How Are Bearings Made?
First of all, bearings are those 7-8 balls with round rings around them that help connect your wheels to the truck axles.
Their main function is to help your wheels roll fast and smooth every single time.
To see what bearings are made up of, you will need to split them open. There are 7 main components of any bearings:
C-ring: this is the outermost ring that helps in locking the inner shields in place.
Bearing shield: this is basically the dirt or mudguard. It prevents contamination from getting into the balls inside, which can damage their performance.
Outer ring: the metal part that every other part fits into. Bearings’ diameter is usually measured on this outer ring. It’s 22mm universally.
Inner ring: the inner core that directly sits on the axle when you slide your bearing/wheel set up onto it. The inner diameter is measured on this inner ring. Universally, it’s 8 mm.
Steel balls: these are the most important part of the bearings. There are usually 7-8 steel or ceramic balls. Their role is to help the bearings roll along smoothly.
Ball retainer: many call this the Delrin crown. It does shape like a crown. You can also picture it as a roulette table, but smaller. The retainer is meant to hold the balls in place and allows the casing to rotate.
Rubber seal: this rubber seal seals everything all up. It protects the interior from dirt and debris.
Do I Have To Remember All The Parts?
Honestly, no. There are parts that require more attention and care than some other ones. All parts serve an important role, however.
In particular, the 3 components you should keep an eye out for are:
Outer ring: What material is it made up of? How precise is the production?
Inner ring: Similarly, what types of material is it? How is its precision?
Ball retainer: This inner part is also important because it keeps the balls in the right place and makes sure they roll nicely.
What Is The ABEC Rating?
If you have a look around all the bearings available on the market, you’ll often see ABEC in the product description/ What is ABEC anyways?
Well, the group that makes bearings (aka American Bearing Manufacturers Association) sets the standard Annular Bearing Engineering Committee (ABEC) rating.
They set this standard to guide manufacturers who produce bearings to build products or machines that best fit the sizing. It’s not the other way around. This is also to make sure we have a consistent sizing and less conflicting size charts all over the place.
Specifically, the ABEC rating measures the precision of the bearings made. It is measured in odd numbers starting from 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 to over 11. The higher the number, the more precise your bearings are.
For example, an ABEC 7 bearing is milled within 1/10,000” precision – 3 microns. An ABEC 9 bearing, on the other hand, has 1/20,000” precision – less than 1.5 microns.
Simply, the rings, the ball, the retainer and everything else inside are made much closer to the numbers advertised on the box to the microns.
Check this ABEC rating list:
ABEC 1: cheapest, crude, not very accurately made, the steel is of low quality
ABEC 3: cheap, but doesn’t provide a fast and smooth riding experience
ABEC 5: the standard rating for most bearings, can go fast, relatively cheap
ABEC 7: fast, smooth, slightly pricey
ABEC 9+: extremely fast, great for downhills racing
So, the higher you go on the ABEC scale, the more precise and expensive your bearings will be. However, a higher ABEC bearing will give you a much better riding experience overall.
What Type Of Bearing Material Should I Choose?
Many bearings today are made from steel. The exact quality, however, depends on the brand you choose.
Steel, in general, is a good material that can help your wheels roll fast. It’s also quite durable. A good rule of thumb when choosing steel bearings is that the higher the price, the more quality you’ll get out of the product.
Cheap steel bearings may make your wheels screech and vulnerable to dirt and rust. The great thing about steel bearings is that they are very resistant, especially in high-impact situations.
Ceramic bearings are much more expensive than steel bearings. They cost around $70-100. Most of the components, however, are still made out of steel.
The main part that’s made from ceramic is the balls. Ceramic balls don’t expand under high heat. This will help reduce friction tremendously. And with much less friction, your wheels will be able to roll much faster.
Ceramic bearings don’t need as much maintenance as steel bearings. This is because they are rust-free. There is no oxidation happening. You can be sure to have the bearings in good shape for a very long time.
Do I need spacers and washers?
Spacers are the metal cylinders sitting between your bearings and the wheels. They help distribute the weight more evenly and make turns smoother.
For skateboards, it’s a good idea to add some spacers. They will help extend the life of your bearings. However, adding spacers on longboards is generally not a very good idea. Because spacers may prevent your bearings from rolling properly in high-speed situations.
It’s totally optional anyways.
Washers are metal plates that sit between the axle nut and the bearings. It’s a good idea to add washers on both your skateboards and longboards. They will help reduce friction, which makes your wheels roll faster.
Also, having washers on will protect the face of your bearings from damaging over time.
As you can see, choosing the right bearings is not that difficult at all. Because all bearings are made in a universal size, you don’t have to worry about this aspect when buying. You can, however, choose the precision of the bearings based on their ABEC rating. Also, if your old board is now rolling too slow, you may consider getting some new bearings. That’s all we have for today. Thanks for reading!