Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

When your spinning reel gets a bit "raspy", do you ever put oil in these two bearings?

Although the navy saying goes that assumption is the mother of all you know what, I am going to assume here that from time to time you put some oil in your spinning reel. If you think what they go through in and around saltwater and with the constant retrieving of lures, then like a car, a spinning reel needs a bit of care and attention to keep it running nice and smoothly - although if you had a look at the state of my car and the unknown species of mould growing on the roof and around the windows, then let’s just say I look after my fishing gear somewhat better than my 150,000 miles plus Ford Focus estate. Do you at least wash your spinning reel and lure rod in freshwater after a fishing trip around saltwater? I like to think that every time I will give them a spray with the hose outside, but in reality I know that sometimes I forget to do this.

In a perfect world a spinning reel would run for ever and ever as deliciously smoothly as it does when you first take it out of the box, but that ain’t exactly reality. You know when you spin that handle and everything just turns over so easily? Now put saltwater, sand, grit, countless turns of the handle etc. into the mix, and it’s no wonder that after a while the thing might start to feel a little “raspy”? Is that the right word? Nothing’s gone wrong, just that the reel feels a little dry/less together/less smooth. Now please bear in mind here that I am not going to talk about taking your spinning reel apart and starting from scratch or replacing broken parts etc. I used to completely strip, clean and re-oil/re-grease my shore fishing multipliers once a year at least, but they were relatively easy things to do, and there’s only so far I will go with a spinning reel. Technically minded I am not.

Please accept here that I can only tell you what I do to my reels to try and keep them running smoothly, and that a proper reel service bloke will have far more knowledge than me. I like Shimano reels as much as I like Daiwa ones, but without a doubt my Shimano Sustain 4000 (review here) needs a bit more oiling up than say my older blue coloured Daiwa Luvias 3000 does. This doesn’t mean that the Sustain is better or worse, rather that the two companies’ approach to making reels seems a little different. I have never tried to open up a Mag Sealed spinning reel - indeed we are not meant to - but as far as I have gone with “servicing” on the Sustain and the (non Mag Sealed) Luvias, it seems to be easier for the bearings on the drive shaft of the Sustain to dry out. Or are they simply different quality bearings? Whatever the case, it’s up to us to occasionally oil a few bits and pieces up to keep reels running smoothly - and then at some time they will most likely need a proper service.

Anyway, you can of course whack a load of oil into those service ports on a Shimano reel (although I reckon you do need to get at one bearing in particular, and I am not sure how well blasting oil into the service port does this), and then I believe the theory is with the Mag Sealed Daiwa reels that the inside bits stay well lubricated anyway because of the “seal”. But there are two very easily accessible bearings on a spinning reel that I think need far more regular oiling than a lot of anglers perhaps realise, and whilst for a while I was convinced on my Sustain that it was one bearing in particular that kept drying out, by process of elimination I found that in fact I also need to put oil in these other two bearings, and it usually seems to help.

I apologise if I am preaching to the converted here - I might well be the muppet who kinda stumbled upon the need to oil these two bearings fairly regularly whereas you are all doing so already, but I have a hunch that with the lack of info provided by many tackle companies that in fact many of you aren’t doing so. A professional reel service bod might well tell me that I am doing this all wrong, but the way I look at it is that flooding these two particular bearings with oil can’t be doing any harm to the way that a spinning reel works, and without a doubt it’s sorted out the “raspiness” on a bunch of spinning reels recently. On my recent co-guiding trip in Kerry, a few of the clients’ spinning reels weren’t feeling that smooth, but after oiling up these two bearings especially they were back to working great again.

So where are these two bearings? Either side of the handle, as per the photos above. I can only talk about the spinning reels I have knowledge of, but take your handle off and have a look - there’s a bearing there, sitting just inside the reel body where the handle fits into. and a non-sealed bearing is going to run dry eventually. Take the cap off the other side of the handle and there’s a bearing there as well. The handle is turning on these two bearings. On a Daiwa reel you might need to lift that little black rubber seal thing off underneath the handle when you remove it from the reel, but this is easy to do (remember to put it back though). Now whack some oil on these bearings. I tend to simply use a small screwdriver, put it in my oil, and then let the drips fall onto the bearings. How much oil? Get it in there!! A dry bearing will soak up a fair bit of oil, and you can always wipe the excess off after you have screwed the handle and cap back on. What oil though? The stuff that goes in my mower or car seems to work just fine. There’s a high chance that your spinning reel is now going to run a whole lot smoother than it did before, and if it isn’t then you either need to get at other bearings inside the reel, or else you need to look at sending it for a proper servicing. I hope this might work for some of you, and please, if you know of other easy ways to keep a spinning reel running smoothly, leave a comment here so the rest of us can benefit.