Fix a Noisy Fishing Reel

When people send me bass fishing reels for service, many of them will list problems that they have noticed with the reel. The most common issues I see are that their fishing reel is making noise. Most will describe the noise as anywhere from a high pitched squeal to a chirping or clicking noise that occurs during the cast. Almost everyone says that the bearings are making the noise. Here is how I fix a noisy fishing reel.

Noisy Fishing Reel

On reels that I have serviced, the most common complaint after some time of using the reel, is this same noise. The customer is always afraid that something happened to the reel bearings. I can tell you that it’s almost never the reel bearings making these noises. When noises like this occur, it’s usually while they are using the reel and the noise will get worse as they use it. Bearings don’t go bad like that. Also, when a bearing does go bad, it almost never makes noise but will make the reel feel rough, or you will feel a clicking sensation. The other thing that happens in conjunction with this noise from reels, is that casting distance will also decrease. This combination definitely makes you think that a bearing has gone bad, but that’s not what’s happening.

If you think about the noise, it’s very similar to a fingernail on a chalkboard or a fork scraping a plate. Bearings don’t generally make noises like that. Noises like that are caused by something rubbing a surface. What rubs inside a reel during a cast that can both make a noise, and affect distance? The answer is your brakes.

All reels with centrifugal brakes have plastic or fiber tabs that rub the inside of a brake ring. That brake ring and those tabs have to be lubricated, or they will be rubbing on a dry surface. Anytime something rubs a dry surface, it will make a noise. As stated, it can be a variety of noises that happen on the cast, but 99% of the time it will be dry brakes.

Now, why would that also cause the reel to slow down? The answer is the same, dry brakes. When a dry plastic tab rubs a dry brake ring, the friction is a lot more than when it’s oiled, so much more, that the ends of the tabs will often melt and have fringe hanging off of them. Most new reels come with a thin to thick layer of grease on the brake ring. Grease will lube the brake ring and keep it from making noise, but it will also cause inconsistent braking. Therefore, after a reel has been serviced, the brake ring and tabs will be oiled, but not greased.

The braking is much more consistent with oiled brake parts, but oil doesn’t last as long as grease. If you have a reel with centrifugal brakes, you need to wipe a drop or two of reel oil around the inside of the brake ring at least once a month. A few drops on a Q-Tip makes this easy to do. It’s a good practice to get into opening the side cover to oil your brakes frequently. This will also give you the chance to wipe a little grease on the side cover locking tabs or threads. You would be amazed at how many reels I see that have never been opened, and I quite often wonder if I’m going to be able to open it without breaking the cover due to corrosion and the fact that it was never opened for lubrication or adjustment.

Having your reels serviced once a year is a great thing, but they will still need some attention from you between services. It’s a good idea to keep a small bottle of reel oil and a tube of grease along with some Q-tips as an emergency service kit. If your reel is new and has not been serviced, use the stock lubes that should have come with it. If I have serviced your reels, the brake parts will have yellow label rocket fuel oil on them and the side cover locking tabs should have Cal’s universal reel grease on them. Mixing brands, stock versus your servicing store, on brake parts and locking tabs probably won’t hurt anything, although it’s definitely not a good idea to mix brands in other areas of the reel.

Follow these simple steps to get maximum performance from your reels between services. Keeping them clean and lightly oiled will also prevent the need to replace parts during annual servicing.


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