bearings, bearings, bearings!
in many past reel repair posts, you've seen me open up
bearings to clean them, but i've never had a complete
discussion of one this topic before. i'd like to do
this now. it's a post that is long overdue. for many
reels, bearings are the weak link. they are often the
first things that will fail. i will start out by
saying that shimano recognized this and was the first
company to actually do something about it. as of yet,
no other major reel manufacturers have followed suit.
i hope that will change.
basic fishing reel bearing design is fairly simple.
you've got an outer race, and inner race, the balls
themselves and a cage. the material almost always
the biggest difference between bearings is the "side
plate." avet and accurate bearings are sealed. the
seal itself is often blue or black, and is made up of
a phosphor bronze and plastic laminate that is simply
the majority of reel manufacturers use bearings with
one of two types of metal shields. the first is a
pressed in metal shield.
the second type of metal shield is held in by a
retaining ring. when you see a bearing with a metal
shield, it's a 50:50 chance of seeing one or the
and then there are shimano's open bearings. they are
touted as having more chromium for greater corrosion
resistance and are packed with a thin grease.
so there you have it, your four types of bearings;
plastic seal, pressed in metal shield, retaining ring
with metal shield, and open.
when servicing a bearing, the first thing you have to
do is PULL IT OUT!!!!!! trust me on this one. there
is nothing more frustating than having to pull a
rusted bearing out of a rusted bearing cap. to this
end, i made a couple of bearing pullers. the small
one can be made from coat hanger material or stainess
steel welding rod. one end is hammered flat, then
bent to a 90 degree angle, and then shaped on a small
bench grinder. it works pretty darned good!
the other is made from a penn handle nut wrench.
yeah, don't throw these away anymore! shape it the
the other problem situation is specifically with some
of the shimano reels. here is an old calcutta 400
spool. note that the bearing (well, bushing, in this
case) is held in by a cross pin.
we're going to remove the cross pin with a special
tool. it's a ratty old pair of vise grips with a slot
cut in one side.
oh, c'mon, stop laughing! it's all i had laying
around and i'm on a budget! anyway, i cut a slot in
the side with a bench grinder. if i had to do it over
again, i'd use the cut off wheel from my dremmel.
you just press the pin out half way, the pull it out
the rest of the way and be careful not to mangle it
up. remember, you need that pin!
see, nice and clean! now find a bearing with the same
dimensions as this old bushing, say 3x8x3mm, press the
pin back in and you're in business!
ok, back to business. let's all agree for the moment
that we are going to clean out the bearing and we're
going to to it my way. well, that means removing the
seal or shield. we need a few more specialized tools.
our first bearing is sealed. this one is either a
piece of cake, or next to impossible. most are easy.
you simply take a small scalpel (hey, one of the
advantages of working in a hospital), slide the blade
carefully underneath the shield, twist the blade just
a little and the seal will pop out cleanly. so
cleanly, in fact, that you should be able to pop it
back it and it should still work perfectly. if you
gouge the cage underneath you will have to replace the
bearing, so be careful.
this is actually a bearing from the drive shaft of the
smaller avet reels. newer bearings are easy to
service. THE SEALS FROM BEARINGS AROUND THE DRIVE
SHAFTS OF OLDER AVET REELS ARE NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO
REMOVE. you will know quickly if you have old
bearings or new ones.
to remove a metal shield that is pressed into the
bearing, you need another specialized tool. this is
an old screwdriver that i've ground to a nice long
point. drive the point in between the shield and the
inner race, the pry up the shield. it will be mangled
at this point and will have to be discarded. this
takes a light touch. drive the point in to far and
you will mangle the cage and ruin the bearings. i
tried using the point of a small swiss army knife for
a bunch of small boca bearings and ruined the entire
lot, about $100's worth. be careful!
the last type is a bearing with a metal shield held in
by a retaining ring. you need a small fish hook. see
the end of the retaining ring? lift it up with the
point of the fishhook right there. if you have
trouble catching the end of the ring, get a sharper
sometimes it will go flying, so hang on to it if you
want to see it again.
lift up the shield with the scalpel and don't gouge
want to reinstall the shield? simply put it back in
place, then hold the retaining ring at the bottom,
then push in the the right side, then the left side of
the retaining ring and you're done.
now all the bearings are open. let's clean them up.
first is the hemostat. this is the easiest way to
hold a bearing.
now, to clean these things. i've tried a ton of
different products. here's the short answer. it's
crc carb cleaner. of all the products i've used, this
carb cleaner has the most pressure, and pressure is
everything. nothing else i've used works as well.
now, i've talked about "carb cleaner and compressed
air" before and several guys jumped in and said "no
compressed air." i want to know that i took what you
said to heart. since finding the crc product, using
lots of compressed air has not been necessary. so i
now use the crc carb cleaner to clean the bearing, and
only a gentle stream of compressed air to remove the
now we get to lube them up. i was fiddling around
with my "secret sauce" mix of corrosion x and shimano
drag grease and it seems to stick fairly well. good
protection, lousy freespool. typically i use
corrosion x alone, um, in a reel x bottle. and for
the bass guys, i have quantum's hot sauce, met-ol from
smoothdrag.com and rocket fuel. lots of freespool,
to get the maximum amount of protection, i always go
back to yamaha outboard engine grease.
i like to hand pack the bearings and replace the
shields. it's the best way to avoid this.....
it's not necessary for any of you to maintain this
type of inventory, but it might be a good idea to keep
a couple of bearings as back up. it is very easy to
damage a bearing while you're trying to pull the
shield off. you do need to be careful.
i order all of my bearings from bocabearings.com, and
i order them all "open and dry." unfortunately, i
still pay retail so you're looking $1-1.5k in bearings
in the photo above. after dealing with bearing issues
for all these years, i've come to a couple of
conclusions. for lever drag reels, i like spool
bearings that are open and lubed with corrosion x.
same with star drag reels. for side plate bearings
and drive shaft bearings, i like them packed with
yamaha engine grease. if the shields or seals can be
replace, all the better.
what i don't like is a bearing that has a seal or
shield with only a light lube. once water gets
inside, the bearing is toast. a shimano tld 15 has
four bearings that cost $10-12 each. i've had reels
that required replacements of all four. the avet sx,
mx, jx and lx reels also have bearing issues. there
are six and they are all sealed. i like to open up
the two spool bearings, clean them out and lube them
with corrosion x. the other four are opened, packed
with yamaha engine grease, the seals are pressed back
into place and the bearings are re-installed. i've
even seen corroded bearings in accurate reels. the
proceedure is the same as avet and i think it would
greatly improve the reliability of the reel. yeah,
working on lever drag reels is alot of work.
ok, guys, that's it. hope this clears some things up.