Clean bearings: Why cleaning your bearings is a good thing.
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I've been looking online to find out if anybody was writing about why and when to clean your bearings. Honestly, there was not much out there. Loads of articles and video's on HOW to clean your bearings, but only a line here and there on WHY or WHEN to clean your bearings.
So I decided I would try to write something.
I never really liked cleaning my house - especially not the bathroom. It takes time and energy that I could better spend riding my skates and playing derby. But when it comes to skate bearings, you have to clean them. More importantly, you need to clean and maintain them correctly. You can squirt some Glorix in the toilet bowl, but its a lot better to actually clean it properly. Same goes for bearings.
The first fundamental reason behind cleaning your bearings is friction. Friction is caused by the internal motion of the balls, this friction causes heat and that makes the oil dissipate. So bearings need oil to minimize the damaging effects of this friction. But this oil also makes dirt stick to it.
Most skate environments are dirty with dust, hairs and other stuff bearings don't like. Just normal derby skating will slowly but steadily get that dirt into your bearings. Together with the friction of the balls inside the bearing housing, the dirt tries to ruin the bearings. If next to this, the bearings are also dry, this will make your bearings go bad really fast. And once they went bad, they will never become good again.
Here's the good news. If you regularly clean your bearings, when they become dirty or dry, one set can actually last a seriously long time.
How do you know your bearings are up for a service? Well, there are a few things to look out for.
- They make noise or whine when you are skating, or you can feel resistance when you turn your wheels by hand. Call it 'the Crunchies', where you can almost hear the grains of sand going “Crackle Crackle Crackle”. This is an indication of dirty bearings.
- When the sound is more like metal on metal; like “Shhhhhhh... “ your bearings are probably run dry. A dry bearing might even be hot to the touch after you’ve been skating. This is an indication of too much friction, i.e. your bearings need lube. Keep in mind that a dry bearing will spin longer than a lubed one. So a free spin test is not indicative of how a bearing will perform while you are skating.
- It’s been six months or so since the last time you cleaned them. Your bearings have been lacking some TLC for too long
Since your bearings fit nicely in your wheels, its not completely obvious how to take them apart or what you need to clean. You might think rubbing a napkin around the outside seems logical, but that does not do much, or can even get the dirt further into your bearings. You have to take the bearings out of the wheels and clean them properly with a bearing de-greaser or bearing wash.
After cleaning them, you need to lube them again. Use a bearing oil, or in case of emergency sewing machine oil. Don't ever use WD40 to lube your bearings! WD 40 is not a lubricant, while yes it seems slippery to the touch, it is actually designed to remove water. WD40 has properties that prevent oil and grease from sticking to the surface of the bearing and thus is counter-effective for what you want.
Some bearings require a break-in period after cleaning. This simply means that the oil you put in the bearings takes a bit of time to stick to the whole surface of the races and the full benefit of cleaning may not be noticed until you ride for a half hour or so.
But whether you went with a cheap (but good) bearing, or (almost) broke the bank on a set of Cheezeballs Gouda's, keeping them clean will make them last a long, long time for you to enjoy them.
That's why cleaning your bearings is a good thing.
If you now feel like cleaning your bearings, go here -> Size info & Tech docs