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Fixing a barbell sleeve is necessary if your barbell stops spinning as fast as it used to or worse, one of the sleeves breaks. There are many steps involved in repairing a barbell sleeve, but it only takes a few minutes.
So how do you fix a barbell sleeve? Fixing a barbell sleeve requires snap ring pliers, a lubricant, an old rag, and safety goggles. You’ll need to remove the outer snap ring, endcap, and all of the internal hardware to remove the sleeve. You’ll then have to clean the shaft and the ends of the sleeve and relubricate the shaft before replacing the sleeve.
Training with a barbell that doesn’t have a good amount of spin is frustrating, especially for Olympic weightlifters. Trying to do heavy lifts with a barbell with damaged sleeves is also unsafe, which is why it’s important to take good care of your barbell.
In this article, I’ll discuss:
- Common issues you may experience with your barbell sleeves
- Whether or not you need to replace a barbell sleeve
- Reasons why you may want to replace the entire barbell instead
- How to replace a barbell sleeve if you don’t want to get a new barbell
In the market for a new women’s barbell? Check out my 10 Best Women’s Weightlifting Bars.
Table of Contents
Issues That Can Happen With A Barbell Sleeve
If you don’t clean your barbell regularly, don’t store it properly, or drop it a certain way, the following issues can occur with the barbell sleeves:
- Reduction in spin
- Broken parts
- Scratches and rust
1. Reduction in Spin
Dust from chalk or dirt can collect in the bushings or bearings of a barbell. The barbell’s lubricant can also dry up over time, causing it to spin more slowly and not as smoothly.
You may not notice a difference in the barbell’s performance if you’re a casual lifter, but it can definitely affect your training if you’re a competitive weightlifter or powerlifter.
It should also be noted that using the wrong kind of lubricant can also affect the bar’s spin. Many people recommend using WD40, but it’s not actually a lubricant. All it does is displace water.
WD40 can, however, be used to clean rust off a barbell. But for lubrication, 3-in-1 oil, mineral oil, Tri-flow lubricant, or Teflon grease are better options for improving your barbell’s spin. Many barbell manufacturers also sell barbell maintenance kits with their preferred type of lubricant.
2. Broken Parts
Dropping an empty barbell on concrete, dropping it from overhead with iron plates on it, dropping it at an uneven angle, or dropping it from too high of a height on safety spins in a squat rack can cause the sleeves to break off.
Because a barbell also has small pieces such as snap rings, washers, and ball bearings (depending on the type of barbell you have), they can break apart inside the sleeves.
Furthermore, a barbell’s sleeves can break if the bar is loaded beyond its weight capacity, but this is rare and shouldn’t happen if you use a high-quality barbell.
Sometimes, manufacturers’ defects can also cause the sleeves to separate from the shaft. But if you can prove that the damage was due to faulty craftsmanship, you should be able to get a replacement barbell at no additional cost.
3. Scratches and Rust
Scratches on the sleeves usually occur from friction of the metal inserts on your plates. Although these issues are largely cosmetic, it’s not something you should have to worry about when you’re spending several hundred dollars on a barbell.
And while the sleeves aren’t as likely to rust as the shaft of the barbell, it can happen. This is especially true if you leave your barbell outside, live in a humid or coastal climate, or get your barbell wet and don’t dry it off.
Rust is more than cosmetic. If it’s not removed, it can weaken the sleeves of your barbell over time and make it unusable. It would also be annoying if flecks of rust get trapped on the inserts of your plates and you have to clean the inserts on each plate after every workout.
Not sure how to store your barbell? Check out my article Barbell Storage Ideas: 4 Ways to Properly Store Barbells.
Do You Need To Replace A Barbell Sleeve?
Unless your barbell sleeve has a significant amount of rust on it, is broken, starts making a lot of noise, or has absolutely no spin even after you’ve lubricated it, you shouldn’t have to replace it.
I spoke to an employee at Rogue Fitness about the circumstances surrounding replacing a barbell sleeve. He told me that it’s very rare for just a sleeve to have to be replaced. A damaged sleeve or one that pops off the barbell easily is usually a sign of poor construction.
And in most cases, as I’ll discuss below, you’d likely want to replace the whole barbell instead of just the sleeves if it’s that badly damaged.
To reduce the likelihood of having to replace the sleeves or the barbell itself, you should take care of it regularly. While you should wipe the chalk and sweat off of it after each use, how often you need to clean and lubricate the sleeves depends on how often you use it.
A barbell that’s used in a home gym isn’t subjected to the same kind of abuse as a barbell that’s used in a commercial gym setting.
If you only use your barbell at home, you only need to take off the sleeves and clean them once every six months. But if you own or manage a commercial gym, you should remove and clean the barbell sleeves monthly since they take more of a beating.
I outline the steps for removing the sleeves and cleaning them further down in this article.
The Rogue Bella Barbell 2.0 is an excellent, durable, multi-purpose barbell for women. Check out my full review in the article Rogue Bella Barbell 2.0 (Tested With 100+ Workouts).
Rather Than Replacing The Sleeve, Replace The Barbell
Some barbell manufacturers sell replacement barbell sleeves. But if the sleeves completely pop off the barbell, you’re better off just replacing the entire barbell. The shaft may have also bent, or you may not be able to easily see any other structural damage that could have occurred. It would be safer for you to get a new bar.
Getting a new barbell also ensures that you won’t cause additional damage if you make a mistake in replacing the sleeve. And even though the sleeves are cheaper than an entire barbell, that’s still money that you could put towards a brand new bar instead.
Fortunately, almost all manufacturers offer warranties on their barbells. If you can prove that the damage to the sleeves was due to poor construction, you can get the bar replaced without having to pay anything extra. However, if the manufacturer has any reason to believe that the damage occurred because of something you did wrong, the warranty may be voided.
The length of the warranty varies by manufacturer. Some warranties only last 30 days while others last up to 5 years. Reputable companies like Rogue offer lifetime warranties on most of their barbells, which is beneficial if you know you’ll put your barbell through a lot.
Lifetime warranties are also reassuring because if a company is willing to stand behind their products for as long as you own them, it’s a testament to how well-made they are.
This is why I recommend buying a barbell with a lifetime warranty. You may not ever have to use it, but it’s nice to know that you won’t have to shell out several hundred dollars if you do have an issue with your barbell.
If you’re looking for a new men’s barbell to add to your home gym, check out my review of the Rogue Pyrros Barbell.
Upgrading Your Barbell Sleeve
Even though it’s usually better to replace your barbell entirely if you have issues with the sleeves, there are times when it makes more sense to just upgrade the barbell sleeve.
For example, if the finish has worn down or gotten scratched and the rest of the bar is fine, you can replace the sleeves. This will not only make your barbell look new but can also improve other issues such as poor spin that may not have been resolved from cleaning and relubricating the bar.
If you do decide to just replace the sleeves, I recommend getting replacement sleeves from the same manufacturer as your barbell. Barbells are somewhat standard in size, but this will ensure that there aren’t any size discrepancies between the bar you already own and the new sleeves you need to add to it.
If you compete in weightlifting and like training with a bar that meets the IWF specifications for barbells, this will also ensure that the sleeves are sized to their standards.
Taking Apart A Barbell Sleeve
Getting a good look at what’s going on inside the sleeves can tell you whether or not you need to replace them. Even though it sounds intimidating, taking apart a barbell sleeve to clean it is easy as long as you have the right tools.
You need to disassemble it to clean it anyway, so there’s no harm in taking it apart every few weeks or every few months. It’s a lengthy process, but it only takes a couple of minutes to remove the sleeves on each side of the bar.
It’s important to note that the steps below only apply to bushing barbells. If you have a barbell with bearings, you shouldn’t attempt to remove and lubricate the sleeves yourself. Most high-end bearing barbells use factory grease that can last for a year or more if you use it in a home gym, and wiping that grease off can affect the barbell’s performance.
Trying to maintain a bearing barbell yourself can also void some manufacturer’s warranties.
What You Need To Take Apart A Barbell Sleeve
- An old rag
- Safety goggles to protect your eyes
How To Do It
- Important: once you start disassembling your barbell sleeve, make sure you set them aside in the order in which you took them off. This will make it easier for you to remember the order with which you need to put the sleeve back together.
- Place your barbell on an elevated surface with one of the sleeves hanging off an edge, if possible.
- Take your snap ring pliers and locate the snap ring on the endcap.
- Covering the endcap with your free hand, remove the outer snap ring with the pliers. Cover the sleeve with your hand again in case the snap ring springs free.
- Set the snap ring aside.
- Tap on the end of the sleeve a few times to get the endcap out.
- With the snap ring pliers, remove the inner snap ring.
- Hold the underside of the sleeve with one hand and place your other hand over the top.
- Push the sleeve away from you to expose the inside of the sleeve and remove the washers. There should be two full washers and two half-moon washers. If your barbell has a shim, remove that as well.
- Hold the shaft of the bar close to the sleeve with one hand and apply pressure to the sleeve with your other hand until it pops off.
- Wipe the shaft of the barbell and the inner ends of the sleeve with a rag.
- Apply the lubricant to the end of the bar and on the shaft where the bushings sit.
- Put the sleeve back on the barbell and spin it a few times to distribute the lubricant. Make sure the shaft sticks out a bit so you can replace all of the internal hardware.
- Put one of the full washers and the two half-moon washers back into place.
- Pull the sleeve towards you so it fully covers the shaft.
- Replace the shim, if your barbell has one, and the other full washer. Use the snap ring pliers to put them back into place.
- With the pliers, put the inner snap ring back into place.
- Replace the endcap, then put the outer snap ring back into place with your pliers.
If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the YouTube video below:
Other Barbell Resources
- 5 Different Types of Deadlift Bars and Their Uses
- 8 Different Types of Squat Bars and Their Uses
- 7 Different Types of Bench Bars and Their Uses
- Deadlift Bar vs Stiff Bar: Are They Really THAT Different?
- BandBell Bamboo Bar (Ultimate Guide)
- 10 Best Budget Barbells (That Are Still High Quality)
Barbell maintenance is necessary in order to keep it clean and allow its sleeves to spin freely and smoothly. Some issues with the sleeves are cosmetic, but others require you to disassemble the sleeves and relubricate the bar.
If your barbell sleeves only have cosmetic damage and the rest of the bar is still in good shape, you may wish to either take apart and clean the ones you already have or just replace the sleeves with new ones. But if there’s a significant amount of rust that won’t come off or your barbell sleeves are visibly damaged, you’ll be better off buying a brand new barbell.
About The Author
Amanda is a writer and editor in the fitness and nutrition industries. Growing up in a family that loved sports, she learned the importance of staying active from a young age. She started CrossFit in 2015, which led to her interest in powerlifting and weightlifting. She's passionate about helping women overcome their fear of lifting weights and teaching them how to fuel their bodies properly. When she's not training in her garage gym or working, you can find her drinking coffee, walking her dog, or indulging in one too many pieces of chocolate.