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About Bearing Seals

This is one area that always seem to create a great deal of confusion and opinions on everyone’s part. The choice of bearing lube has a huge impact on any bearing’s rolling properties. Thinner is better, no doubt. But it requires more attention and maintenance. Some use them and some do not. The trade off is always protection vs friction, but consider the following:

  • Seals do not keep dirt out and lube in. They just slow the process down.
  • Seals and shields seem to guarantee that bearings are seldom cleaned and re-lubed.
  • Metal shields make it virtually impossible to use anything other than a grease in them.
  • Running without either does not result in the dirt build up you might think, here’s why

  • Wet environments complicate things.
  • Power washers are even worse.
  • Plastic caged bearings have one side more exposed than the other (buy an axle mounted shield).
  • Tapered bearings cannot use the same thin lube that ball bearings use. You need more viscosity so it stays in place.

Seal drag is a big deal to most, some more than others. And we see many that, in our opinion go a little too far. We usually make the following point: Suppose you were able to measure the total amount of friction and drag that occurs at the time of your highest corning or acceleration load. What percentage of that total would be due to seal drag? A very small number indeed. The point we're making here is that you need to pay careful attention to the environment the bearing will be running in. For example, race cars typically generate a considerable amount of brake dust. And this stuff is a seriously effective abrasive and can take out any bearing in a very short time.Just some food for thought. So to help things out, here's a little trick on how to "customize" your seals:

We keep a Dremel tool with a well-worn 1/2" barrel sanding drum on it. We use that to remove some of the inner seal lip, and it's quite simple. Simply hold the seal in one hand, and VERY GENTLY run the sanding drum around the inside lip, in an even and smooth fashion. We usually set the speed on the high side, and use a smooth circular motion. You now can take them from where they were, to little or no contact. In the case of double lip seals, we typically remove the inner spring and plateau the inner lip. Needless to say, it's best to practice on old seals.

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