Why you, yes you, should lube your yo-yo bearing

Before we begin, I’d like to note that this is historically one of the most controversial topics in yo-yoing. Take it from @Tvelto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoGKRyksrbM&feature=youtu.be&t=12m34s

I don’t know why this is a controversial opinion, but it totally is. This is my unpopular [yo-yo] opinion that has gotten more hate than any opinion I’ve ever stated … ever. Yo-yo lube, and lubing your bearings, is essential. Bearing runs smoother, bearing runs quieter.

“Oh, my yo-yo is dead smooth!” Yeah, not if you don’t lube it, because that bearing is going to rattle. “Oh, there’s vibe!” Maybe just lube the bearing, make it so it doesn’t sound like a truck? Because steel rubbing on steel is not a smooth thing. Sling stainless steel knives against each other. Is that smooth? Did that feel smooth while you did it? No. Put lube in your bearing. Yo-yo lube.

Now, there are some people who will tell you that no lube is required, and the only thing you ever need to do for bearing maintenance is to clean the bearing.

These people are cough wrong. :wink: However, in the interests of representing “both sides” I will agree that:

  • If for some reason you like a super noisy yo-yo, you actually do want a clean bearing with no lube.

  • If you are going for absolute maximum spin times, you actually do want a clean bearing with no lube. However, absolute spin time measured in 2+ minutes isn’t particularly useful if you’re actively playing with a yo-yo.

  • If you don’t want to mess with anything and your bearing seems OK to you as-is, there’s no reason to go out of your way to do anything at all. If it ain’t broke…

As for me, I massively prefer quiet and smooth, so I personally lube the bearing on every single yo-yo I get, whether the yo-yo is new or not. Why? See for yourself! Compare these videos I made of a bearing before and after lubrication on a relatively new yo-yo with a new bearing, the G2 OC:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXfHI0ip7Rk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqadMHTXfp4

On an older yo-yo (YYF Boss) the difference is far more dramatic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8wu9Pxa5o4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8yMhhUFDJA

Smoother… quieter… what’s not to love? This even works on ceramic bearings – see the before and after.

How to lube your bearing

:mega: We’re talking about unresponsive yo-yos here. If you have a responsive yo-yo that returns on a hand tug, lubrication is way easier – put almost any kind of household 3-in-1 type oil in your bearing and you’re good to go.

Before we begin, some truths:

  • You only need a very, very tiny amount of lubricant on a yo-yo bearing.

  • The lubricant must be thin lube, not thick. If you put thick lube on a yo-yo bearing, you will have a very bad time. I use trumpet valve oil personally, but do make absolutely sure you are using thin lubricant before you begin.

Gotta go with my man @tvelto who has a solid approach to start with. I believe my method is a bit simpler, but this method is highly recommendable, I’ve done this and I can definitely vouch for it as the extra thorough version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLj92t8S5lc

That is:

  • take the bearing off the yo-yo
  • (ideally) remove bearing shields
  • clean it with pure 100% acetone (no additives)
  • put bearing on the teeth of pliers to hold it
  • use compressed air to spin out the bearing and blow out the acetone
  • put a tiny TINY dab of lubricant on the bearing
  • finger flick the bearing to verify it is still spinning smoothly, look for 10+ seconds spin time
  • reinstall bearing, reassemble yo-yo

The Hyperspin™ Lubrication method

Because I am a profoundly lazy man and I like to exert minimum effort for maximum reward, I’ve found that you can remove a fair number of these steps and get equivalent results.

image

All you need to do with my method is unscrew the yo-yo halves:

  • keep the bearing on the yo-yo
  • don’t bother removing the shield
  • don’t bother cleaning the bearing

Now

  1. Put two BIG drops of thin lubricant in the bearing, and flick it with your finger to spread it around inside the bearing. Spin time should now be weak, maybe a few seconds – that means the lubricant is working.

  2. Grab a paper towel and dab the top of the bearing to remove any excess lube. Keep it in hand for the next step.

  3. Use compressed air to spin the bearing on the yo-yo as rapidly as possible – a bunch of excess lubricant will come out as it spins, wipe that away with the paper towel and keep going.

  4. Keep hyperspinning™ the bearing in both directions and wiping away excess lube until you have at least 6 seconds of finger flick spin time; ideally 12+ seconds.

The advantage of this method is that it’s fast and you don’t need to agonize over how much lube you put in (in fact, more is better with this method), but you must be absolutely sure to spin out all excess lube! This also has the benefit of breaking in the bearing, the equivalent of many of hours of play in a few minutes.

It is possible to have cranky bearings that may need more treatment:

  • If the bearing is extra nasty, sometimes I have to repeat this procedure with two more drops of thin lube to push out whatever gunk is in the bearing, but that is rare. This way you don’t have to take it off the yo-yo, though.

  • If the bearing is acting extra weird, I will take it off the yo-yo and soak it thin oil overnight. Then take it out, dab it on a paper towel to remove the excess, and put it on the pliers and use compressed air to spin out excess.

Testing for responsiveness

With the yo-yo disassembled, finger flick bearing spin time should be 12+ seconds, at minimum 6 seconds.

With the yo-yo assembled…

  • throw a hard sleeper
  • pull up strongly on the string
  • make sure the string does not rotate around the bearing when you pull up

Be careful, because any string rotation around the bearing when pulling up strongly after a hard sleeper is generally a bad sign. You want the string to stay straight up (vertical) and not rotate at all, any string rotation is indicative of too much resistance in the bearing, so the bearing is pulling the string around itself. If this happens, you need more HYPERSPIN™ to flush out any excess lube.

Now, armed with this knowledge, go forth and lube that yo-yo bearing! :smiley:

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Thanks for taking the time to write this, there’s a lot of good stuff in here.

However, I’m not so sure that lubing is essential if the only things it improves is smoothness and noise. Those two things aren’t strictly essential.

I’m also not sure if it’s great advice to lube with the shields still on either. It would take far more lube to penetrate into in and would be wasteful. The whole point of shields on bearings is to keep things out of it. I’m thinking that’s pretty similar to me eating an icecream with my mouth tightly shut. I can jam the icecream onto my lips and a little might get in, but that would be messy and not a lot would get in there.

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It can also prevent rust and bearings from locking up over time; this is more likely in humid climates with more ambient water in the air.

That said, I think people who like rough bearings and noisy bearings are a little :crazy_face: myself …

Sure, but then you need to put the shields back on after you’re done. It’s a big pain. And I can prove to you that the lube is easily reaching the inside, try it yourself if you don’t believe me:

  1. Flick the bearing with your finger
  2. Apply two big drops of lube
  3. Flick the bearing with your finger again, notice spin time is dramatically reduced

How is #3 possible, if the lube isn’t working, if the shield is preventing the lubricant from entering the bearing? The shield is more about preventing dust particles and the like from entering – not liquids.

Actually removing the shields is a bigger pain than putting them back on. In reality, once they’re off, there’s really no need to put them back on. In effect, the yoyo shell serves as a shield. It’s much easier to clean and lube w/o them. (opinion)

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I would like to add my submission into the arena. My take is on dry lube and how it increases the spin times when applied correctly, makes them unbelievably smooth, but at the expense of being not always the quietest.

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Just like @jhb8426 said; leave them off. They aren’t absolutely necessary. Some are even sold without shields.

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Too right, dry lube is really good stuff when applied correctly. It really does increase spin time and smoothness. Sure can be pretty loud though, but that doesn’t bother me.

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Yeah, but I’ve dropped bearings on the floor before. I’d prefer to have shields on for that reason. I agree it is protected inside the yo-yo but if you drop it on the dusty floor… not so much? I don’t have strong feelings about it really… mostly it’s simpler and easier not to remove the shields – and ultimately not necessary. Laziness FTW!

That said if I get a bearing that has the shields off, or if your idea of a good time is picking at the bearing shields with a pin, that’s fine too. I find removing bearing shields difficult and frustrating work personally, I’ve ruined a few bearings poking and prodding at them trying to get the shield out.

I’ve added a section to the first post about testing for responsiveness on the string.

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@Tvelto is wearing a fantastic shirt in that video, but that doesn’t make his opinion a fact. :wink:

Cleaning bearings is essential (all bearings, at some point, will need to be cleaned), lubing bearings is optional. That said - Great info on lubing bearings in this post if anyone is interested.

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You may be interested to hear another yo-yo store proprietor’s perspective…

citation

Ever since we (Yotricks) started recommending lube to our customers, the amount of “bad bearing” complaints we have received have dropped by at least 95%. Including lube in many of our packs has dramatically reduced the volume of customer support emails/calls that we receive, and has over all significantly increased customer satisfaction for customers buying their first yoyo.

citation

From a store’s standpoint. The main reason we sell lube is because so many bearings gave out and the customer support we had to deal with was insane. In our case, with fewer workers than a typical yoyo retail store, our time has always been an increasingly more important priority than our sales numbers, and we were spending way too much time with bearings not lasting on customer support. The main difference with our customers and the community is that our customers are constantly playing with a single yoyo and bearing for months rather than the yoyo world where they have many different yoyos and play with and use each individual yoyo less, more delicately and subject the yoyo to fewer environments from our statistical standpoint. Lubing for these masses of yoyoers helps a lot more with longevity than it would for the much fewer in number, more yoyo collection driven community. We know this is the case because of how few customer complaints we get about bearings now, compared to those years we did not recommend lube. The difference is drastic.

If we wanted to diabolically and with no ethics, just maximize our profits we would just answer every single bearing question we get with either saying, “yea that happens to bearings, that is why we sell replacement bearings.” Or slightly more ethical route we would tell them how to clean it. Given the abilities of the typical yoyoing masses handling a multistep detailed process, we believe this would create even more of a customer service nightmare since so many people would mess up the process, then they would give up and buy way more bearings and we would make a ton more money for our store than what we currently do with lube. Replacing bearings would be more expensive for the customer and they would, in the end, spend more money.

We are here because our goal is to help as many people learn how to get the most out of yoyoing as we can, not just to maximize profits and certainly not inefficiently spend all of our time solving the same repetitive problems on customer service. The solve is telling them how to work lube properly since it is an easier process for them to accomplish, it is very effective for our demographic, it is what we personally do, and we save so much time.

So I respectfully disagree, lubricating your yo-yo bearing is indeed essential, unless you:

  • really prefer a noisy bearing :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
  • are shooting for maxtreme spin time
  • just bought a new yo-yo and you don’t want to bother with yo-yo maintenance at all in any form until your yo-yo bearing has a demonstrated issue … which is fair

On the ~400 yo-yos I have, I have found that lubricating the bearing makes the yo-yo spin smoother and quieter, every single time. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the videos in my first post and decide for yourself.

(That said, there are definitely bad bearings out there that can’t be fixed either via cleaning or lubing, or both.)

I’ve had waaaaay more “bad bearings” returned to us that were simply over-lubed than were actually bad.

That statement from the ‘other proprietor’ looks more like an opportunity to upsell lube instead of properly taking care of their customers. Just my 2 cents though.

I was not saying don’t lube your bearing or avoid maintenance. Just saying it’s more of an option than an essential part of yo-yo bearing maintenance.

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I’ve been playing with unresponsive bearing yoyos since 2008. I clean and never lube my bearings. I’ve had zero issues.

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Their official explanation is that their customers play exclusively with one yo-yo for a very long period of time:

The main difference with our customers and the community is that our customers are constantly playing with a single yoyo and bearing for months rather than the yoyo world where they have many different yoyos and play with and use each individual yoyo less, more delicately and subject the yoyo to fewer environments from our statistical standpoint. Lubing for these masses of yoyoers helps a lot more with longevity than it would for the much fewer in number, more yoyo collection driven community. We know this is the case because of how few customer complaints we get about bearings now, compared to those years we did not recommend lube. The difference is drastic.

I’ll agree the risk of lubing is definitely higher because you need so very little of it – versus cleaning where the solvents generally dry in the air naturally, and there’s no way to use “too much” cleaning solution, whereas “too much” lube is gonna be a bad time.

But that’s why I recommend the HYPERSPIN™ method of lubrication where you use compressed air to spin the bearing out until it’s right. And you break in the bearing at the same time with the equivalent of days of play, to boot :ok_hand:

Post a video of how noisy the bearings are, though – or just watch my videos above. I really like quiet and smooth. If you care not for quietness or smoothness, then – assuming you don’t live in a very humid climate – there’s not a ton of risk in doing cleaning-only. Just noise :wink:

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Bearing noise only bothers me if it is a jangly, rattly noise. I don’t mind a soft, high-pitched whine, as long as it isn’t too loud.

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Bearing noise only bothers the people around me. :joy:

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The 3 yo-yos I had out on my counter this morning. All cleaned (not recently, probably a month or so ago), not lubed, and sounding kinda pleasant in my opinion. :man_shrugging:

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I like the sound of the second one best (was that an Edge?). The other two less so. The first and third had a ringing quality that I’d want to muzzle if I could.

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Yeah, I never replace the shields after I take them off.

The yo-yos were a One Drop Parlay, Mowl M+, and Duncan Metal Racer - All of them with clean konkaves (Although they could be knockoff konkaves… or licensed from different manufacturer, I get bearings mixed up).

I like a slight ringing noise in them, I find helps me hear when the spin is slowing. None of them are really loud or grating, and if/when they get there I’ll clean them again. :grinning:

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Speed determination is an interesting subject. I noticed that when Evan Nagao was unboxing the first production model of his Edge Beyond, he remarked that he liked the half-and-half silver/black fade colorway because it helped him see when the yoyo was slowing down.

I guess some players like to hear the speed while others like to see the speed…

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