Roller skate wheel bearings are an important component, which may define the level of fun you can have on your skates. Bearings help your roller skates take swift turns, spin around, and rotate on the wheel axle. Bearings are extremely essential to protect the wheels against metal grinding. Bearings may seem small but certainly, play a tremendous role in defining the speed and smoothness of your skates. Therefore, it is extremely important to choose the best bearings for your skates.
So, how to choose roller skate wheel bearings? Various factors must be considered before selecting a set of bearings for your skates. Before you make a purchase for the bearings, it is important to learn about the ABEC rating, a parameter used for evaluating bearings. You may find that different wheel bearings may have different rating values for ABEC such as ABEC-1, ABEC-9, or ABEC-11. This rating reveals everything about the quality, usability, and durability of the bearings. So, the very first step is to learn about ABEC.
Old, dirty bearings may make loud sounds and roll super slow. Your skates will have two bearings for each wheel. In other words, a pair of quad skates will have nearly a total of 16 bearings. The wheels of inline skates will need twice the number of bearings that those of normal skates. Therefore, a 3-wheel inline skate will need 12 bearings for each. The wheels of inline skates also need spacers in between the bearings. Again, bearings may differ in the type of material for varied skating requirements and skater preferences.
Type of Bearings
Bearings follow the ABEC rating to define their ability within predetermined tolerances. ABEC was named after the Annular Bearing Engineering Committee, who created the scale to indicate precision, efficiency, as well as speed capabilities of the bearings. The higher the rating, the longer the bearings last and the faster you can roll.
ABEC rating provides a strict measure of tolerance [source]. This implies that bearings manufactured within specific tolerances will meet the assigned ABEC rating. Bearings are usually tested on a machine that can spin harder, faster, and longer in comparison to any human being. However, there are other factors as well that may influence the performs of the bearings.
Sometimes, fast skating and heavy use may increase the friction between the axle and wheel, thereby making the bearings heat up. This heating may cause the bearings to expand and detort. Therefore, you need to periodically clean, lubricate, and dry the bearings after every use for proper long-term maintenance. You can find the following two popular types of wheel bearings in the market [source].
These bearings originated in Switzerland, hence the name. These bearings have unique pieces of technology, which helps them offer smooth acceleration to the wheels. Further, these bearings are created using better technology in comparison to standard bearings. The major elements of the bearings include a casing, an inside race, and the outside shield. Any of the bearings that qualify for these technologies are termed as Swiss bearings.
Swiss bearings are primarily rated as Swiss and do not follow ABEC rating. This implies, their technology and durability must comply with the original design of the Swiss bearings. Standard and Swiss bearings may differ in cost significantly. Swiss bearings are slightly more expensive because of superior technology. If you buy Swiss bearings, look for a brand that uses the latest technologies. Focus more on brand and quality while buying Swiss bearings rather than the ABEC ratings.
Currently i am using Bones Super Reds (check price on Amazon) by myself an i am pretty happy with Bones Super Reds. Check our current price on Amazon.
Ceramic bearings are primarily manufactured using a compound known by the name Silicon Nitride. This compound is much lighter and significantly harder than steel and metal counterparts. The ceramic bearings offer almost 80% faster speed over standard bearings. Also, the ceramic bearings self lubricate. These bearings are designed to withstand extreme physical impact and can perform under exceptionally harsh circumstances like lack of lubrication, high temperatures, and in highly corrosive environments.
The ceramic bearings became popular because of their strength, reduced friction, and durability over typical metal ball bearings. Ceramic bearings are built to last forever. Their chemical makeup helps them withstand great impact and harsh temperatures. Standard steel bearing may expand under extreme heat. The continuous spinning of wheels usually creates friction and raises the temperatures causing steel ball bearings to expand and hinder the ability to support smooth glide.
On the other hand, ceramic bearings stay sturdy because of their chemical composition even when the temperatures reach 1320 degrees Celsius. These bearings can survive far longer under great temperatures. You can use standard bearings to get your feet wet in the field of skating. However, ceramic bearings are advisable for long-term use.
Ceramic bearings do not follow the ABEC scale. They are precise, can withstand intense heat, severe wear, and tear, and offer extreme shock resistance. Ceramic bearings may cost slightly higher than standard bearings. With that said, they are worth spending a penny because they can outlive any of the steel bearings. In other words, your ceramic bearings will last forever and never fail. These bearings are best in terms of quality and longevity. They offer a smooth glide on tougher terrain. In quality, longevity, and performance, these bearings are far more superior to steel counterparts.
If you are looking for pretty good ceramic bearings i would my recommendation would be Oldboy (check price on Amazon). Good quality and not very expensive. Check current price on Amazon.
Select Best Bearings for Your Skates
Various parameters play an important role in defining the quality and performance of the roller skate wheels bearings. Here are some tips to help you select the best bearings for your wheels [source]:
- What size do you need? The majority of wheel bearings have a size of 8mm axles. These skate wheel bearings are the standard 608. 7mm or 627 bearings are not so common while sizes such as 688 or Micro are rarely seen. Experts recommend buying a size that fits your axles and wheels.
- Check for the type of material. Bearings that offer the least friction are the best. The type of material plays an important role in defining wheel performance. Most bearings are manufactured using steel alloy to ensure toughness and affordability. Check for coating and components made of titanium, bronze, and ceramic. These components improve the durability, resilience, and performance of the bearings. Ceramic bearings top the charts when it comes to quality, durability, and performance despite the cost.
- Check ratings. Many manufacturers provide ABEC ratings to score their bearings on a scale from 1 to 9. A higher score indicates precisely designed bearings. Some other manufacturers may not follow ABEC ratings and opt for labels that indicate the bearings being tested and approved for skating.
- Look for the number of balls in the bearings. Traditionally, skate bearings have seven balls to offer a balance in acceleration, support top speed, ensure easy glide, and provide long-term durability. You may find bearings with six large balls to generate less friction and support smooth roll. These bearings can sustain continuous high-speed skating for long. There are other bearings with eight small balls to withstand side loads. These bearings work great for aggressive high-speed skating. Select the number of balls according to your specific skating requirements.
- Should the bearings be serviceable or sealed? Serviceable bearings possess removable shields so that you can easily remove the plastic retainers to clean and lubricate your bearings. Most high-end serviceable bearings allow maintenance of optimal roll to extend their life. Sealed bearings feature non-removable shields. They may protect against harmful debris from entering the bearings but do not allow cleaning or maintenance. Therefore, you need to replace these bearings when the performance is compromised.
All these parameters may influence wheel acceleration, roll time, and durability of your skate wheels. Therefore, carefully examine all these features according to your skating requirements before choosing the type of bearings for your skate wheels.
Cleaning Skate Bearings
Regularly cleaning, maintenance and lubrication of your roller skates are essential to preserving their life. Cleaning and lubrication after each use maximize the lifespan, durability, and speed of your skate wheels. Clean bearings roll effortlessly. Further, you should avoid rolling on the sand, water, or humid platforms as moist conditions can hinder the speed and performance of the bearings.
Maintenance of Steel Bearings
The most common skate bearings are made up of steel metal, which is durable and economical. However, skaters may prefer different materials for wheel bearings. Steel bearings do not effectively handle friction between the axle and the wheel. Further, steel may expand after heavy use or fast skating. As a result, steel bearings may heat up and inflate thereby completely ruining their structure and form.
You can make your steel bearings last longer with proper maintenance. You should clean, lubricate, and dry your bearings after each use. Sometimes the frequency of maintenance also depends on the speed and duration of skating. Skaters who do not skate often may get away with less frequent maintenance. However, you should stick to regular maintenance for longest-lasting bearings.
Maintenance of Ceramic Bearings
Ceramic bearings are typically ideal for skaters who prefer low-maintenance bearings or skate frequently. The ceramic bearings encounter less friction in comparison to steel bearings. Further, these bearings do not require frequent lubrication and do not react to heat.
Guide to Cleaning Roller Skate Bearings
Whether you are a pro, a seasoned roller, or a novice in the world of skating; you should remember to regularly check and periodically clean your wheel bearings. Regular cleaning is not as difficult and helps your skate bearings last long. All you need is a little focus and commitment to regular maintenance. Here are some steps on how to clean your roller skate wheels bearings.
- First and foremost, you need to remove the bearings from your skate wheels. Gather the right tools before you do so because a hammer and chisel may ruin your bearings. Stay attentive not to damage the outer shield else the bearings may not move properly post-cleaning. Use specially designed bearing removal tools for this step. Press the button located on top before you place the tool over the center of the bearings. Gently release the button. Now, carefully pull the bearing out of the skate wheel.
- Once you take the bearings out of the wheels, you should put them in a plastic jug or a glass jar. You can use various bearing cleaners from popular brands for cleaning your skate wheel bearings. For this, you simply need to pour enough quantity of the bearing cleaner into the container so that all the bearings are completely submerged in the chemical. You should wait and let the bearings soak and sit in the chemical overnight. The submersion will break down all the grime and dirt inside the bearings.
- The next morning, secure the lid and shake the container with the bearings and chemicals for a few minutes to get the dirt out. Now, you can drain out the dirty chemical from the jug. Pour in fresh chemical to cover the bearings once more, as done previously. Again, let the bearings sit in the chemical for several minutes. Shake well for another few minutes. You should keep repeating the process several times until you notice that the solvent remains mostly clear. A clear solvent indicates clean bearings.
- Submerge the bearings in the solvent for a final time and drain the content. Place the bearings on a piece of clean cloth or towel. Gently wipe down and dry all bearings. Alternatively, you can blow the bearings with canned air or use an air compressor to get them completely cleaned.
- Once the bearings are dry, take a good bearing oil and pour a few drops on the bearings. Let the oil sit on the bearings for a few minutes. After a while, take the bearings in between your fingers and gently spin so that the oil evenly distributes to each ball inside the bearings.
- Finally, it is time to reinstall the bearings back on the wheel axles. You should be extra careful in this step to avoid damaging the bearings while reinstalling them onto the skate wheels.
You may need to clean up your bearings once every 2-3 months depending on your skating preferences and environment. If you skate on a surface several times a month that is not cleaned often, you should clean up your bearings once a month. You may compromise your performance as a skater if you neglect your equipment and do not maintain your skate wheels bearings. You just need to take out some time for the maintenance.
I am new to skating. How many bearings shall I purchase for my skate wheels?
You require two bearings per skating wheel. Considering you are a beginner, if you are using quad skates, you should purchase 16 bearings for each skate. Four-wheeled inline skates also require 16 bearings. Five-wheeled inline skates need 20 bearings in total for each wheel.
How do bearings support skating performance?
Bearings help the skating wheels move freely and glide smoothly. Generally, bearings from most manufacturers are rated according to the ABEC score. A higher rating implies better bearing in terms of quality and performance. Beginners may prefer standard skate wheel bearings with proper rating. However, professional or competitive skaters opt for ceramic or other non-standard skate wheel bearings.
What is ABEC? How does it relate to wheel bearings?
ABEC is an acronym that stands for Annular Bearing Engineers’ Committee, which determines the ratings for the bearing. The ABEC provides a rating system that includes grades such as 1,3,5,7, or 9. These numbers indicate the rollability of the skate wheel bearings. A higher number implies better spin and longer glide.
How shall I determine the size of the bearings that my wheels require?
can determine the size of the bearings that your wheels require in
three easy ways:
1. Check the stamping on the shield of existing skate bearings of your skates. Most skate bearings are stamped with 608. This stamping indicates the size of 8mm. A stamp of 627 means that you require a 7mm wheel bearing.
Check the size of your wheel nut. If the size of the nut is 9/32″,
you require a 7mm wheel bearing. Similarly, a nut size of 5/16″
indicates a wheel bearings size of 8mm.
3. Find a number 2 pencil with an eraser attached to one end. Gently slide the bearings onto the pencil. In case, the bearings are too big to fit, you require a size of 7mm. However, if the pencil smoothly slides through the center, you require 8mm wheel bearings.
I am greatly confused with the 7mm or 8mm size parameters? Kindly explain.
A value of 7 or 8mm represents the inner diameter of your skate wheels bearings as well as the size of the wheel axle they will fit on. In most cases, the new skates have a wheel axle of 8mm. They require standard 8mm skate wheel bearings. However, some older models or high-end skates may use 7mm axles and therefore require 7mm skate wheel bearings.
How frequently shall I lubricate and clean my skate wheels bearings?
Ideally, you should clean and lubricate your bearings after every use. However, taking out the bearings off the skates and cleaning them requires time and patience. If you want to avoid the dirty, time-consuming task.; you can check your skates before starting the drill. For this, flip your skates to spin the wheels and check if your bearings require immediate cleaning. Look for how freely the wheels spin and check for any engrossing noises. If you figure out any crunching or grinding, there may be dirt or debris inside and you need to clean your bearings right away. Chirping or squeaking noises indicate that your bearings require lubrication.
How can I lubricate and clean my skate wheel bearings?
Lubrication and cleaning are two different steps. You can find both bearing lubricators and cleaners in the market. Lubrication must always follow cleaning. If you lubricate your bearings without cleaning them first, they may dirt and debris, making them really hard to clean. These particles may eventually destroy the bearings. Further, do not use any strong chemicals not recommended specifically for cleaning the bearings. These industry chemicals, which are not suitable for bearings may leave a film that collects dirt, dust, and debris. Always clean your bearings with recommended cleaners only.
For cleaning, spray the cleaner on the bearings and use newspapers to place them. Repeat applying the cleaner until no more dirt is observed. Do not use water to rinse off the cleaner. Let the bearings get dry in the air before you proceed to lubricating. For lubrication, apply the lubricant to the bearings once they are cleaned correctly. You can look for recommended lubricators for good brands. Remember, the heavier the lubricant, the longer it lasts. So, you do not have to repeatedly clean and lube the bearings.
How can I make sure that my bearings perform like new every time and make them last longer? Here are some precautions to take while skating to ensure your bearings last longer and stay new for long:
- Keep your skates away from water, which serves as a skate bearing kryptonite. Frequent exposure to water may dilute the lubricant in the bearings eventually causing the bearings to rust. Rusted bearings neither move fast nor offer smooth glide.
- Maintain distance from the grass. As a beginner, you may find it difficult to stop and you may skate over the grass. This learning technique is supportive but it may not serve any good to your skate bearings. The grass is often filled with crud and dirt. These particles may get into the bearings, clog them up and cause eventual seizing.
Can I replace my skate wheels bearings without any special tools?
You certainly can, by the following simple instructions:
- Use the tip of your screwdriver to remove the bearings. For this, place the screwdriver’s tip in the center hole. Gently pry and move it around the circumference of the wheel axle until the bearings pop out.
- You can use the opposite end of your screwdriver to insert the bearings back into the skate wheels. For this, press the center of the bearing. Do not ever press the sides of the bearings, as this may bend and damage them.
What are the different sizes for roller skate wheels bearings? What are they used for?
The most common bearings are the 8mm 608 bearings, which are commonly used for quad skates or inline skate wheels. The 7mm 627 bearings are used for speed, recreational, and artistic quad skate wheels. 8mm 688 and 8mm 698 bearings are extra light and used in the fitness or speed skate wheels.