How to Oil a Fishing Reel? [Step by Step Guide]

How to Oil a Fishing Reel

Fishing reels come in different types and sizes, however, they all have something in common, and that is they have to be maintained regularly to ensure optimal performance.

In this maintenance process, lubricating parts of the reel is essential, to ensure smooth operation of all moving parts, and to protect them.

To oil the reel, you have to disassemble the reel first, by using some basic tools. Then, all of the parts have to be cleaned from dirt, and if there are signs of corrosion, it has to be removed. When this is done, anglers have to use suitable oil and grease on different reel parts.

This task may sound simple, but for a fishing beginner, it can be quite complicated. Also, not every oil/grease is suitable for reels.

So, if you are new to this, and you think it is time to take care of your reel, inform yourself about a proper ogling process and carefully do it on your reel.



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How to Oil a Fishing Reel? [Step by Step Guide]

You can find detailed instructions for every reel model stated by the reel manufacturer, so this is just a general, basic, guide.

Of course, you will need suitable tools for disassembling and cleaning the reel.

Follow these step-by-step guide to oil it:

Clean the reel from outside.

Disassemble the reel.

Deep clean the parts with a soft cloth, a toothbrush, cotton swab or anything that is gentle and small enough. Use specialized reel cleaning solutions.

Apply grease to the gears.

Oil the bearings. If there is excess oil, wipe it off.

Start assembling the reel, and oiling all the moving parts that have to be oiled one by one, as they come, including the shaft, and the knob.

Oil the bail connections and flip it up and down to ensure that the oil penetrated the connections.

Assemble the reel to the last part.

And that’s it. Your reel is ready to be used again.

Of course, if you notice any problems, try to fix the reel, or replace faulty parts.

This complete disassembly is not easy, so if you are unsure about it, or can’t find manufacturer’s instructions, ask for more experienced anglers for help, or take it to the professionals to service the reel for you.

How to Oil a Fishing Reel - Step-by-Step-Guide

Do I Need to Oil [Do Fishing Reel Maintenance] Regularly?

Many anglers ask do I need to oil my fishing reel?

Yes, you definitely should. Some models should even be oiled after you buy them, before the first use, because sometimes reels come with insufficient amount of oil.

Reels are made from many parts, and the most important ones are the moving ones.

Oil is there to reduce friction and temperature, as well as to protect these parts from corrosion. Some oils have anti-corrosion properties, so using those is beneficial.

Of course, before oiling it, you have to clean it thoroughly. Adding oils to dirt or any kind of residue will do more harm than good, because it will “lock” the dirt in the oil and the small particles will rub against the reel parts every time you use it.

To clean the reel, you shouldn’t use harsh chemical or detergents that are too aggressive. Just to be sure, you can get specialized reel products. These may be a bit more expensive, but they will not damage the reel. There are all kinds of information online, and some of them are just wrong. Be careful about that.

BONUS TIP: When saltwater fishing, it's important to remember to clean your reel every time after use to prevent corrosion from the salt. Rinse the reel thoroughly with fresh water and dry it to remove any salt residue. Failure to do so can lead to decreased performance and a shortened lifespan of your fishing equipment. 

How Often Should I Oil my Fishing Reel?

Before learning how to use fishing reel oil, you should know how often to do it. There is no general answer to this question, and it greatly depends on how often you use it.

Basic cleaning should be done after every use, and more thorough cleaning should be done at least once a year. Of course, when you disassemble the reel, you should oil and grease the parts too.

Recreational anglers can do this once or twice a year. Professionals will of course do that more often, but I assume they know everything about it.

As a recreational angler, you are probably fishing on weekends and vacations, and put a lot less stress on your reel. If you are one of those anglers who most often fish like this during warmer parts of the year and on vacation, doing it once a year is sufficient.

Those who are fishing year-round should do it twice a year. Of course, many anglers have multiple reels, so you may oil the one you are using the most more often than reels you are using just occasionally.

There is one “rule” you should follow, and that is regular oiling. Do not wait for the reel to start showing signs of oil lacking, because it will significantly reduce its lifespan.

Some will say that they do it on a monthly basis, but that is not necessary if you are not fishing that often.

Where do You Oil a Fishing Reel? [Which Parts]

Anglers have to know where to oil fishing reel. There are a lot of parts that need lubrication (you can also check my article about fishing reel lubricant alternatives).

First of all, you have to remove all dirt and old oil and grease from the reel parts. Do not apply new oil on the dirty and old one.

When all the parts are dry, you may apply it again. Also, keep in mind that overlubricating is a problem too, and if you accidentally put too much, remove the excess.

All of the parts that are affected by friction have to be precise lubricated, and those are:

  • Main shaft
  • Line roller
  • Knobs
  • Bail arm springs
  • Handles
  • Anti-reverse bearing
  • Bearings
  • Gears

Some of these parts are not easy to access. When you disassemble the reel, label the parts to be able to assemble it again.

Also, some models of reels have maintenance ports. One of the popular manufacturers with this option is Shimano, and this feature is quite useful, especially for beginners.

There is basically an opening in which you can put a drop of oil on a regular basis, without disassembling the reel. But this process can’t replace regular maintenance, and it still has to be done in a traditional way. This only helps to always keep the reel well-oiled, and to reduce the possibility of malfunctions related to insufficient oil content.

Now when you know where do you oil a fishing reel, you can consider the suitable oils.

How to Oil a Fishing Reel - Where to Oil

What Reel Oil Should I Choose?

Anglers often ask what can I use to oil my fishing reel. There is numerous information shared online, and the problem is that they are not always good.

You can probably oil it with anything once or twice, but you are doing more harm than good in the long run.

I always recommend using reel safe products for oiling, as well as for cleaning. These oils may cost a bit more, but look at it as an investment. You wouldn’t put any kind of oil in your car, so just keep the same principles with your reels.

There are many brands available, and all those are made with specific density, anti-corrosion properties, and other features that are there to ensure maximum reel performance.

Also, you can`t use the same oils on all reel parts. Oils have different physical properties and denser oils, especially grease, stay in place longer and reduce friction more. Grease is in a solid state, while oils are liquid, at least on the room temperature. Grease partially works as a sealant too. Oil is great for all quick moving parts that are not under so much stress.

Look for a high-quality lubricant with great thermal stability, anti-corrosion properties, and with water resistance. This, together with perfect density, make these specialized products different from other lubricants. Also, avoid silicon-based grease for reels. Avoid those containing TFE because it will solidify within the reel.

Also, avoid popular WD-40 for cleaning/lubricating the reel because when it dries, it leaves a thin film over the surfaces that collects dust.

Can I Use Vegetable Oil on Fishing Reels?

When thinking about what can I use to oil my fishing reel there is a longer list of what not to use.

One of them is vegetable oil, or any kind of grease or oil used in a kitchen.

These oils have completely different properties than reel oils. Vegetable oils have a viscosity that increases in cold temperatures.

This means that the thickness of the oil, and as a result, the performance of your reel, will vary a lot, depending on outside conditions. Yes, all oils will slightly change, but vegetable oils have a really large change.

Also, these oils will wash out too quickly. Synthetic oils are used for all the machinery, and using anything different is not advisable.

Can I Use Gun Oil on Fishing Reels?

Except wondering about vegetable oils, many new anglers ask can I use gun oil on my fishing reel.

This is especially popular in the USA, where many outdoor enthusiast and anglers also have legal access to guns, and they maintain their guns regularly. Using the same oil for both seems convenient.

The answer is yes, however, not every oil and not on every reel part. Some machine oils are rated as safe for multiple use, and will work on guns, as well as on the fishing reels.

These oils will not do any harm, but may not be the best option for reel parts like ball bearings, because it is a bit too thick. Another part that works well with only very light reel oils is anti-reverse bearing. You should actually have a different reel oil for those, not the same one as for bearings and other parts, if you want to ensure maximum performance.

So, yes, the gun oil may be used on reels, however, it is not the most optimal option. But, it is much better to use that one, than not using oil at all.

How to Oil a Fishing Reel - What to Use

Do you Oil or Grease Fishing Reel Bearings?

I already mentioned the difference between oil and grease, which is important for this question.

General rule is that grease goes on gears, because they have to be well protected, friction needs to be minimal, lubrication (grease) has to stay in place, and they are under a lot of stress when the reel is working.

Oil goes on all other parts, especially fast-moving ones, including the bearings.

However, some anglers put a little bit of grease onto their reel bearings, over the oil, to shield them better. This may sound fine, but you should not be mixing different types of oils together, as well as different types of lubrication like oil and grease together.

Mixing it will change their properties. Grease is not designed for fast moving parts and maybe you could pull-off by using in in very slow reels. Some anglers even say that they use grease to prevent excessive spinning, but in reality, this just adds additional stress to these parts. Greasing them is not the best idea, and here is why.

Grease, especially low-quality one, will hold the impurities much better than the oil. And it will stay in place with that. In the beginning it will work well, but as it accumulates impurities, it will slowly start causing wear and tear. In spinning reel bearings, instead of grease, you may use a bit thicker oil. On baitcasting reel, thinner oil is used for maximum performance, but due to the fact it will wash out sooner, you will have to oil it more often.


Every angler should learn how to oil a fishing reel ...

Well lubricated reels are more dependable, well protected, and last longer. With just a little bit of care, your reel will perform excellent, and you will save money on costly repairs that can occur if the reel is not protected.

Oils are there to reduce friction and protect sensitive parts. Of course, you have to clean it before you lubricate it.

Use just the reel-safe products, and keep in mind that gears are lubricated with grease, not oil!

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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