How to Fix Drawer Runners with Ball Bearings

By Martin Hart on Thu 23 December 2021

Have you ever opened a drawer and wondered, "Why isn't this drawer as smooth as it should be?" If you have, there is a good chance your drawer has a malfunctioning runner. Drawer runners with ball bearings are sturdy and durable, but sometimes they can accumulate dirt or wear out and get sticky. Fortunately, they are often easy to troubleshoot, and fixing them is relatively straightforward. This blog will explain how ball-bearing drawer runners work and how to fix them if they are not operating smoothly.

 

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What Are Ball-Bearing Drawer Runners?

A ball-bearing drawer runner is a metal tube with two parts: a metal cage with small steel balls and a flat, stable plate. The cage is usually attached to the side or bottom of a drawer, and the flat plate is attached to the cabinet wall to hold the drawer. The cage creates a channel that the balls roll along as the drawer opens or closes.

Metal drawer runners with ball-bearings are common in high-end kitchen cabinets and other furniture. They're also available as an upgrade for many basic pull-out drawers. Many ball-bearing drawer runners come with additional features, such as soft-close, self-close, push to open or close, and more.

 

The Benefits of Ball-Bearing Drawer Runners

Drawer runners with ball bearings have several benefits over the standard drawer sliders that come with a plastic or nylon roller on a metal track. They provide smooth, quiet operation for both wood and metal drawers and higher weight capacity. Some full-extension Blum drawer runners can support up to 182 kilograms, making them perfect for industrial cabinets and bulky tool storage drawers.

Ball-bearing drawer runners also last longer. Steel components give them a sturdy build, and ball bearings reduce the wear on drawer components. This reduced wear and tear is especially important for high-use fixtures such as kitchen drawers. Blum movento runners and other ball-bearing runners with a soft-close function extend the life of the drawer by preventing it from slamming into the cabinet.

 

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How To Mount Ball-Bearing Drawer Runners To Drawers

Ball-bearing drawer runners are easy to mount, and anyone with basic mechanical skills can install them. The most challenging part of the installation is drilling the pilot holes for the screws—a task that should take less than 10 minutes if you have a power drill.

 

To Mount Ball-Bearing Drawer Runners To Drawers:

1. Take the drawer sliders apart. Pull the two pieces of the drawer runner as far as they extend and press the release lever to separate the drawer member from the cabinet member.

2. Mount the drawer member. Measure 1.25 inches from the bottom of the drawer and make a mark. Position the top of the drawer member to align with this mark and secure it with the provided screws. Do the same with the other drawer member.

3. Mount the cabinet member. Start by holding the drawer where you want to install it in the cabinet cavity. On both sides of the cabinet cavity, make a mark along the bottom of the drawer. Use these marks as reference points to mount the cabinet members to the right height.

4. Install the drawer by connecting the drawer members to the cabinet members. Slide it all the way in until you hear a click. The click signifies that the release lever has been locked.

5. Check for smooth operation. Open and close the drawer to ensure it is working correctly. If necessary, remove, adjust, and reinstall the cabinet members.

 

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Troubleshooting Ball-Bearing Runners That Aren't Operating Correctly

If your drawer is stuck or not operating smoothly, remove it from the desk, dresser, or kitchen cabinet and inspect the bottom of the runner for debris or obstructions. Chances are something caught in between the two tracks is preventing the runner from moving properly. Remove any obstacles, then lubricate the rails with a dry graphite powder or spray. This will make moving the drawer easier and reduce wear and tear on the hardware.

If a drawer is still hard to open or close after removing obstructions and lubricating the rails, check for broken or bent slides at either end of the runner. If there are bent slides on one or both ends of your runner, they need to be replaced and lined up properly with one another and allow for smooth movement of the runner.

If you can't get rid of these problems on your own, you may need to replace your drawer runners altogether.

 

Maintaining Metal Drawer Runners

Ultimately, the best way to keep your ball-bearing drawer runners in good shape is to do regular maintenance. Every once in a while, clean the track, lubricate moving parts, check screws and bolts, and use shims where necessary. If you take care of your furniture, it should be able to serve you for years to come.

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