What an ABEC Rating Tells You About Skateboard Bearings

Skateboard with copy space
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Skateboard bearings often have an ABEC rating that indicates the level of precision and durability. But skaters are often confused about what that means and how to get the best bearings for their board. 

ABEC stands for Annular Bearing Engineers' Committee and is the U.S. method for rating the accuracy and tolerance of bearings. ABEC standards are set by the American Bearing Manufacturers Association.

Rating Needed Depends on Purpose 

Bearings are used for all kinds of things, not just skateboard wheels. The higher an ABEC rating, the more accurate and precise the bearing is. When companies make bearings, sometimes they cheaply slap them together, and sometimes they very carefully design and assemble them with as little space as possible between the parts.

When bearings are used in expensive and important machines, companies spend hundreds of dollars on just one bearing because it has to be perfect.

But skateboards need much less precise bearings. All the slamming and sudden starts and stops a skateboard must take would ruin an expensive, delicate bearing.

How ABEC Ratings Work

ABEC ratings are only odd numbers and start with ABEC 1.

  • ABEC 1 is the most crude, the least precise, the most durable, and the cheapest.
  • ABEC 3 is what most cheap complete skateboards come with, especially skateboards from China. ABEC 3 bearings work for most skateboarding, but won't roll very smoothly or fast.
  • ABEC 5 bearings are the norm in skateboarding. You get a reasonable amount of speed, and at a reasonable cost. 
  • ABEC 7 bearings would be very fast and smooth, but very expensive. Plus, you start to run the risk of needlessly damaging them if you skate hard or aggressively. Note that some inexpensive foreign-made ABEC 7 bearings may not deserve this rating. 
  • ABEC 9 and higher bearings would be ridiculous to use in a skateboard unless you are doing downhill luge-style skating or something else where your goal is to go insanely fast. If you aren't spending a fortune on these bearings, then don't trust that they are, in fact, ABEC 9.

How an ABEC Rating Is Determined

The ABEC rating of a bearing is determined by asking these four questions:

  1. How close is the bore to 8mm in microns (a micron is one millionth of a meter)?
  2. How close is the outer diameter to 22 in microns?
  3. How close is the width to 7mm in microns?
  4. What's the rotating accuracy in microns?

Other Rating Systems for Skateboard Bearings

ABEC isn't the only way to rate skateboard bearings. There are also the International Standards Organization (ISO) system and the German National Standards Organization (DIN) system. This chart can help you compare the three systems:

  • ABEC 1 = ISO 0 (or "normal") = DIN P0
  • ABEC 3 = ISO Class 6 = DIN P6
  • ABEC 5 = ISO Class 5 = DIN P5
  • ABEC 7 = ISO Class 4 = DIN P4
  • ABEC 9 = ISO Class 2 = DIN P2

Not all skateboard bearings use the ABEC, ISO, or DIN rating systems. The manufacturers Rockets, Ballistech Missiles, and Bones Bearings all use their own systems to rate their bearings. Most bearings used in skateboards were never designed with skateboarding in mind. These companies have developed and built their bearings specifically for skateboards.