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bearings, bearings, bearings!

12687 Views 24 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  wcflerx
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
stainless steel.

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
pressed in.

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
same way.

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!




nice, huh!

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
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
anything inside.


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
carb cleaner.


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,
lousy protection.


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.
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wow... thats years of experience in a nutshell.. thanks Doc! I will be printing this out and saving it if you dont mind.

Very well done. I couldn't agree more with you on the sealed bearings. Once the saltwater gets in the sealed bearing, there not much of a chance of it leaving. It's like a rust hotel. Remember, rust never sleeps. An open bearing gives the saltwater a way to escape. I have had bearings problems with older accurates. Maybe the other "Hard Headed" reel Companies will learn from Shimano.

I took apart an Tiagra "A" series 80W the other day that had been fished about 15 times. It was less than a year old. The new A-RB bearings were still in great shape. The only thing I did was put some Corrosion-X on each one. By the way, they pulled out with no problems.

I've think that caluctta 400 spool has seen it's better days. The owner must never wash down or change his line very often. I like the calcutta series. None of mine have ever come close to looking that abused. I think people are nuts that don't empty the spool of line at least one a year. Leaving a salt water residue on the mono and keeping it on the spool will cause corrosion no matter how well it was anodized.
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Thanks Alan, I think I will tear apart some reels and clean some bearings..
thanks, guys! actually, the calcutta spool was my fault. i put it in a sonic cleaner with arm and hammer laundry detergent (not simple green). then i forgot about it overnight. i ended up buying him a new reel. yup, $200 mistake! alan
Excellent post on the "Bearings 101".

Prehaps you can give us a "Gear 101", and a "Drags 101".

Can't think of a better tutorial
P.S- where do you get the washer for the 40# ex conversion?
ah, yes, one of my last posts on bd's avet board....

debated whether to post this or not. i just finished hotrodding an avet 4/02 and here's what i did.

spool bearings opened, cleaned and lubed with corrosion x
side plate bearings packed with grease, shields re-installed
drag washers cleaned and greased with shimano drag grease
screw holes greased with yamaha engine grease
4/0 handle replaced with a 5/0 handle
drag plate shimmed

this reel now delivers 30#'s of drag at strike before losing freespool, only a slight amount of load when cranking at that strike setting, and 45 seconds of freespool also at that strike setting. this means that the avet 4/02 will no longer have to languish at a max drag setting of 17 pounds at strike before losing freespool. it can FINALLY fish shoulder to shoulder with the penn 30s, the tiagra and accurate. we're talking 100# spectra and an 80# topshot with 30#'s of drag at strike. but then, of course, the drags have to be greased in order for this to work properly.

and the answer is....

in the foreground you see a small brass washer. it is extremely thin. it is found is several shimano lever drag reels and has a part number of "tld 0043 preload washer b." it is the perfect thickness. the inside diameter is just a few thousanths too large. this washer goes in between the right spool bearing (key #24) and the right brake (key #23). what this does is move the right brake just a hair closer to the brake disc. it's amazing what a small change like this can make.

i'm going to have to find a washer with a better fit before i start doing this on a regular basis.

i'm also finally getting around to checking out a thrust washer that is already found in the avet ex 4/0 two speed. it's part #ex402-29. i think it's too thick, but we're going to see.

i saw an interesting comment about the avet ex 4/0 a while back...


The Avet EXW 4/0 didn't work out so well.....it's didn't have enough drag for the big boys and was too large of a reel for smaller applications......it was a total inbetweener reel, thus Avet decided to scrap it and replace with the 30 series (awesome reel)....

funny thing is that this little upgrade will increase the drag range of the lowly avet ex and exw 4/0 two speed reels from 17#'s at strike to 30#'s at strike. and at the the fred hall show in san francisco, they were dumping these two speed 4/0 avets for $269.95 plus tax.

it's a crazy business! but, hey! i just fix 'em!
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P.S- where do you get the washer for the 40# ex conversion?

oops, sorry, to answer your question, call shimano at 877-577-0600 and ask for part #tld 0043 preload washer b. but hold off until i have a chance to really nail this down. thanks! alan
Is there any way of getting 50#s of drag out of a Tiagra 30WLRSA?
Hey Alan,

Thanks for taking the time to put all of this information together and sharing with this board!

You just upped the value of 360 Tuna immensely!
Alan, Is there any way of getting 50#s of drag out of a Tiagra 30WLRSA?

honestly, 35#'s i think is the best i've ever done. you need go to a 50 standard width.
One more question for you Alan. What is the Max drag on one could expect from an off the self ATD50?
don't know, but i'm going to find out. i've sold off all of my long range reels and will be ordering up a full set of accurate two speeds, from the 270 to the 30, and maybe even a 50. alan
We were testing Minnow's ATD50 at Bass Pro a while back and broke 100# pline with a straight pull and the drag buttoned down. It still had great free spool but I wouldn't recommend fishing that way. I remember seeing some posts on Allcoast a few years back claiming at extreme drag setting a C clips would break as some sort of fail-safe and put the reel out of commission.

found it.
There's a new 50 that just hit the shelves. Penn has finally come out with the 50VSW. It's topless and narrow for you guys that can't handle the wobble of a wide model. The drag curve on this reel is fairly consistent in drag pressure all along its lever's arc. If your a Penn lover, this is your tuna reel. The first thing I would do is to replace the handle or at least that uncomfortable looking knob on the handle.

Here's some specs.
45#'s of drag at strike
650 yds of 200# Spectra with 50 yds 130# topshot
500 yds 130# Spectra with 100 yds 80-100# topper
3.1:1 high and 1/3:1 low gear ratio
75 ounces
line retrieve per crank in low gear 14 inches
line retrieve per crank in high gear 34 inches
Four bearings, Penn's Quick Shift mechanism...


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would putting ceramic ABEC-5 or 7 bearings in a reel like the Avet LX be a good idea? there wouldn't be a problem with corrosion and it seems the reels would be just as smooth.
would putting ceramic ABEC-5 or 7 bearings in a reel like the Avet LX be a good idea? there wouldn't be a problem with corrosion and it seems the reels would be just as smooth.

the ceramic balls will not corrode, but the stainless steel inner and outer races will. i think the bottom line is the same. i think that ceramic bearings offer no advantage in a salt water environment and a low speed application like a fishing reel. the trick is to service your reel after EVERY trip. the new reel rebuild posts will emphasize that fact. it's something that you can't dance around anymore. stay tuned .....
the reason I asked is because I have heard of people putting ceramic bearings in their reels to make the spool spin faster. I figure they would have NO place on an Avet as the spool is already fast, but in another reel?
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