minutes). As you can see from the pictures above, the alcohol does a bang up job cleaning the components.
Step 4: Wipe Down the Board and Wheels
With the components completely submerged, I generally use this time to wipe down the bottom of the board (just the board; do not wipe down the trucks or axles) and the wheels. Please note that this is a very messy job so your hands will get disgusting (also, don't wear white).
Step 5: Empty the Jar and Dry Off the Components
Now that the components have sufficiently soaked, it's time to empty the jar and dry the components off. Make sure not to lose any of the small pieces as you pour out the dirty alcohol (nothing sucks more than having to buy a new set of bearings because you lost just one or two rubber seals).
Step 6: Lubricate Those Parts!
This is where my instructions tend to diverge from the instructions that come with the lubricant, and there's a very good reason for that! The cost of the lubricant is only about $5 and even if you over lubricate your components, you'll have that one little bottle for at least six months. Generally speaking, my process is as follows:
- Put a drop of the lubricant on each ball of a bearing.
- Put the rubber seal on the bearing.
- Pinch the bearing between your fingers and spin it continuously until it doesn't sound like it's sloshing through rain (Trust me, you'll get to know the sound. Typically I spin it about 30 to 40 times).
- Rinse and repeat for each bearing!
I also put a little bit of the lubricant on the spacer (this is why I mentioned not to clean the axles; the residual lubricant helps). I basically put the tip of the bottle at the top, squeeze slightly and rotate the bottle around the circumference of the spacer
Once the bearings and spacers have been sufficiently lubricated, it's time to reassemble the board.
Step 7: Putting It All Back Together
Really this step is pretty straight forward. My typical approach is to:
- reassemble the wheel
- put the wheel on the truck
- tighten the nut down firmly (beyond what I would normally ride it with in order to make sure that everything is properly compressed and in place)
- loosen the nut just to the right spot
With regards to "play" or "give" in how loose you ride your wheels, that's really a personal preference. Obviously too loose and the wheels will fall off, so don't do that. Personally I like just a little bit of play but not much. You can see from the photo above where I finally have my nut.
Lastly, with everything in place, give the wheel a solid spin and sit back to enjoy your efforts! Better yet, hop on your board and ride!
Do you Do Something Different?
If after reading this you have a different suggestion or a step that you'd tweak, I'd love to hear from you! As I mentioned when I first wrote this, I learned this process from many other sources so it can only help other readers if we share our "secret sauce" for bearing maintenance. Please do post questions and comments and I'll be happy to respond.