Words by Nick Li - Stoked Team Rider
Have you ever wondered why you can't tighten your truck axle nuts all the way down without making your wheels unable to spin?
Ever tried to slide a board and the wheels just won't stop chattering and screeching?
Has your wheel ever popped off your board while sliding?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, it sounds like you need bearing spacers.
The bearing spacer is a very important, but often overlooked part when people set up their completes. This is an especially prevalent issue with new skaters and first-time skateboard purchasers.
These little metal "cylinders" will help your bearings by keeping them parallel in your wheels. This avoids excess side load pressures, fights over-tightening, and prolongs the life of your bearings.
How Bearings Work
Understanding how bearings work is critical to knowing why bearing spacers are needed. The skate bearing has a few main components:
- Outer Race: Outer ring of the bearing that rotates around the inner race. The wheel spins relative to this part of the bearing.
- Inner Race: Inner ring of the bearing that touches the axle and should not rotate with the wheel.
- Balls: Typically seven (sometimes six) balls sit in between the outer and inner race. These balls roll and allow the bearing to spin.
- Seal / Shield: These are used to keep dirt, debris, and liquid out of the bearing races
- Crown / Cage: This is used to position the ball bearings evenly within the races. This prevents contact between the balls and ensures even load distribution across all balls. Also sometimes called the bearing retainer.
Below is a picture of half of a wheel, you can see the core inside, and the space where each of the wheels' bearings sit. The narrower center channel is where the spacer would be, between the two bearings' inner races:
Why Bearing Spacers are Important
Bearing spacers sit within the wheel on the axle between the two bearings.
This makes sure the inner races of the bearing are properly lined up. When these are aligned correctly, the balls and outer races also align.
With the wheel rotating, this alignment is critical to avoid unwanted friction.
When you have the spacer and two bearings aligned on the axle, the tightening force from screwing on your axle nuts is transferred through the bearings and spacer.
With properly sized spacers, this will align the bearings perfectly on the axle, creating the fastest spin with minimal friction.
Common Problems Without Spacers
Riding a skateboard without spacers comes with a bunch of problems. If you experience any of these while riding, be sure to make sure spacers are installed.
- Chattery wheels: When your wheel has side to side play from not being tightened down all the way, when you're sliding your board, the wheels will jump around from side-to-side mid-slide, causing unpredictability, noise, and extra vibration which can also shake the rider off - no fun
- Loud bearings: With side-to-side play, the inner races of the skate bearings are subjected to increased pressure which can cause more serious problems, like bearings exploding
- Bearing explosions: This is when your bearing fails and falls apart, generally due to excess side loads when sliding. This will generally result in your wheel flying off of your board, and a bad time. Spacers go a long way for helping with this issue.
- Less-than-optimal roll: The bearing spacers really help to keep your bearings spinning parallel within the wheel, without, your bearings might possibly be rolling slightly skewed and fighting each other consequently no giving you the best roll speed you could attain otherwise.
Built-In Style Bearings
Some companies make things easy and include half-spacers built into each bearing as well as speed rings. This means you don't have to deal with any extra loose parts.
If you have a set of built-in style bearings, you don't need to deal with normal bearing spacers or speed rings as everything is included already. Some examples of built-in style bearings are: Bones Race Reds and Zealous Bearings.
The built-in style of bearing not only helps your wheels spin efficiently and true, but it makes changing wheels faster and easier in comparison to the standard bearing/spacer configuration.
The only downside to built-in style bearings is that they will only work with wheels designed to accommodate them. Currently this is almost exclusively skateboard wheels. Roller skaters, scooter kids, and rollerbladers will have to look elsewhere.
Check out our selection of bearing spacers for bigger, smoother slides, and faster roll speeds!!
Anything we missed? Let us know on our contact page or comment below.