hands oiling a fishing reel

How to Oil a Fishing Reel – Step-By-Step Breakdown

Most new reels come out of the box with very little lubrication. Since they are used in humid conditions, they tend to be prone to rust. Therefore, proper maintenance of your reel is not an option but a duty.

The water that comes in to contact with the reel as you use it can be salty and corrosive to the parts of your gadget. And since most reels have metallic parts e.g. bearings and gears, they need to be properly oiled and greased.

When the gears and bearings are well lubricated they move smoothly and this makes using it easy and efficient. It will not get stuck as you fish and it will last longer. You will also keep away rust that can eat away on the spool tips and cause it to malfunction.

Related: How to clean a fishing reel

What You Need to Oil a Reel

a) Tools

You will need a small screwdriver with a flat head. You need to disassemble parts of the reel to be able to clean the inside. This is where the screwdriver comes in handy.

It can be a bit unnerving if you are afraid to damage it but performing maintenance is super easy once it is dismantled. You may need a brush with hard bristles to scrub out dirt from the gears.

b) Lubricants

Check with the manufacturer’s manual for specific instructions on which grease and oil to use on your reel. The reel bearings may need greasing and the gears oiling.

This information is normally found in the manual. Correct application of lubricants will boost efficiency and prolong usage.

You can also go for 3-in-1 oil that is for all the purposes of lubricating your reel. It cleanses, lubricates and protects all the parts from rust. You can find this in most general stores.

c) Other Materials

Consider using non-corrosive cleaning liquid to avoid damage to the reel parts. Gasoline is good as a cleaner but it melts the plastic on the reel. Isopropyl alcohol is a preferred option for cleaning (Read more here).

You will need cotton swabs to use for the application of oil and cleaning the interior of the reel. Paper towels and tags will help you when wiping off excess oil and drying the external parts.

How to Oil a Fishing Reel – The Steps

Cleaning and oiling the reel yourself is less costly than having it done by a pro. However, you should ensure that you use products that are not potentially destructive to your fishing reel.

Inspect that they are non-corrosive. Using gasoline to service your reel can potentially melt the plastic parts.

Step 1: Opening the Interior

Turn the drag knob anticlockwise to remove the spool assembly. For some reels that have a rare drag, you need to push the release button for the exposure of spool assemblies. The inside part of the reel will now be open.

Step 2: Checking for Damage

Check the spool for any damage. Ensure your work area is well-lit to enable you to observe the spool lip. Should you find any damages, get it fixed before proceeding with cleaning and oiling. In case there is no damage, you can proceed and clean it.

Step 3: Cleaning the Reel

Dip the cotton swabs into isopropyl alcohol and clean the external parts. Wipe off any excess alcohol and get rid of any available gleam and unwanted particles.


Use the cotton swabs to clean the assembly line. In case you notice rust, rub more alcohol on the area. To clean the inside of the reel, push cotton swabs in then remove them. Make sure you clean before oiling and greasing. This ensures the lubricant works effectively.

Step 4: Lubrication

The assembly roller that is responsible for moving the reel needs oiling. The best practice is to oil frequently to ensure smooth rolling of the lines. Oil all the parts in the reel that move. Missing a spot can lead to damage. Drop a globule or more of oil on to the parts and use cotton swabs to apply gently on the sections of the reel.


Make sure to grease the gear bearing responsible for moving the handle. When you have a reel with more than one gear, make sure to grease all of them. This will facilitate movement. Excess grease can cause clogging and reduce mobility. Check that you have used enough grease.

*Extra Hints

Feel free to over-lubricate the inner parts as this is even better than not lubricating it enough. An extra drop of oil to the reel keeps it smooth and rolling. Tear and rust are minimized with oiling. Oiling enables the gears to slide smoothly over each other and reduces friction that can lead to tear and wear.

Oil the arm of the reel. Use a rag to remove any remaining oil as this can make the arm slippery and difficult to hold.

Step 5: Tidying and Storage

Clean your working surface and store away what you used. Leave the reel for a while for the oil to be absorbed before you can use it. Reassemble the parts and make sure the screw is just as tight as it should be. Check that the parts of the reel are moving smoothly before storage.

Avoid the use of a degreaser as this can lead to premature wear and tear of the inside parts of your spinning reel.
If you still do not have the confidence to oil your reel by yourself, get a friend who has experience with this and observe how they do it with the purpose of doing it yourself next time. You can also get a professional to get the job done.


A fishing reel is expensive. To prolong its lifespan, it is advisable to oil and use it as required. Clean it after each fishing trip and ensure it dries well before you keep it.

Tighten the drag to ensure water does not get in and when not in use, loosen the drag to ensure its effectiveness. If you have a rusty fishing reel, your fishing may just be as rusty.

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Erick Thompson

Hi, I'm a fishing & kayaking enthusiast who enjoys sharing tips and tidbits with newbies, intermediates, and experienced anglers alike.

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