If you are in the market for new bearings you might be wondering which is better: steel bearings or ceramic skateboard bearings? Both perform great but there are some things you should know before you decide to make your purchase.
Bearings are an important part of any skateboard set-up and getting the right set is imperative to ensure a smooth and fast ride. The two types of skateboard bearings are steel and ceramic which refer to the material that the balls inside the bearing are made of.
Another big difference between steel and ceramic skateboard bearings is the price. Ceramic bearings are much more expensive than steel bearings. There are a lot of bearing manufacturers out there selling low grade bearings so it pays to understand how bearings work and know how to choose a good quality product.
Should You Be Concerned About ABEC Ratings?
Bearings are measured on the scale ABEC which stands for Annular Bearing Engineers Committee and comes in grades 1,3,5,7 and 9. The higher the rating, the tighter the tolerances are which make the bearing a more precision part.
High precision and small tolerances are required for bearings that run at an extremely high RPM such as in certain tools that spin at 30,000 RPM. An ABEC bearing rating of 7 or 9 is more appropriate for tools that have a high RPM. A skateboard wheel will rarely spin at 4700 RPM and ninety percent of the time it spins less than 2000 RPM. This means a high precision bearing rating of 7 or 9 for a skateboard bearing is not required.
So to make a long story short, bearings in a skateboard wheel will never spin as fast as a bearing in an engine or power tool, hence the ABEC rating doesn’t apply to skateboard bearings.
Steel Versus Ceramic Skateboard Bearings
Steel bearings are the most commonly used in skateboarding and are considered the industry standard. The quality of steel can vary considerably from brand to brand. Higher grade steel bearings will be faster and more durable. The only downside to steel ball bearings is that when they are exposed to moisture or water they will rust. But if you keep them dry and occasionally lubed, they will last a very long time.
Pros Of Steel Skateboard Bearings
- The Price: steel bearings are the most affordable option and you can purchase a good quality set such as Bones Reds for $20 or Bones Super Reds for $30.
- Durability: a good set of steel bearings like the ones mentioned above will last a long time if they are well looked after. If they stay dry and relatively clean, they will perform as they should. Especially if you add a small amount of lubricant occasionally.
Cons Of Steel Bearings
- Steel bearings will rust if they are exposed to water or moisture.
- Some bearings are made from low grade steel and do not perform well.
Good Quality Steel Skateboard Bearings Worth Buying
Ceramic skateboard bearings have ceramic balls which are lighter and more durable than steel. They are heat resistant and create less friction at higher speeds compared to steel bearings. In addition, ceramic bearings have a self cleaning mechanism that knocks dirt off the steel races as they rotate.
Another positive aspect to ceramic bearings is that they don’t rust. However, this doesn’t mean you should go riding with them in the rain because other components of the bearing are still made of steel.
There is a downside to ceramic bearings though and that is they are susceptible to breaking under high impact. For example, there is a possibility of the balls shattering when skating big gaps or stairs, although you would need to be jumping off something really high for this to happen.
Pros Of Ceramic Bearings
- Speed: ceramic bearings are fast and smooth.
- The density of ceramic is 40% the density of steel. This difference drastically reduces the centrifugal force in the bearing and subdues heat generation between balls and outer race.
- Durability: they are self cleaning and don’t rust so they will last a long time.
Cons Of Ceramic Bearings
- Price: ceramic bearings are extremely expensive ranging between $70-$200.
- They can break from high impact such as big gaps and stairs.
Popular Ceramic Skateboard Bearings
Should I Use Skateboard Bearing Spacers?
A bearing spacer is a small steel tube that keeps the inner race of your bearings aligned on the axle. There is an ongoing debate among skateboarders whether skateboard bearing spacers are a necessity. Most skateboarders tend to go without using them but don’t have a compelling reason why.
The outer races of the bearing are kept apart by the inside of the wheel. Without a bearing spacer for the inner race, you can accidently overtighten them onto the axle which will place unwanted stress on the bearings. This could result in the bearings not performing correctly and could damage them.
If you don’t use bearing spacers, you will need to leave the axle nut loose enough so the wheel can spin freely. Whether you choose to use bearing spacers or not comes down to personal preference.
But, if you want your bearings to last longer then using spacers is recommended.
Do I Need To Use Washers With My Bearings?
Most skateboard trucks come with four washers (two in each side) on the axle. These washers are intended to be used on the outside of each bearing, meaning one goes on the axle first, then you place your wheel with the bearings already installed onto the axle, then put the second washer on the axle followed by the nut.
It is highly recommended that you use these washers because it stops the bearing from fouling on the axle nut and the hanger face.
How Do I know If I Need New Skateboarding Bearings?
If you notice your skateboard is not rolling as far as it once was, or if you are not rolling smoothly anymore, this may be a sign that you need new bearings.
Another way to tell if you need new bearings is to take a look at your bearings for signs of rust. You can also try spinning the wheel and if it sounds crunchy when you spin or if the wheel barely spins at all, then it is time for new bearings.
How To Choose The Right Bearings For You
When buying a set of bearings you need to take into consideration several factors. The first one is what type of skateboarding are you going to be doing? If you plan to jump down large stair sets and gaps, you may want to consider purchasing steel bearings as they will take the impact much better than ceramic bearings.
But, if you are only going to be cruising around the skatepark without attempting any tricks where landing creates heavy impact on your bearings, then ceramic bearings are a perfectly good choice for you.
Something else to consider is the price. Steel bearings are much more affordable than ceramic bearings. In addition, they can last a long time if you take care of them.
But at the end of the day what it really comes down to is your personal preference!
Hopefully this article has cleared up any questions you had about steel and ceramic skateboard bearings. If not we would love to answer your questions in the comments below. Happy Skateboarding!
You Might Also Like:
- 10 Biggest Skateparks In The USA
- What Type Of Grip Tape Should You Get?
- 5 Beginner Skateboard Tricks That Are Easy To Learn
- Best Shoelaces For Skateboarding That Will Outlast The Rest