Posted on

How to Choose Longboard Bearings:  A Buyer’s Guide

Longboard bearing refer to the circular metal pieces that fit inside the lognboard wheels and make the wheels go round.  They are created using different parts and have a standard size of 8 mm (core), 7mm (width), and 22 mm (outer diameter) to ensure the compatibility between all wheels and all bearing brands.

Choosing longboard bearings can be as simple as buying ice cream from the store – so long as you know what it is you are looking for.  Factors such as speed, durability load capacity, surface finish, lubrication, materials and tolerance separate good longboard bearings from the bad one.  Hence, it is important to understand why some bearings can take more out of your pocket than you are willing to when other sets can be inexpensive.

What are Longboard Bearings Made Of?

Longboard Bearing Parts
Longboard bearings may look tiny, but they consist of incredibly complex components. They are usually composed of the following smaller parts:

Ball retainer. Also known as Delrin crown, this component keeps each ball bearing in place while allowing the casing to spin around it.

Bearing shield. A ring of medium size that covers the sides of the bearings and prevents dirt and debris from getting into the bearings.

C-ring. A thin ring that fits on the outside of the bearings and locks the shields in place.

Inner ring. A smaller metal ring that fits inside the outer ring.

Outer ring. A round metal exterior where all the other components fit into.

Rubber seal. A soft rubber ring located on the outside of the bearings that help shield the interior of the bearings against dirt and debris.

Steel balls. A set of steel or ceramic balls that rests in the ball retainer. As the most vital components, they allow the bearing casing to spin around them.

Longboard Bearing Materials

Steel. As the industry standard, steel bearings are both durable and economical. With this type of bearings, the overall quality of the steel, sealing, and interior ball bearings vary from one brand to another. Generally, the more costly a set of longboard bearings are, the greater their quality since they contain better sealing, higher-quality metals, and more inner ball bearings. Premium bearings will make you feel what makes them different from their cheaper counterparts when you come to a sudden stop on your longboard.

One downside to steel bearings, however, is that it tends to rust when exposed to moisture. Therefore, you must keep them well-oiled if you want them to last.

Ceramic. Ceramic longboard bearings are harder than steel, extremely smooth, resistant to heat, and produce very little friction at faster speeds. Unlike steel bearings, they deform less often, do not rust when exposed to moisture, and do not require as much maintenance. Add to that the fact that ceramic bearings offer exceptional precision performance, and you can expect them to be more expensive than standard steel bearings.

Titanium. Bearings made of titanium are lightweight, durable, and highly resistant to rust. They perform similar to steel bearings, but they can last longer due to this material’s strength and high resistance to corrosion. An important thing to remember is that titanium bearings also need lubrication in order to reduce excess friction.

What is the Longboard Bearing ABEC Scale?

Short for Annular Bearing Engineers’ Committee, an ABEC rating is the measurement used to rate the accuracy, tolerance, and physical limits of bearings. Tolerance measures how precisely the components of bearings fit together, as the more precise the fit between bearing parts, the smoother and more efficient bearings are at higher speeds.

Note that a higher ABEC rating does not necessarily equate to longboard bearings being faster. ABEC bearings are just one of the many aspects that you have to consider, and because there are several factors that play a role in selecting longboard bearings, an ABEC 9 from one brand may differ from an ABEC 9 from another.

The following are the usual ABEC ratings:

ABEC 1 – tend to be the most affordable, the least accurate, the most durable, and the crudest. Usually, the quality of steel used here is not very high.

ABEC 3 – generally inexpensive but do not roll very quickly or smoothly.

ABEC 5 – the standard for most types of longboarding. Bearings with this rating usually get you a reasonable amount of speed at an affordable price.

ABEC 7 – tend to be very fast, smooth, and expensive. Note that you run the risk of unnecessarily damaging them if you skate too hard or too aggressively.

ABEC 9+ – usually used by skaters with riding styles that go insanely fast. These longboard bearings will cost you a good fortune.

How to Clean Longboard Bearings

While longboard bearings generally require little maintenance and last a long time, each component of your longboard bearings should function properly in order for the bearings to perform at their best. In this connection, it is crucial that you clean your bearings regularly. Otherwise, dirt buildup will eventually stop your bearings and cause it to malfunction.

So, we have provided the following step-by-step longboard bearings care guide to help you clean your bearings.

Tools You Will Need

  • Your dirty longboard bearings
  • Lubricant
  • A piece of rag or towel
  • An alcohol-based cleaning solution
  • A container with a lid
  • Circlip pliers (if you have metal shield) or a knife blade (if you have rubber shields)
  • A well-ventilated area
  • Safety gloves (advised)
  • Time (more or less half an hour)

Procedure

Take the bearings out
Unscrew the axle nuts and gently slide the wheel along the axle so that the bearing is released out of the wheel core. Prise the bearing out of the wheel and use the rag or towel to wipe down each bearing. Repeat the same for each wheel.

Remove the bearing shields
Once you get your bearings out of your wheels, remove the bearing shields using the knife blade or the circlip pliers. An ideal way to do this is by leveraging from the inside or outside of the shield so as not to bend it at an extreme angle. Take great care to avoid cutting yourself. Do the same for each bearing shield.

Soak and clean them
Place all the components you have removed in the container and fill it with an alcohol-based bearing cleaning solution. Give the container a good shake to get rid of the dirt and grime. Rinse them some more with clean solvent.

Dry and lubricate
Once you are satisfied with the cleanliness Dry your bearings off

How to Lubricate Longboard Bearings

Lubricating your bearings starts after cleaning.  In order to enjoy maximum performance of your longboards, be sure your bearings are completely dry before doing this activity.

Lubricating means regreasing or putting lube on your bearings with oil or grease. A few drops will do and spin the bearings with your fingers so that the lube is spread evenly.  Then put it back in the wheel, this can be tricky if the wheel holds the bearing tightly.  This basically sums up the lubricating activity.

This is not a DIY thing to do. Every skater must realize that using the wrong oil may do more damage to the bearings. It is highly recommended that you use skateboard bearing specific lubes like Powell Speed cream or similar light grease. Another recommended brand is “Speed cream” made by “bones bearings”.  They are specially designed to keep bearings last longer and greasy.  Light grease have low viscosity clear oil. 3-in-1 oil and mineral oil both work.  Just a couple of drops at the outside near the nut at the inner race, and a couple of drops at the inside near the truck shaft at the inner race.

If for some reasons you cannot have these specific lubricants, certain home products can do the replacement.  Motor oil or even cooking oil will work.

How about water to do the job? Water can actually be a lubricant but this does not mean it should ever be in a bearing. Unless you are cleaning your bearings and even then, have minimal amount of water contact. Water is one element that hastens rust formation and this can significantly damage the bearings. In contrary, this may not hold true for Ceramic bearings as they don’t develop rust due to moisture.  And this is also for the same reason that skating in the rain is avoided mainly due to water and moisture accumulation in the bearings.

Many customer reviews mention about the use of WD-40. It is a solvent, and not a lubricant. Solvents will dissolve at the plastic pieces inside the bearing that make it work. The downside on prolonged use of solvents will limit the life of your bearings.  Olive oil is not good, but is better than nothing, and is probably better than using a solvent.

Many realize that rain skating makes bearings 50% worse. And this is when WD-40 will come in very useful.  It may work well as a lubricant but it should never be used as lube normally. But when the bearing gets so rusted, this will be of great help. Indeed, WD-40 can only be used for destroyed bearings.