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REELTALK! May/June 2004

*Ifishers: see special offer at the end of this article!*

Plan to Maintain, and Maintain your Plan
Often our customers are curious about the how and why of reels that fail to function. This series of articles will help you learn about some of the common parts failures in fishing reels. It is not meant to be a diagnostic or DIY guide, but rather a way to understand your reel better and try to avoid catastrophic failure. We see component failures in all brands and every model line, from lower price point reels up to the complex and expensive flagship models. The series of articles over the next few months will give you a first hand view of the most common problems encountered in our shop. You’ll get a better feel for why we replace certain parts, and understand the reasons why you shouldn’t wait for a complete failure before conducting maintenance and inspection. I hope you find it informative, and welcome your comments and criticisms.

The Zen of Reel Maintenance?
Broken reel parts can’t fix themselves. Problems don’t just go away. Not matter how much we deny the pain, a reel can not practice Zen “mind over matter” discipline. If you get a pebble in your shoe, you can force yourself to ignore the pain. If you get sand in your reel, clean it, don’t fish with it. The grinding sound may temporarily be reduced, but at a high cost sooner than later. If your clutch won’t engage (or disengage) don’t force it. You will bend or break something. If your drag won’t tighten down enough, don’t turn the star wheel beyond the breaking point of the driveshaft. If your drag seems grabby and cantankerous, don’t be tempted to spray the washers with WD-40 or 3 in 1 lube. And if you have a friend who swears by his _insert brand here_ reel that has never needed any maintenance for the last 10 years...... remember you probably know someone who hasn’t changed the oil in his car for the same amount of time too.

The bottom line is this: Take care to be aware of those dozens of denizens of parts working together to help you bring in fish. They work best in a clean environment; but they rarely have that luxury on the water. Reels work smoothest when kept oiled and greased all the time, but are maintained seldom if ever by most people. Parts should be inspected for wear and replaced prophylactically, but most fishermen wait until something breaks at an inopportune time before fixing problem reels. What this ends up as is a fisherman with a lost fish and a grudge against the product that failed them.

Another way to put it is that most of the time it’s not the reel at fault, but the person who is using it that doesn’t have a realistic expectation of how much abuse a complicated device like a reel is capable of handling. Rest assured however, that when you least expect a fish to get away, it will get away due to equipment failure. And yes, it’s then easy to put the blame on the reel rather that your abilities. But just ask any successful fishing guide and you will see. They can’t afford failures from equipment. A guide can coach a novice into boating a trophy fish, but if drags don’t drag, levelwinds fail to stack line, or gears break teeth, there is no second chance to salvage a guide/client relationship. And that’s a fish story no one wants to have to tell.

Levelwind Component Failure
Everyone knows when their levelwind fails. The line starts to stack up unevenly on one side of the reel, leading to backlashes and spool jamming. What is not so easy is figuring out which part(s) have failed in the levelwind mechanism.

The Pawl
The pawl on the levelwind is the link between the line carriage (that guides the line back and forth across the spool) and the worm gear. It is subject to wear because the tracks in the worm gear fill with grit and grime. As the pawl moves back and forth hundreds of times, it wears down and begins to hang up in the worm gear. Notice in the picture that the right end of the pawl is worn down more than the left. They should be sharp edged and equivalent in height.

The Worm Gear
The worm gear allows a continuous movement of the pawl/line guide unit across the spool, stacking line evenly along the way. Worm gears usually fail after the pawl has already worn unevenly. The pawl tries to cut a new path into the worm gear with some success. Unfortunately this ends up jamming or catching in one spot causing occasional levelwind hangups at best. Notice in the picture below how the pawl has tried to cut a new path through the corner of the worm. This is indicated by the bare metal showing beneath the plating. Note also the wear on the end of the worm gear due to lack of lubrication.

The Idle Gear
Idle gears ideally sacrifice themselves before allowing hard metal (read expensive) parts in the levelwind to fail. This is why most idle gears are made from plastic. In practice, idle gears fail at about the same frequency as do pawls. You can see in the picture below what happens when an idle gear loses it’s cool. Looks a little like Leon Spinx, doesn’t it?

The Line Carriage (Line Guide)
These are made of either metal or plastic. Plastic ones break from ultraviolet light exposure most often. Metal line guides wear out as well, but this is somewhat less common. This one seems fine upon initial inspection, and the problem would be missed by most;

but take a closer look under magnification and you’ll see why the levelwind would still catch occasionally. See the flat spot with the sharp corners?

Well, that’s going to do it for this installment. Next time we’ll take a look at drag washer wear and contamination, plus a discussion including graphic pictures of clutch failure. Drop us a line if you have any questions about fishing reels at [email protected] Or just go to the source at www.reelmeister.com.

Here is the special offer: Get twenty percent off all parts when we service your reel. Use code ifish0504 in your email. This offer is good through 6/31/04 and can not be used retroactively for reels already received.

ENTIRE contents of this article copyright ©2004 Al Chirinian/ReelMeister.com. All Rights Reserved.
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