Clean and Grease Your Skateboard Bearings

It's winter out there. The streets are covered with water, salt, and funky road grit. But you really want to skate. What can you do? Answer: go skate anyway, then clean your bearings so they'll live to skate another day.

This is a straightforward demo of how to disassemble, clean, grease, and re-assemble a skateboard bearing. Just in case you wanted to see it done. It's actually terribly easy if you've done it once.


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Step 1: What You Need

Dirty skateboard bearings. (Can be obtained from within dirty skateboard wheels.)
Acetone or other solvent. (97% Isopropyl Alcohol is good too.)
A bowl or cup to put it in.
A small pin or straightened staple to remove the bearing shields.

Step 2: Pop the Seals

There are two kinds of seals that are common on skateboard bearings: rubber seals (pictured) and metal shields.

The seals can be popped out from the other side with a small pin or straightened-out staple. Stick your pin between the ball cage and the outside bearing race and press the seal out. Aim for the center of the seal, because it is made of metal and you won't puncture it.



If you've got metal shields, they're held in place by a circlip around the outside edge. Get your pin under one edge of the circlip and it'll come off easily. Then the metal shield just pops out. See this website for pictures of how to get the clips off.

Step 3: Soak and Clean

Fill up your bowl with 1/2" of acetone and put the bearings (balls down) in the solution and let them sit for a minute.

Alternately tap them on the bottom of the bowl and spin the bearings in your hand until they feel grit-free. Once you get a bearing cleaned, spin it dry and place it on a clean paper towel (balls down) to dry.

Repeat for the other 7 bearings.



While the bearings are finishing drying off, clean up the seals in the acetone. Be gentle -- you don't want to bend the inner metal ring.

Step 4: Optional: Filter and Save Your Acetone

If you're cheap (or thrifty) you can filter the big grit out of the acetone and save it to use again.

If your coffee filters are like mine, it won't be perfect. But it'll be good enough to re-use a few times, or you can experiment with multiple filters. Store your used acetone in a well-marked (skull and crossbones are good) airtight jar wherever you keep your deadly chemicals.

Step 5: Grease and Re-seal

Add grease to the little pockets in-between the balls. Most people use just enough to barely fill three pockets. More or less (by a little) is ok. You don't want them packed, but you want all the balls lubricated.

Bike grease is fine. Marine grease will work. Silicone or lithium grease? Sure. Molybdenum grease? Overkill, but if you've got some lying around the house, you can use it.

Spread the grease around with your finger and roll the bearing back and forth until you can see all the balls adequately covered.

Gently place the seal back on. It will "snap" into place. Then, since you completely un-lubed it, run your greasy finger around the outside of the rubber seal just enough to keep it moistened. Also get some grease on the metal surfaces to help keep the rust away.



Note at this stage you could be using an oil instead of a grease. Good oils are Bones Speed Cream, Tri-flow, and other similar lubricating oils. Motor oil will work too. Bad oils include WD-40 and 3-in-1 (too light). If you use oil, 2 drops are usually enough. Spread it around by spinning the bearing and re-assemble.

Step 6: You're Done!

Congratulations. You've just cleaned and re-greased your skateboard bearings.

Grease is nice because it needs maintenance less often than oil. On the other hand, it probably spins a little slower. Still, a clean and lubed bearing spins much much better than a dirty one, so it's good for you in the long run.

Note that you can switch back to oil when it finally stops raining and all the darn salt is off the freaking roads....

How often should you do this? It depends on how much you ride, and how often in crappy conditions. For greased bearings, try once every month at first or more often if you're in the wet a lot.

Oiled bearings need maintenance every couple weeks if you ride every day. I tend to clean them out right after a rain ride -- the oil just doesn't provide as much rust protection.

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    97 Discussions

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    adam.ozcelik

    4 years ago on Introduction

    are the ripstik bearing supposed to be oily/greasy? i opened up my ripstik for the first time dont know if i should clean it or not

    1 reply
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    ZackR16

    3 years ago

    I have a board I've had for awhile and kinda forgot it outside under my porch during the winter. It just started seizing up and I don't have any oil or acetone to use on it any other stuff I could use that work like stuff that's around the common household?

    2 replies
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    BeauxHZackR16

    Reply 3 years ago

    any citrus based cleaner works

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    Jamin PaulS

    3 years ago

    is Organic all purpose cleaner ok instead of acetone?
    organic all purpose cleaner has
    plant nased surfactant,citrus extract,water

    and i use to lubricate my bearings is sewing machine oil

    2 replies
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    JohnS1377BeauxH

    Reply 14 days ago

    Sewing machine oil is almost the same composition as bones speed cream. Perfect lubricant.

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    ShawnF53

    8 months ago

    Never use acetone on anything rubber or silicone it eats it away. It’s says on back of bottle just use soap and water on that part and dry off good

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    ShawnF53

    8 months ago on Step 6

    Acetone eats away rubber so never put that part in them

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    The Real ElliotOra

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Not really. If you've got rust, it's time for new bearings -- the balls aren't ever going to be smooth again.

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    hawksPOra

    Reply 1 year ago

    swiss is ceramic so the balls dont rust. atleat i dont think...

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    The Real ElliotOra

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Ouch. If you just want to ride them, you can probably brush some of the rust off with a green scrubby pad and a light oil. (Don't use one that you're ever going to do dishes with again.) To clean the balls, you're going to need to completely disassemble the bearing -- pull out the ball cage, push all the balls over to one side, and twist the inner race. Watch out for the balls going everywhere when you twist. Reverse the procedure to re-build. They'll never be new again, but they'll probably roll. OTOH, clean cheap bearings (VXB, Pleasure Tools) are much faster than dirty, abused Bones. Might be better to bite the bullet and get a new set or two of cheapos.

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    LucasS3Ora

    Reply 3 years ago

    I did it once with a electrolysis machine but still needs lube so I will tell you how good it works after.

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    A GamingG

    2 years ago

    use vinegar and keep ur bearings in for a bit then put them proxide for a bit then pop ur bearings back in and your done

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    VijayG31

    3 years ago

    Soak the bearing in petrol for 5 to 10 min, that cleans the bearing. Then soak it in transmission fluid for 30+ min. Wipe excess fluid and install the bearing back. Repeat one in 3 months. That's what I do.

    1 reply
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    AlanL44

    3 years ago

    Wow, who has time for all that?!

    Just spray some WD-40 in there there once a month and get on the road.

    I'm know Abec 7 bearings are servicable, but they're 15 bucks a set on Amazon.

    How much is your time worth?! o_0