Posts Tagged ‘white lithium grease’

I’ve been doing the skate thing for a few years, and I’ve been on a constant quest to find the best bearing lube.  It’s basic skateboard maintenance:  cleaning and lubing your bearings once in a while.  I use the standard Bones Bearings recommended method of cleaning…that is, shake the bearings in a bottle/jar/container of 100% acetone, rinse the bearings in at least 91% isopropyl alcohol, blow dry with compressed air, then add 2 drops of your choice in lubricants.

Now, there are a lot of rumors on the internet about which lube is best, or that some lubes are repackaged (and overpriced) versions of generic stuff, so I thought I’d put it to a scientific test.  Using the power of the Internet, and a little elbow grease (ha…grease), I came up with the material safety data sheets for quite a few popular lubes.  For those who don’t know, a MSDS breaks down the chemical makeup of any compound used in an industrial setting…in case of emergencies (like fires or medical accidents), the first responders can quickly identify exactly WTF happened and exactly HTF to fix it.  Without further ado, here’s the breakdown:

Bones Speed Cream:  The grandaddy of ’em all.  Speed Cream is readily available at any skateshop ever, so I’m going to compare most of these to Speed Cream.  Anyway, the makeup is mostly aromatic petroleum distillates and synthetic esters…meaning, naphtha (sort of a liquid wax) and a synthetic lube with a wee bit of jet fuel presumably to add odor.  Fairly generic…meaning that the two main components are seen quite frequently.  It’s good enough, and popular enough that millions of skaters have used it, and currently use it.  There are many, better options for less money in my opinion (a regular ol’ 3-in-1 oil from Menard’s is the same price, but has about 8x the quantity of Speed Cream, and gives similar results).

Skanunu Cleaner/Lube:  Sort of a new product, it’s a cleaner and lube.  It’s got a solvent component that “cleans” then leaves the lube behind.  The surfactant (cleaning component) is alcohol-based.  The lube is fairly unique in that it looks to be some kind of synthetic animal fat…but it’s different than the stuff that Speed Cream uses.  The Cleaner/lube is good in a pinch, but it’s the only lube I’ve ever used that rusted the inner races of the bearing to the truck axles.  Use it on the ramp or at the top of a hill in an emergency situation, but get those bearings properly cleaned and lubed ASAP!

White Lithium Grease:  This seems to be the de-facto cheap alternative on quite a few websites, so I thought I’d include it here.  I found two versions of CRC Aerosol.  Both contain the same ingredients though…The main ingredient (hexane isomers) seems to be a little more hazardous to your health than any other lube.  But apart from that, spray WLG has naphthenic petroleum distillates, similar to Bones Speed Cream, and a couple additives to make it spray out.  Cheap bearings have often come with grease packed into them.  It’ll stick around for a long time and is relatively idiot-proof, but it takes a long time to spin out and become as fast as they can be.  For longevity or riding through inclement conditions (puddles, mud, dirt), grease can’t be beat, but all other things equal, I’ve often felt that greases in general are just a touch more sluggish than oil.

Hoppe’s 9 Gun Oil:  The stuff that’s in your dad’s/grandpa’s/uncle’s gun cleaning kits.  At one point, this stuff was a favorite of the Sector9 team, and other OG downhill junkies.  It’s very versatile for anything…I put a thin layer on kingpins and truck axles just to keep ’em fresh.  But, it’s also very universal as there’s only one ingredient:  White mineral oil.  Compared to Speed Cream, I find that Hoppe’s sticks longer…but Speed Cream spins the excess lube out and “breaks in” faster.  It’s good, it’s cheap, it’s easy to come by, but care should be taken since this is just a pure oil (no additives) to clean and re-lube once every few months.

Phil Wood Grease:   A staple of any bike mechanic!  It’s really thick, so it’s best applied with the tip of a toothpick so you can really mash the grease into the bearing balls.  As far as lubrication goes, it’s similar to WLG and Speed Cream with paraffinic distillates.  But, Phil Wood has a waterproofing and rustproofing additive.  Similar to WLG, it’s thick and will keep moisture and dirt out.  Phil Wood spins out and breaks in better than WLG, but it’s still a grease that’ll make your bearings more sluggish than just plain oil.  It’s really up to you, the rider, if the thickness and protection of a grease is worth it.  The only way I could write this article is because I’ve tried most of these things, get out and experiment for yourself!

Singer Sewing Machine Oil:  Supposedly, according to many internet rumors, Speed Cream is just repackaged sewing machine oil.  It’s got a similar makeup, but Singer sewing machine oil is more similar to WLG than Speed Cream, just due to the proportions of the ingredients.  Speed Cream has more paraffin than Singer, but Singer has more naphthenic hydrocarbons.  This is the only lube on this page that I haven’t tried, I just threw it in as a comparison to Speed Cream.

RemOil:  Another gun oil.  This stuff is identical (on the MSDS) to the liquid component of CRC White Lithium Grease, but Remoil isn’t aerosol, so there’s no propellants.  It’s a bit thinner than Hoppe’s, and this dries out quicker, so it requires monthly cleaning and reapplication.

Lubriplate Aero:  Some of my favorite stuff to use!  Seriously, it’s so silky smooth.  But, it’s thick, so just like Phil Wood, you’ve gotta work it into the bearing with a toothpick or something.  Lubriplate Aero has white mineral oil as its main component, followed by animal fats, and some zinc, to build up just a little and fill in the microscopic scratches in the bearing surfaces.  So, it’s the best of Hoppe’s and Speed Cream with a touch of WLG thrown in for good measure (trace amounts of lithium lubricant as well).  The one drawback is that this stuff is incredibly hard to clean.  Shaking in a bottle with acetone doesn’t dissolve Lubriplate Aero, you’ve gotta get some compressed air or brake parts cleaner to physically blast out the grease from the bearings.  Fortunately, I haven’t seen any adverse chemical reactions between the Lubriplate and other lubes, but while the results are good, it’s the hardest on this list to properly clean.

Is your head spinning?  Mine is.