How To Fix Drawer Slides With Ball Bearings? (4 Tips and Guide!)

Ball-bearing drawer slides are quite functional, and they come with various features. If you notice that one of your drawers isn’t operating as smoothly as it used to, there might be an issue with its slides. Therefore, it’s important to know how to fix drawer slides with ball bearings.

The ball-bearing function allows smooth and quiet drawer movement. However, due to different reasons, they can get rusty, stuck, loose, or sticky. To fix issues with your ball-bearing slide drawers, you may need to lubricate the bearings or tighten the screws.

Here’s the complete guide and tips on fixing ball-bearing drawer slides that aren’t working properly.

How Do Ball-bearing Drawer Slides Work?

Basically, the ball-bearing slides’ design is based on tiny steel balls caged inside a retainer. When the steel tracks move, they glide across those balls. Consequently, they provide smooth movement and keep the drawer from rubbing against the cabinet that holds it.

Furthermore, each slide consists of three pieces, which are the cabinet piece, the drawer piece, and the intermediate piece. All three pieces are made of strong material, and when compared to ordinary plastic rollers, ball-bearing slides are much more durable.

How To Fix Drawer Slides With Ball Bearings?

Ball-bearing slides are easy to install and troubleshoot. They’re also strong and durable. Nevertheless, sometimes they wear out, accumulate dirt, or get sticky. That’s especially when they’re in high-traffic, dusty, or greasy areas.

Luckily, identifying and fixing the issue with ball-bearing drawer slides isn’t complicated. Moreover, there are only a handful of problems causing them to malfunction. Here’s what to do when facing troubles with your drawers:

Tip #1: Remove the Drawer

First things first, you need to know what exactly is causing the issue. To do so, you should remove the drawer from its cabinet and inspect the slides. Typically, this is an essential step, because you can’t take a good look at those slides unless you take the drawer all the way out.

Below are the steps on how to pull out the drawer with ball-bearing slides:

  1. Make sure that the items inside the drawer aren’t the reason it’s not functioning properly (sometimes you may simply need to rearrange the drawer's contents).
  2. Empty the drawer to make the removal process easier in case there’s nothing wrong with the things inside it.
  3. Pull the drawer out as far as it gets.
  4. Check for the place of the plastic levers on both sides (they should be right where the inside metal track meets the larger bracket-shaped slide).
  5. Place both hands on the drawer’s sides.
  6. Pull up one plastic lever and push down the other, depending on the drawer’s type (try both directions to know which way each one goes).
  7. Pull out the drawer, and it should easily slide in your hands.

Tip #2: Identify the Problem

Now that you removed the drawer, it should be easy to figure out what’s wrong with it. Actually, when it comes to ball-bearing slide drawers, there aren’t numerous possible issues. So, identifying the problem doesn’t require much work.

Check out the following suggestions:

  • Check behind the drawer to ensure there isn’t any jammed object obstructing its movement.
  • Take a closer look at the tracks, and ensure there isn’t anything stuck inside or between them.
  • Inspect the endings and alongside each runner for bends or breaks.
  • Make sure there’s no accumulated dirt or debris stuck among those metal balls.
  • Check loose screws on both sides of the cabinet as well as the drawer itself.

Tip #3: Fix the Issue

After knowing exactly what’s wrong with your drawer, fixing the issue shouldn’t be much of a problem. If you can’t find any jammed objects behind the drawer or between the runners, it may be an issue with the slides themselves.

Usually, lubricating the ball bearings is the easiest and most straightforward fix. In other cases, however, you may need to replace the slides altogether. All in all, these fixes don’t require professional interference, as they’re easy to perform.

Tip #4: Attach the Drawer Back in Place

Once you repair the slides, it’s time to latch the drawer pack in place. All you need to do is the following:

  1. Hold the drawer up with both hands.
  2. Align the drawer’s tracks with the cabinet’s.
  3. Secure the tracks together on both sides.
  4. Push the drawer all the way in until the plastic lever clicks.
  5. Open and close the drawer multiple times to make sure it’s working properly.

How To Fix Bendy Ball-bearing Drawer Slides?

With constant use, ball-bearing slides usually get crimps and kinks along the rail. This, in turn, causes the drawer to become noticeably harder to move. However, fixing those bends isn’t that challenging. All you need is one tool: needle-nose pliers.

Here are the steps to fix bendy slides:

  1. Inspect the rails after removing the drawer.
  2. Run your fingers along the cabinet rails as well as the drawers' slides to detect any bends.
  3. Fix any warping or little kinks using needle-nose pliers.
  4. Clean and lubricate the ball-bearing slides.
  5. Install the drawer back in place.
  6. Check to see if it works properly.

How To Fix a Wiggly Ball-bearing Drawer?

If the drawer wiggles while moving, it may be due to loose screws. Whether the slide isn’t properly fixed to the drawer itself or to the cabinet, tightening the screws should fix this issue. This is how to fix a  wiggly drawer:

  1. Check which slide isn’t firmly fixed in place.
  2. Use a screwdriver or a power drill to tighten the screws on both sides.
  3. Inspect the drawer’s slides also, and make sure to tighten those too.
  4. In case a screw hole is too big, remove the screw, insert a piece of matchstick or a toothpick, and reattach the screw.
  5. Clean and lubricate the slides.
  6. Put the drawer back in place.
  7. Check to see if it still wiggles.

How To Clean Dirty or Greasy Ball-bearing Drawer Slides?

This is one of the most common issues causing the drawer to stop opening and closing as smoothly as before. In all cases, you need to regularly clean and lubricate the ball-bearing drawer slides for maximum efficiency.

That’s because drawer slides are prone to dirt accumulating on them. They also can get greasy, especially those installed in kitchen drawers. Not only does cleaning and lubricating drawer slides improve their performance, but it also extends their life.

Moreover, doing so once a year guarantees their functionality and durability. Basically, all you need for this job is a lubricant, a household cleaner, and some dry rags.

Here’s how to clean and lubricate those slides:

  1. Wipe along the tracks using a dry rag to remove any dirt or debris.
  2. Apply a pH-neutral household cleaner on a clean rag.
  3. Clean both slides thoroughly, and make sure you get all the tough-to-reach spots (if you want to clean both sides of each track, you can always use a screwdriver to detach them).
  4. Use another dry cloth and wipe both tracks.
  5. Make sure the runners are fully clean and dry before lubricating them.
  6. Apply the lubricant on the slides by holding the spray nozzle as close to the runners as possible.
  7. Use short bursts and make sure that you cover the entire area.
  8. Clean up any excess liquids with a clean cloth.
  9. Put the drawer back and make sure that it slides smoothly.

How To Replace Damaged Ball-bearing Slides?

Damaged ball-bearing slides may cause the drawer to stop functioning properly or just slide open by itself. In this case, replacing those slides is the way to go, especially if they’re old and warped.

Here are the needed steps to replace old ball-bearing drawer slides:

Required Tools

  • New ball-bearing drawer slides (the same length and thickness as the older ones)
  • Screwdriver
  • Power drill
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Bubble level


  1. Detach the drawer as mentioned before.
  2. Unscrew the old slides and get rid of them.
  3. Get the new slides and separate the piece you need to attach to the drawer.
  4. Mark the place where you want to install it (it’s better to install it in the same place as the old one).
  5. Use the power drill to screw in the new metal tracks to both sides of the drawer.
  6. Use the bubble level through each step to ensure everything is perfectly aligned.
  7. Install the other piece of each slide to the inside of the cabinet.
  8. Tighten the screws with the screwdriver.
  9. Latch the drawer in place and push it all the way back to the end until the lever clicks.
  10. Open and close the drawer a few times to ensure it’s working as it should.

Where To Attach Ball-bearing Drawer Slides?

Depending on the size, depth, and load of the drawer, there are three ways to install ball-bearing drawer slides, which are:

  • Bottom Mount Ball Bearing Drawer Slides: This is when you fit the bottom edges of the drawer in the flange of the tracks that you fixed to the cabinet.
  • Side Mount Ball Bearing Drawer Slides: In this style, you install the tracks on the side profiles of the drawer, either in the center or along the bottom edge.
  • Centre Mount Ball Bearing Drawer Slides: This positioning is perfect for shallow, lightweight drawers. It’s when you use one slide and attach it to the center of the drawer’s bottom.

What Are the Types of Ball-bearing Drawer Slides?

Mainly, there are three types of ball-bearing drawer slides, which are:

Type #1: Soft-close Drawer Slides

Soft-close is the most popular type of drawer slides, as it’s durable and cost-efficient. They can handle a maximum weight of 100 lbs.

The name “soft close” indicates there are hydraulic dampers with springs fixed to the slides. Those dampers prevent the drawer from shutting too hard.

Type #2: Self-close Drawer Slides

Self-close slides are commonly confused with soft closing. Commonly, this type utilizes a spring-action mechanism that activates at the last inch of closing the drawer. This mechanism is usually smaller than that of the soft-close slides.

Type #3: Heavy-duty Drawer Slides

Heavy-duty ball-bearing drawer slides are able to hold heavy drawers in place. Impressively, they handle weights of up to 1000 lbs. Obviously, workers use these kinds of drawer slides in workshops and industrial spaces.

A Final Thought

Knowing how to fix drawer slides with ball bearings is quite essential because facing issues with them is common. Wiggly, jammed, bendy, or stuttering drawers are all possible problems you can fix by simply tightening the screws and lubricating the slides.

When it comes to more severe damage, it’s better for you and your furniture piece to replace the whole mechanism. Once you figure out how those slides work and what their components are, you should be able to fix any issue or even replace them yourself. However, if you’re not a DIY person, it’s always OK to use the help of a professional.

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