Hopefully, we all have a routine for annual reel service. For some, it means complete tear down, inspection, ordering parts, oil and lube, drag washers and assembly. For others, it might be less. Obviously how the reel is used and how much of that time was in saltwater, determines the optimal service intervals. Basic after fishing wash down with fresh water, a quick wipe down with a soft rag that has a water dispersent sprayed onto the rag. Store in cool, dry dark space. I would be one of the people that would agree that washing your gear down after every outing in saltwater is mandatory. In some extreme instances, like kayak fishing, the reels take a beating in the sand and salt. They need heavy maintenance. Let’s get started…
I have learned to give myself adequate workspace that has great lighting and no clutter. These steps help keep the process of dismantling, cleaning, inpecting and restoring reels much easier and efficient. Wayward parts are more easily found when your space is well lite and free from clutter. I find the light background helps me more easily identify cracks and excessive wear on parts. I use a simple magnifying glass to inspect parts.
Give yourself easy access to all needed tools, oils, greases and chemicals. Speaking of chemicals, I try to have a minimal impact on the environment by using Simple Green for primary my cleaner with Dawn dish soap. Vinegar is used to remove the green corrosion on chrome plated brass parts. I use cloth rags instead of paper towels. I use washable containers instead of paper cups and trays. Reels are separated into stainless steel trays for cleaning.
Dismantle reel and move small parts to small cup. Large parts into stainless steel tubs for either soaking in detergent or vinegar. In severe cases where large amounts of old grease I will use brake cleaner spray to expedite the cleaning process. It does not take much to remove all the parts from metal parts. No plastic parts in this solution as they will be destroyed quickly. Bearings into separate containers to soak in lighter fluid. I generally let the reels soak in detergent over night. Then hot water bath and dry. If additional cleaning is required I use Simple Green and wipe clean. Then a good rinse in hot water and wipe dry again.
Inspection is a critical part of the process. Gears, pinion, drag washers, gear sleeves, side plates, anti reverse dogs, etc… Use a magnifying glass to look at the parts. Small cracks and dings in gears is much easier to identify with a good light and magnifying glass. Pay special attention looking for corrosion.
What gets greased verses oiled? What type of grease goes where? I use several types of grease for different reels and conditions. Screws and screw holes, plates and interiors get a marine grade grease that stays where you put it. A light coat is needed to prevent corrosion. Drags get a different grease. I use Cal’s the old stand by. I use it on all Carbon drag washers. Better to be safe than sorry. Saltwater intrusion under the drag washers destroys washers and main gears. Fast oil such as TSI-321 is used on all spool bearings. I grease all others with a marine grade grease.
Lastly, use the right tool for the job. In many small reels and spinning reels, the screws are tiny and soft. Using the right fitting tool makes a world of difference and can either make your maintenance a success or utter frustration when removing a stripped screw. A good indicator when considering buying a used reel is to look at the condition of the screws. If they are mangled and marred chances are the previous owner did not have the right tools. Or worse yet, who ever he paid to do service on it did not use the right tools. Be cautious as this could be an indicator of what is on the inside. That being said, I have seen reels that appear to be unused on the exterior, only to find that the interior has been completely corroded from a lack of grease and oil. Good luck and keep it clean, and green!