It can be quite difficult to figure out how to clean your bearings if you've never done it before. Here's a simple guide to help you get started.
What do I need?
The first thing you need (besides dirty bearings) is to choose the product you want to use. When it comes to cleaning, water immediately comes to mind. However, this can cause your bearings to rust pretty quickly, so generally stay away from water. However, there are a few options that are easy to come by. Many people use acetone to clean skateboard bearings, as found in nail polish remover, or they use rubbing alcohol with over 90%.
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The first step is to open the seals:
There are two types of seals you may encounter. Rubber gaskets and metal shields.
In both cases, you can easily remove the gasket with a small screwdriver.
Slide the end of the pin, or whatever you are using, around the edge of the gasket until it slides under the gasket and you can lift the top off. Once the seal is removed, you should be able to see small balls inside the bearing.
One thing to mention is that if you have metal covers, they are held in place by a retaining ring, so be careful when you find the edge of the seal.
Next, clean the bearings:
Take your cleaner and fill a bowl (depending on the size of your bearings) with enough to completely submerge each bearing. Lay your bearings flat with the balls facing down and let them sit for a few minutes.
After you've soaked them for a while, take a bearing and tap it against the bottom of the bowl, again with the surface facing down. This will remove any sand or dirt that may have gotten into the bearing. Repeat this process with all bearings. If you think there is still some sand in the bearing, you can hold it between your thumb and forefinger and turn it with your other hand.
Dry the bearings:
When you are satisfied with the bearings, remove them from the cleaning solution, place them on a towel or cloth, and let them dry with the balls facing down.
Clean the seals:
While the bearings are drying, you will need to clean the seals that you removed at the beginning. This is much easier because you can just rinse them in the solution until they are clean. Then let them dry along with the bearings.
Lubricate the bearings (re-grease):
Once the bearings are completely dry, the next step is to apply lubricant. You will need to apply enough to coat all the balls, but not so much that it is too dense in the bearing. Take the lubricant on the end of your finger and rub it into the bearing. Make sure you can feel the balls in the bearing and that they are completely covered.
Replace the seals:
Now that the bearings are cleaned and greased, you can put the clean seals back on. They should just snap back into place. Rub a little lubricant on the seal and around the metal parts to prevent rust.
You now have a clean set of bearings.
If you want to reuse the solution you used to clean the bearings, you will first need to strain it to remove the sand. To do this, you will need a clear bowl to strain the solution into so you can see if it is clear.
Place a piece of filter paper (or a coffee filter) over the top of the bowl and pour the solution over it.
Once it is clean, you can pour it back into the bottle and use it again.
These instructions can be applied to many types of bearings, but were written with smaller bearings in mind, such as skateboard bearings.
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