Have you ever...
- Wondered why you can't tighten your truck axle nuts all the way down without making your skate 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 skateboard bearing spacers for your longboard wheels or skateboard wheels.
Dragon Spacers/Speed Rings
- Why it's rad: Precision machined aluminum spacers means these have tight tolerances, exactly what you want in quality bearing spacers.
- Machined: Yes
- Includes Speed Rings: Yes
- Buy at Stoked Buy at Amazon
- Why it's rad: From the top bearing brand in the industry. Only comes with spacers. Stamped steel.
- Machined: No
- Includes Speed Rings: No
- Buy at Amazon
- Why it's rad: Affordable alternative for spacers + speed rings pack. Stamped steel.
- Machined: No
- Includes Speed Rings: Yes
- Buy at Amazon
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 buyers.
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. Ex: Abec rating goes from 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. Abec 7’s & Abec 9’s have 7 balls in them and Bones Reds Swiss Six have 6 which are a high quality bearing along with ceramic bearings which are of the best of the high quality bearings that are out there . Stick to Abec 7’s or Abec 9’s if your a beginner. You can checkout them at your local skate shop or online on our website.
- 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 8mm 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 use spacers, you will 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, Zealous Bearings and Dragon BUILT 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.
Roller and Inline Skate Spacer Types - 6mm, Floating, and 0.285
There are a few common spacers used in inline and roller skates that we should also mention. These are different specs than skateboard spacers and cannot be used interchangeably with the standard skateboard spacers.
6mm Inline Spacers
These spacers effectively convert the 8mm inner diameter on common 608 bearings to a 6mm inner diameter bearing to fit 6mm axles. These are almost always found in inline skates that use two piece axles. This kind of spacer give the best strength and precision to the bearing assembly as it keeps the bearings perfectly paralleled and spaced at all times.
A con to this spacer is the removal process. It can be quite a bit harder to remove these spacers than the other models. However, you can simply buy the tool or there is a trick. Take apart your inline skate. Put one of the new spacers on axle. Use this as a guide and slide the axle into the bearing. This should line up the centers of the two 6mm spacers with each other. Push hard to pop out the bearing from the other side and you've done it!
- Use with: 608 sized bearings
- Axle: 6mm / One or two piece / Slide on or insert
Also known as "Self Centering Spacers", we like to call these the "UFO spacers" because they kinda look like flying saucers. These spacers have a flange around the center that is designed to keep it centered inside the wheel hub for easy axle insertion. This is done so that the two piece axle can be inserted more easily when installing wheels on inline skate frames.
You could technically use these spacers in skateboards because the dimensions are almost exactly the same. However, because skateboard wheels are installed on trucks that do not block the sides of the wheels, the extra flange is not needed to center the spacer. It just adds weight/cost to the part.
- Use with: 608 sized bearings
- Axle: 8mm / Two piece / Insert
The 0.285 Skate Spacers
This is the most rare of the three, but there are some very popular wheels out there that require them (we're looking at you Rollerbones).
0.285 spacers are the same as skateboard spacers, but they are thinner, measuring only 0.285" (7.2mm) instead of 0.405" (10.2mm). This is because the wheel cores on some roller skate wheels are thinner, not allowing for enough room for the wider spacer. This is also to conserve space on the axle skates to track thinner.
- Use with: 608 sized bearings and roller skate wheels
- Axle: 8mm / One piece / Slide on
How Do You Install Spacers?
So glad you asked, we made a video that goes through the whole process using only one tool.
It's important to install bearings and spacers correctly because it is easy to damage the delicate seals on the bearing. Damaging these seals can significantly impact bearing performance. This is because the tolerances are very tight. A seal that is bent can touch the moving ball bearings, causing the entire bearing to have a lot more friction.
Check out this video and leave a comment about your install! We'd love to hear how it went for you.
What are the best bearing spacers?
Stamped bearing spacers are the cheapest and the most common, but we recommend buying machined spacers. Machined spacers are going to have close to the same tolerances as the bearings themselves. This is going to keep everything lined up better than stamped spacers that do not have exacting tolerances.
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.