Recently, I talked about cleaning bearings, and why you should never use WD-40. After that episode came out, I reached out to Bones to ask if I could try out one of their cleaning kits. So what I’m going to do is clean my bearings according to their official guides, then review the kit and show you the results.
I’m excited about this going into it, because I’ve never successfully cleaned bearings without ruining them, because I didn’t know what to do. But if I can keep my bearings maintained for good, then I can afford to get nicer bearings and just keep them going forever.
What I’m doing here is kind of absurd. I’m cleaning a $16 set of bearings with about $24 worth of stuff. Of course, it won’t be used up when I’m done, but still.
OK, so here’s what you’ll need.
- Some bearings. If you don’t know how to take them off, you can get a bearing puller, or just use your axle like this.
- You’ll need a push pin or something else small and sharp.
- You need a container for the cleaning solution. This Bones one makes it easier. But you could get by with something else.
- You need a solvent to wash the bearings in. Bones recommends Acetone, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, and Denatured or Isopropyl Alcohol. I went with Denatured alcohol.
- You also need some bearing lube. This is Bones speed cream. I’m not familiar with other brands on this, but if it’s designed for bearings, you should be in good shape.
- You’ll also need some non-lint towels. I just used paper towels because it’s all I had.
- It also helps to have a can of compressed air, but you can get by without it.
First step – pop off the bearing shields. You can do this with a thumbtack by prying it off like this. If you have a paperclip, you can push the shield off from the back by poking through the other side too.
Step 2 – wash the shields with soap and water. These are rubber, so you don’t want to use solvent for it. Just wash them in soap and wipe them down. Make sure they’re completely dry before you put them back on though.
Step 3 – Wash the bearings. With the cleaning kit, it works like this. Put your bearings on the bolt with the spacers – open ball side up. This will let the solvent move around them easily. Pour your solvent up to about a third of the way up the container, then close it and shake it for at least 30 seconds.
This is where having the official product helps. You could probably make something like this, but this thing isn’t going to leak, and it’s really easy to work with. I was thinking you could just soak the bearings in a tray, but they don’t come clean that easily. Being able to shake it and force the solvent in there is a big benefit.
You’ll have to repeat this step a couple of times. Replace the solvent until it comes back clean after shaking it.
Step 4 – get the bearings out and wipe them down. At this point, my bearings were still pretty dirty. As I wiped them, there was a lot of crap still coming out. So I gave them another bath. They should be able to spin freely before you take them out.
Unfortunately, this is where I started to realize that this wasn’t going to work great. About 5 of these bearings have rust on them, so they aren’t going to be perfect. But I’m hoping to squeeze a few more months out of these.
Next, make sure the bearings are completely dry. They recommend blowing them with canned air. And I have a can somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. I found this hand pump though, so I just used this to dry them. If you don’t have either, just wipe it as much as you can and let them air dry.
Step 5 – Lube them up. If you’re using Speed Cream, it recommends two drops per bearing, but follow the instructions if you bought something else. Once it’s in there, spin them around a little to make sure the lube is spread throughout the bearing.
At this point, I realized I wasn’t going to have a great result. A couple of these bearings spun really well, but most of them were still a little crusty because of the rust. That’s more my bad than anything.
Last, push the shields back on. They just pop in no problem.
OK, so my bearings are cleaned! Let’s take a look at my results.
This is the spin test. This isn’t really a scientific test, but I just spun them as hard as I could and timed them.
Here are my before results, from slowest to fastest. It’s not going to be the exact same bearings in each wheel, but here are the clean results, from slowest to fastest.
This is an average increase of 2.2 seconds. Which is significant. Imagine if I cleaned bearings that weren’t rusty. You should be able to get a minute no problem with better bearings.
The next test was to actually roll down a hill and see how much further I get. The spin test helps, but how does that translate into actual distance? I dropped in on this really mild hill. I wanted something I could roll down completely straight, no pumping, and measure the distance. The dirty bearings got me right about here. The cleaned ones got me…. Here. Not a huge result.
Ok, so what do I think of the kit? I was going to do a bearing cleaning video anyway, and I just couldn’t figure out exactly how to do it. I was going to soak the bearings in a tray and try to shake them around a little, like I did with the shields. But I don’t know how well that would have worked. Having this was a huge help. It’s tough, doesn’t leak, and it’s the right size so you don’t waste any solvent. You could make this yourself, since it’s nothing too specialized, but it’s 10 bucks. I think it’s a good buy. I would have liked if it was a little more thorough, like it came with some bristles to really scrub with, but that might damage the bearings too. So I can’t really say that’s a good idea.
I can’t complain about the Speed Cream either. You might be able to get some decent lube by the gallon at Home Depot, but you’re barely going to use any. So this is a convenient package, and you don’t have to worry about it being bad for the rubber shields or anything, because it was designed specifically for skateboard bearings. So that’s good.
Overall, I’m really disappointed with the results I got out of this, but I probably should have done it about 2 years ago when my bearings first started to slow down. I wasn’t expecting a lot of rust in Colorado, but it happens.