Roller skates take a lot of abuse therefore proper maintenance is crucial for their longevity and performance. One if the key area that I like to focus my attention are the wheel bearings. Skate bearings are constantly under stress and are prone to wear and tear. However, we can prolong the life and even revive the performance with just a few minutes of elbow grease.
I hate the feeling of gritty wheel bearings and I try and clean my skate bearings every 6 months or so.
I usually do this with Isopropyl Alcohol, also known as Rubbing Alcohol (Please don’t use Whisky :P). Also, you will be needing skate bearing lubricant or grease to relube the bearings.
Cleaning Skate bearing with Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol, isopropyl alcohol to be exact is one of the most underrated cleaners. Rubbing alcohol was invented in the 1920s and few years after this, chemists realise that it has unique properties to be used as a household cleaner.
Rubbing alcohol is extremely toxic and manufacturers also add foul tasting ingredients to it to discourage anyone to drink it.
Rubbing alcohol is a great cleaner and degreaser. Therefore, it’s perfect for cleaning mucked up roller skate bearings. Here’s how you do it-
Remove the bearings from the wheel-
First, take out all the wheels from the skate. I am guessing that you already know how to do this.
Now, you need to take out bearings from each wheel one by one. For this, you can use a skate bearing puller tool. This bearing should make this process quite easy and quick. However, don’t worry if you don’t have the tool.
You can pry out the wheel bearings by using the skate axle itself as a lever to pull out the bearings. There are two bearings in a skate wheel, inside and outside. Start by pulling out the inside bearing. Insert it on the axle and twist the wheel side to side. The bearing should pop out easily. If it doesn’t then keep changing leverage angle and move the wheel side to side from different points. Watch this video for reference-
Disassemble the bearings
Now you need to open up the bearings so that you can access the balls inside the bearings. The gritty feeling when you rotate the wheel is caused by dirt collecting between the bearing balls.
To disassemble, you need to pry out the seals on the bearing. You can use a small screwdriver, paperclip or a dental pick to remove the bearing seals. These seals are usually black or red. After removing the cap, you should see metal bearing balls.
Cleaning and Degreasing the skate bearings
Now is the time to use rubbing alcohol. Take a container with a lid that can take up all the bearings.
Put all the bearing in the container and fill it up with rubbing alcohol. Let the bearings soak in alcohol for 10 minutes. Then pick up the containers and give it a shake. All the muck should have cleaned by now. If the solution has become too dirty, then it’s a good idea to repeat the shaking process in fresh solution.
Now, lay a rag or some paper towels on the floor and take out bearings from the solution a lay then here to dry out. Alcohol dries up quickly so this should take around 15 minutes.
Lube the bearings
Now, the bearings are dry and require re-lubing. You can do this by using a good lubricant dedicated for skate wheels. Don’t cut corners here and think of using engine oil, hair oil, or WD-40. The oil might feel alright for a few days but then it will start collecting dirt quickly.
If you really don’t want to buy skate bearing lube, then you can use lightweight gun oil.
Apply two-three drops of lube in each bearing and reseal it back.
Reassemble everything in reverse order
That’s it. Your wheel bearings are now cleaned and lubed up. Now press them back into the wheels. Put them on the skates and ride it for few minutes so that lube spreads around evenly in the bearing.
Note: If you don’t have access to Rubbing Alcohol, You can also use Diesel, Kerosene or Motorcycle chain cleaner for cleaning the bearings.