Ball Bearings

By: Steve Valentino

Over the past five decades, the life of ball bearings has greatly increased. In fact, from its 1973 levels, the life span has improved a hundred times. This is partly due to the use of vacuum-induction-melted, vacuum-arc-remelted (VIM-VAR) AISI M-50 steel and improved oil filtration for angular contact ball bearings. An enhancement in the composition of lubricants that includes advanced EHD oil film thickness between bearing components has improved ball bearing performance and efficiency.

Ball bearings are used in machines and in wheels of vehicles like motorcycles, bikes and skateboards. Most modern wheel bearings last a long time. But, as it is with the principle of wear and tear, it also depends on how much pressure the bearings get from use and how extensive your maintenance activities are. For example, the ball bearings in a high-mileage dirt bike may not last as long in highly maintained vehicles. Cleaning the wheels with high pressure water can also contribute to the damage. Rust and dirt dry up the ball bearings and cause more friction that eventually wears them out.

To ensure that you maximize the life span of the ball bearings, you must be vigilant with maintenance. Most ball bearings were lubricated in the factory. Over time, the bearings lose those lubricants to the elements. Usually, a little grease will do the trick. Other times, a total overhaul is needed to change the bearings. Keep in mind that ball bearings are subjected to large amounts of pressure. Ease their burden by lessening friction. Be generous with the lubricants and always clean your wheels.

Bearings are tough and they give out warning signs before they totally collapse. Watch out for the faint clunking noise and creaking sounds they may make. Feel also for grittiness or lumps when you turn the wheel. If they are not smooth, you will know the ball bearings need lubrication.

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