What an ABEC Rating Tells You About Skateboard Bearings

Lucky ABEC bearings
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Skateboard bearings often have an ABEC rating, and skaters are often confused about what that means.

What Is the ABEC Rating System?

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

So what does that mean? Well, 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 are very carefully designed and assembled so that there is as little space as possible between the parts. When bearings are used in expensive and important machines, companies will spend hundreds of dollars on just one bearing -- it has to be perfect!

But for skateboarding, we use much less precise bearings. This is because they are cheaper and with all the slamming and sudden starts and stops, a really expensive, delicate bearing would get ruined.

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 will 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. However, there are lots of people who argue that the skateboarding industry is lying, and that most ABEC 5 skateboard bearings you see aren't actually built to ABEC 5 standards...
  • 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. Also, if you are buying cheap ABEC 7 bearings made in China, you are probably being lied to (read The Truth about Skateboard Bearings.
  • 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 Is an ABEC Rating 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, by the way. There is also the International Standards Organization (ISO) system and the [German National Standards Organization (DIN) system. Here is a chart to help you compare:

  • 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

It's important to mention that not all skateboard bearings use the ABEC rating system. Rockets, Ballistech Missiles and Bones Bearings all use their own systems to rate their bearings.

This might seem fishy, but it's actually a very good thing. Most bearings used in skateboards were never designed with skateboarding in mind. These companies have developed and built their bearings specifically for skateboards, and they get a lot of respect in the skateboard community for that reason.