Started by alantani, December 07, 2008, 04:27:21 PM

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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 other. 

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 5x11x3 mm, 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 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 hook. 

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 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  retail, 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. 
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QuoteAlan, Great job & welcome.  I have a problem & I did not know where else to post this.  I cannot remove the L.S. bearing in my recently purchased 20 year old Penn 30TW. I am not trying to save the bearing... just want it out. I pried the cover off so I could get pliers on the inner ring but it won't budge. Any suggestions? dcottle

you need to make a lift bar.  i just use this....

this works only for larger bearings.  i angle the tip under the inside race and then rock the handle side to side.  that lift's the bearing up, little by little.  at some point, you can get a wide bladed screwdriver in and rock that side to side as well.  this only works for larger bearings.  for the smaller ones, i just stick the bearing puller in and try to give it a yank.  if the worst of cases, i've had to drill a small hole in the back of the bearing cup and then use a punch to punch out the bearing.  the bearing is obviously ruined, and the bearing cup now has a hole in it.  before installing a new bearing, i add a little grease and maybe even a flat washer to keep the water out. 

something else to consider.  the bearing cup in the side plate of your international started out as a "slip fit."  then they anodized the side plate, adding a few thousanths, and now you have a pressed fit.  to make it a slip fit again, you need a little sand paper.  i usually take the sanding wheel of my dremel and VERY CAREFULLY dremel away the anodizing back to a slip fit.  obviously, you will seriously screw up your reel if you sand away too much.  alan
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The L.S. bearing I was having trouble extracting on the Penn 30TW popped out after baking @ 250 deg. for 15 min. then slapping on a board.
Again Thanks.

glad something worked!
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Quote from: G.Billena on December 19, 2008, 07:15:55 AM
In regards to Ambassadeur 5500C foot#84-XXXX.Im wondering what are your views on upgrading the the worm drive to ball bearings as well as upgrading to a  ball bearing idler gear.(seen at mikes reel repair)Will I be able to feel a big difference in performance or waste of money.

the trick is to clean everything out first, then see how far you can cast.  i think that you will find that the reel will give you plenty of distance without the bearing.  also, these little bearings get gummed up pretty quickly.  after a few trips, they're working like bushings anyway. 

so here is how i would approach the issue.  first, clean out the pair of spool bearing and make sure they are perfectly smooth. assemble JUST the spool, the two bearings and the drive shaft.  give the spool a spin.  note how well it does, or does not, spin. 

now install that white nylon click gear and spin the spool.  does it slow down or spin the same?  it if slows down, find a drill bit that is slightly bigger than the hole and ream out the soft nylon by hand.  spin the spool again and we should be good. 

next, disassembly the levelwind assembly, clean everything with carb cleaner (and an old toothbrush if needed), lube it with corrosion x and reassemble it.  assemble the reel and give the spool a spin.  looks good, huh!!!!!!  go cast and let's see if you really need that ball bearing for the worm.  alan
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here's something new for you. if someone would have told me that dribbling some of this new lube through a set of bearings would increase the freespool time from 15 seconds to 360 seconds, i would have smiled politely and started backing up towards the nearest exit. i just cleaned out the bearings and levelwind assembly of an old ambassaduer, then lubed it and the spin time was equally amazing (for a levelwind). my concern remains saltwater corrosion resistance. i am going to start playing with this stuff in my own reels. i'll keep you posted.

not affilliated, etc.... alan


ok, now this is even more bizarre. after reassemblying the bare spool, i'm back down to 15 seconds of freespool. this is after cleaning and lubing the bearings with corrosion x, then letting it sit for several months before finally completing this post.

before shipping the reel out, i decided to give it one more try and lubed it up with this stuff. i took both bearing out, stacked one on top of the other, then added some of this stuff down through the bearings. the freespool time jumped from 15 seconds to 3 minutes. i'm going to have to take a closer look at this stuff.

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Quote from: Caseyp on March 31, 2009, 03:36:17 PM
Alan, After reading your posts, I have started servicing my own reels.  Many thanks for all of the information and tutorials.  I am no longer afraid to open up these devices.  I do have a question about where you get replacement bearing shields.  I troll for tunas on the east coast, and prefer to load all of my bearings with grease.  Do you have a source for replacement shields for those bearings I open up?  Reels are Penn International 30(old post style) 30Ts, 30Ss, 50(old post style) 50SW and shimano Tiagra 30s, and TLD25s.  Got a couple of each...  Thanks again!  Casey 

you know, casey, i don't.  if you have a bearing shield that is pressed in, the only way to remove it is to pry it out.  you mangle it in the process.  another alternative is to make a bearing packer.  the design would be similar to the one used to pack wheel bearings for cars.  i looked once and found nothing.  it will probably have to be a custom item from a local machine shop.   alan
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hi alan, i was at ************** and we discussed that bearing issue. yes, you were mentioned and here's what i was told.  supposedly the bearing manufacture feels the slightest grit/dust/particulate will damage the races causing the bearing to become inferior, therefore they'd rather risk "trapped water" then run an open bearing which may become "imperfect" due to environmental pollutants occurring inside the reel.  i tired to remove the shield but there's no way i can use a sharp object to remove the clip. i wound up with a dremel and making a slit until the clip was cut and removed the shield. i'll start running an open bearing and see what happens....

yeah, but the bearings manufacturers are IDIOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  what a bunch of morons!!!!!!!!!!!  the only environmental pollutant inside a reel is salt water.  they've had it their way for long enough.  their position has damaged the reputations of many reel companies. 

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I have a question about bearings with pressed in retainers.  Your bearing tutorial didn't cover this. 

The bearing I am speaking of is for a Daiwa Luna 103, part# G43-1001.  It sits under the clutch cam.  I think it is a drive brearing and not freespool type of bearing.  My plan is to stuff it with grease for protection but, once I remove the shield it is toast and I will have an open bearing for its life.  My recollection is that you reccomend leaving the shields on drive bearings for protection.

Is there a way of ensuring grease gets into the bearing without taking it apart?

This is the second one I am replacing on this reel.  I hate to essentially tear the entire reel down to get to it and then spend the $10 for a replacement bearing.


yeah, i know what you mean.  you have to open up one side and press the grease, by hand, through to the other side.  just pile the grease onto the open side and press with your finger, then add more and press more.  you will eventually see grease squeezing out the other side.  just like hand packing axle bearings for that car that you got when you were a kid!
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My brother and I own 8 or 9 Chronarch CH-100BSV reels.  We mostly fish for speckled trout and redfish on the Texas coast.  I'm sure you are familiar with the Shimano ARB shield-less bearings.  I was a little skeptical at first, but these have performed very well for us.  We rinse the reels with fresh water and apply Reel Magic after every saltwater exposure.  

Today I decided to clean one of the reels.  I disassembled the reel and removed all four ball bearings.  They were in great shape but I decided to give them a few minutes in my ultrasonic cleaner anyway.  I put them in the ultrasonic cleaner inside of a glass baby food jar filled with lighter fluid.  I ran them for a 5 minute cycle and it absolutely trashed the bearings.  Only the spool bearings will actually turn and they feel like sandpaper.  The other two are basically seized.  I have a small, inexpensive(lower power) ultrasonic cleaner.

What did I do here?  Did the ultrasonic cleaner trash the Shimano ARB coating?  Needless to say I was a little surprised with the outcome.  I have had good luck with cleaning conventional SS bearings with this method.



mark, i actually have an ultrasonic cleaner but have never cleaned bearings in them because it takes too long.  i've always used carb cleaner and compressed air.  lots of guys soak their bearings in lighter fluid overnight because they don't remove the shields.  if you have the bearings in an ultrasonic there for less than hour, there really is no way that the soap in the ultrasonic cleaner could have damaged the bearings.  if you left the bearings in overnight, then it could have.  particularly if you put liquid laundry detergent in it.  i use green soap and even that can damage a metal surface given enough time.  honestly, my first guess would have been that the bearings were bad to begin with.  i know you said that they were ok to start, but is that a possibility?  alan


Alan, Thanks for the response.  They were definitely not bad before I put them in.  I soaked each one in lighter fluid for a few minutes and turned each one by hand under good lighting.  I could see the inner and outer races clearly rotating.  None of them ever felt and bit of roughness.  I was very surprised then they came out so bad after the ultrasonic 'cleaning'.  

Is there a good chat board that I could try to see if anyone else has seen this?

yes.  here is the shimano support board at  please let me know what bantam says!   alan


I have been out in the garage checking out these bearings and I have to admit that I'm feeling pretty dumb right now.  I was able to clean them and get them as smooth as new.  I think I did not put them in the ultrasonic cleaner long enough and what I was feeling was dirt/salt in the bearing races.

Thanks for your quick responses.  Its carb cleaner and compressed air for me from now on!

hey, i'm just glad it worked!
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Quote from: Roger on December 13, 2009, 11:32:26 PM
Help Mr. Wizard, Got the reel apart, really pretty simple. Everything looks good, had a bunch of old nasty grease inside. Got one question. What is the best way to get the spool bearings out? I've played with them for a little while but I don't want to get too rough and tear one up.

make a little pry bar from an old penn wrench.  also, check the bearings.  if they are already buggered up and will have to be replaced anyway, just pound them out.  make sure you remove the click plate first, just incase yours has a retaining ring for the bearing.  penn is kind of sneaky about that.  if it's going to be easy, i'll just use the spool shaft to lightly tap it out.  careful here.  you don't want to cause any damage to either. 

now, when penn machines the spools, they mill out the bearing cup so that you get a "slip" fit.  after a couple of layers of anodizing, you sometimes have a "pressed" fit, or no fit at all.  after tearing out my hair on a few reels, i've finally started using a dremmel with a sanding reel to remove the anodizing in the bearing cup and restore it to a "slip" fit.  jeez, you've gotta be careful here as well.  if you screw this up by removing too much material, you may have to buy a new spool. 
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Thanks for the heads up on the Reel +
I just re-tuned that green 5500 I pictured in that Abu Hot Rod thread... it's got 6 bearings (not counting the 4 in the handle). I have gotten 33 and one half bumps...not bad. That is using the same spin the spool with your finger test. I also put in a set of Boca Lightning Abec 5's in favor of the stock bearings. Granted a 5500 is a 3/8" less in width than a 6500, 33 bumps I think is safe to say is SMOKIN.  I hope I can keep it under control on the river! I just put an Avail Mag Kit on my other hotrod 5500...looking forward to trying that this weekend.

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Quote from: BigT on January 16, 2010, 10:58:26 AM

Hi Alan, I notice that the reels you've showcased so far are predominantly overhead reels but I'm sure you have a wealth of knowledge about spinning reels too... hence my 2 questions if you're open to sharing your ideas around them?? Firstly, I've had conflicting suggestions about the lubing of clutch bearings in spin reels (I guess overheads would be much the same situation)... some manufacturers suggest a film coat of grease... some say no lubrication at all... all say don't use oil as it can cause the anti reverse to fail... etc, etc, etc.  What would you recommend for clutch bearings?  Secondly, a lot of spin reels these days have ridiculously small bearings in the line roller assembly. I've been packing them with grease for protection but again, what would you recommend please?  Cheers, BigT 

accurate did a fair amount of research with anti-reverse roller bearings and found that corrosion x was the best overall product.  shimano is now using a thinner grease on their roller bearings.  it appears to be a mix of their standard teflon drag grease mixed with an unknown oil (presumably a compatible teflon oil).  it's a no win situation.  if you leave these anti-reverse roller bearings bone dry, they hold great, but the plain steel (not stainless) needles will rust immediately.  if you pack grease into the bearings or add an oil of any type, the inner tube in the roller bearing will slip at a lower range.  see what i mean?  either way, you loose. 

so personally, what i use is just plain old corrosion x.  it will slip under an excessive load.  it is now critical that your drag system function properly and not seize up.  there is simply a physical limit to what these reels can do.  and the reason that reels have been pushed so hard is that they have fallen behind.  reel performance has perhaps doubled at best.  line performance (mono versus spectra) has improved 5 fold.  we need reels that have a 5 fold increase in performance as well. 
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what's your opinion of replacing the stainless bearings with ceramic or even titanium ones? There must be a downside to it or manufacturers would have jumped on them to make advertising claims of corrosion-proof virtually maintenance-free bearings that last forever! I value your opinions. Thanks for your efforts to make us more informed anglers. And I have had to replace a few bearings on my platinum reels in what seemed to be a short time frame. Cheers...

you know, craig, i'm really not sure how corrosion resistant they really are.  i really believe that the non-spool bearing can be the cheap abec-5 stainless as long as you pack them fully with grease.  it makes sense to me? 

anyway, the ceramics are no deal.  all ceramic bearings are prohibitively expensive.  bearings with just ceramic balls have stainless steel races and cages with rust just as quick as all stainless bearings, so throw that out the window.  titanium i know nothing about.  i would ask about hardness and corrosion resistance and the main factors.  if you find more info about titanium, can you let me know?  thanks!  alan
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more archived stuff ........  ;D

Quote from: Nessie Hunter on April 19, 2011, 01:57:00 AM
Bobby, I may be able to shed a little light on that.   
I probably work on more small reels then most. I know I do a ton of upgrades to Ceramic #7 spool bearings.......
Bass guys have a need for speed and bragging rights to how hot rodded their reels are!!
I have a Lot of bass anglers & Guides in my friend/customer list..

5 yrs ago almost all the reels had a long/full shaft that went from end cap to end cap..
Through the pinion gear.....
Almost all had 2 bearings @ 3x10x4 mm one at each end up to 700 size round reels...

But time marches on and they get more high tech each year...
The last 5 yrs have had a lot of innovation and Copy Cat-ing in bass size reels...

The reels with a short shaft (true freespool type) have 2 size bearings, the normal is a 3x10x4 at left plate and the short shaft has the second at rght end of spool/pinion,
the shaft has a shoulder and bearing is held in with a shaft pin (dreaded, hated pin)... 
That one is a 5x11x4 bearing to fit the larger Shaft Dia there..

You can tell by taking off the spool tension cap, if there is a T shaped plastic dead shaft (short) in it, instead of the end of the spool shaft.  The reel has the 2 diff size bearings & short spool shaft...
Or look at the particular schematic for that model....

Now some Shimano, Daiwa etc etc reels have a full length shaft that goes from end to end.. 
BUT have a Pinion bearing also. 
This is again held at rght side of spool with that same dang hated shaft pin...
(the shaft pin also engages the pinion gear)
So these reels actually have 3 spool bearings. 2 @ 3x10x4 & 1 @ 5x11x4...

Have to look at schematic or know the model.. 
I suffer from CRS and have not got up to speed on which is which....

So now you have 2 diff size spool bearings..
Lets go one step further.. 
The Core probably has a small Left side plate area, and takes a smaller bearing, 'I assume' (we all know what that means) that to keep some structural strength or less weight?? in a smaller size end cap/plate.????   
Left side Plate bearing = 3x8x4 for the smaller size end cap reels...

Total ~ we now have 3 Bearing sizes in the newer model & smaller size (bass) Low Profile & round reels.....
3x10x4 mm ~ 5x11x4 mm ~ 3x8x4 mm.............

No way for my low budget, CRS suffering self, to keep up with them....   
I need to make a list and keep it current...   
I often order bearings before I get the reels.  For quick turn around....
So I sort of need to know what size and how many they take..
A few years ago, I could get 3x10x4 for everything up to 700 size round reels --  Not any more!!!

Poor Dawn!!! 
I have to look at schematics (which dont give size) and or rely on Dawn to know what goes where.... 
She is a blessing.......

So that is why your getting 3 different Parts numbers at Shimano for Spool bearings...
They really are diff sized bearings.....

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This ideas is been inside my head for about a year now.

Will Bearings used in RC Cars, Choppers etc will work in reels ? (Mainly, Baitcasters for Bass)
Does Fishing reel bearing require a "special" design that is not present in other bearings (ex. RC Bearings, Normal Bearings) ?

Im in china now and acquiring the right bearings is quite hard to do locally and was thinking of alternatives.

I see Boca, VXB, ZPI, NMB etc also make Bearings for RC Cars so the idea that these bearing are interchange is possible ?
Need experienced insights/opinions from the guys.

I have currently one reel with a Tamiya TRF bearing installed in the Drive Gear and its working (so far so good).
Planning to try using them in spool bearing once I find the right size.

Want to check if anyone has done it before.