How to Maintain a Spinning Reel

Even if you bought yourself a very affordable spinning reel, you don’t have to buy a new one every time you’re having issues with it. It may only need a bit of maintenance to get to work like new again.

In fact, even if is a more expensive unit you don’t have to go to an expert whenever the reel binds after getting wet, if it feels like it’s filled with sand, or when the handle sticks on one spot on the retrieve. You can do it yourself.

Here are some maintenance and preventive care tips to keep your spinning reel working perfectly for a long time:

  • If you’re not going to use your spinning reels, you need to think about proper storage. This means that after cleaning your reels, you need to put them in a proper reel cover and bag. You may be surprised to discover that the most common cause of damage to spinning reels is when you store away your gear improperly and without cleaning it first.
  • When you’re going to use your gear, you again need to use that cover and bag while in transit. This minimizes the risk of dirt and mechanical damage.
  • Cleaning your spinning reel requires that you have all the tools you may need at your disposal. This means you should have the parts list ready, along with the wrench that came with the reel. You’ll need a sponge, an old toothbrush, a pair of tweezers, and a couple of small screwdrivers (flathead and Phillips). A small brush or a toothpick will also be needed for grease application for the gears.
  • You will need some cleaning compounds as well, including lighter fluid, reel oil and grease. Your manual may have some brand recommendations as to what you should get. Never use gasoline or anything similar to remove grease and dirt from the reel. Gasoline will just melt the plastic parts of the reel.
  • After each time you use your reel, you need prepare warm soapy water so you can lightly sponge your reel with it. Do this for your fishing line too. You can then rinse off with fresh water, as long you make sure that you’re using very low water pressure. Then wipe it dry with a clean cloth, and then you can lightly spray your spinning reel with WD40. Some lines may not like this spray, so be careful.
  • You must never wash your reel using high pressure, or immerse it in water. This rule has no exception.
  • You can clean the underside of the spool by sliding off the spool under the drag knob. Apply some grease (again, do this lightly) on the main shaft, and then replace the spool and the drag knob. Keep the drag knob loose, so that you don’t put extra pressure on your drag washers when you’re not using the reel.
  • Lightly apply some premium reel oil on the various parts like the folding handle, bail arm springs, line rollers, and handle knobs. Then wipe off the excess oil.
  • Every now and then, open the side plate and lightly apply some grease on the gears and bearings.
  • Once a year, it’s best if you have your spinning reel given the full service by a professional reel technician. This is especially important if you bought yourself an expensive unit. If it’s possible, watch how they do it so you can perhaps do it yourself.
  • To do the full service treatment yourself, you must make sure that you have your tools and cleaning supplies ready. A pan of hot water will also be needed. This will also be necessary if you accidentally submerge your reel in water.
  • Now you will start with disassembling your gear. You need to do this slowly and carefully. You have to prepare for this by using a mat or an egg carton where you can place your various parts. Under the spots where you will put the parts, put a strip of masking tape there.
  • As you disassemble your reel, lay out each part on the mat and then number that part as you remove it. This will make sure that you get the right sequence when you put it back together again.
  • When you’re taking your reel apart (and when you’re putting it back together again), you need to hold it right. If you’re right-handed, work with your right hand while you hold it with your left. Hold it the same way when you assemble it, as this will help you put back the parts together more easily.
  • When you’re handling wire clips and springs, always use your pair of tweezers. This makes the job easier and reduces the risk of parts dropping or flying around. You may have a devil of a time finding them if you drop them to the floor or your carpet.
  • Before you remove your spool, secure or remove your fishing line. You can secure it just with masking tape. You can also just strip the line off the spool. If you don’t do any of these, your line will get caught between the frame and the spool. That’ll make it harder to remove the line.
  • Grease your gears lightly using a small brush or a toothpick. Apply the grease at the bottom of the teeth and not at the top. Remember to only apply a light coating.
  • You can use lighter fluid to clean the bearings to get rid of dirt. Once they’re clean, check that they spin. Then apply a drop of medium viscosity oil one ach bearing using a toothpick.
  • The first rule putting things back together is that you never put a metal part against another metal part. The basic rule of reel design is that metal goes against fiber—not another metal piece.
  • Once you put it back together, make sure everything is working the way they ought to. Then apply some WD40 or Reel Magic on the outside to preserve the finish. 

That’s basically it. If you’re still in doubt, again just go to a technician to get it done properly. You can also watch some videos on YouTube so you can learn. The main point is that proper maintenance must be done for your spinning reel so you can make full use of it for more than just a single fishing season!

Rhys Hunt

Hey Everyone, This is Rhys Hunt. Editor of .

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