14 Common Spinning Reel Problems (And How To Fix Them)

Doing your own spinning reel repairs and maintenance can save you time and money. 

There are many things we can learn to do ourselves, from diagnosing a reel issue to implementing a fix. 

We all have varying mechanical aptitude with these types of things. 

It’s important that you’re aware of your limitations, but it’s also important to develop your skills. More on that shortly.

Today we’ll look at some common spinning reel problems and failures, and what we can do to identify and potentially fix the problem. 

Firstly, here’s the best tip I can give for becoming an advanced spinning reel fix legend.

How To Fix Spinning Reel Problems

Buy yourself a $25 dollar spinning reel. You can use it for fishing if you like, but the purpose of this reel is for disassembly and assembly.

The best way to learn the intricate parts of a spinning reel is to pull one apart and try to put it back together.

It’s best not to do this with a reel you love, as you may kill it. 

It’s also good to do it with a new reel, as there should be no variables relative to the original spec. 

Nonetheless, if you do have an old working reel you don’t fish any longer, this will do too. You may find a schematic for it online. Awesome!

You don’t have to do this alone either, as there are many videos online (of variable instruction quality) that will help.

Here’s an example. But do some research and find one that you can relate to.

Before you Start to Fix a Spinning Reel

For those working with Asian reels, you’ll need to be familiar with metric measurements and have a few smaller metric sockets and spanners on hand.

Anything from 7 to 12 mm should cover it. You also need a set of slim, long-handled tweezers and a selection of flat blade and Phillips head screwdrivers.

A strong directed light source is a must, and a magnifying glass can be handy. Small containers are essential for keeping small parts as you remove them.

Make sure you have reel grease, as specified by the manufacturer. Degreasing solution is also required such as WD40. You may also require adhesives such as JB Weld.

It’s a good idea to video the disassembly process, making commentary on the way. This can be invaluable when it comes to reassembly.

Be aware that some manufacturers require proprietary tools to work fasteners. 

This can be problematic as these tools are not available to the general public. A good example is the Daiwa BG MQ.

Let’s take a look at some common spinning reel issues.

1. Braided Line Slipping on Spool

A pretty common issue with an easy fix.

How to Fix it

Braid will slip on the arbor of a spool. Many reels are listed as braid ready. 

They have a rubber section on the arbor that allows the braid to grip. You can simulate this with an appropriately sized rubber band.

Alternatively, spool up the first portion of your reel with mono. 10% should be enough to eliminate slippage.

Here’s a video on spooling braid to a spin reel.

2. Spinning Reel Locked Up

Depending on the situation, this issue can be straightforward, complex, or even disastrous.

Whatever the case, there are some specific reasons for this issue.. 

Common causes are corrosion, poorly aligned gears, broken internals, or loose parts jamming rotation.

How to Fix it

Remove the side plate to assess the status of the gears. Check mesh and alignment and reposition if required. 

Check for corrosion. If parts are broken, you’ll need to order replacements.

Check all of the bearings, it’s possible that corrosion or sand ingress has jammed inside. 

If this is the case, remove, degrease, clean, and repack. If the bearing is a little dodgy, replace it.

Remove the spool and go through the same process. Be sure to check shims, washers, and O rings have not dislodged or broken, impeding rotation.

It’s a process of elimination. But a reel that won’t crank generally has a reasonably serious issue that doesn’t have a 30-second fix.

Check this video for some insights.

3. Line Not Running under Bail Arm

The issue of line not running under the bail arm happens a lot. 

However, most anglers will not recognize what they’ve done. They’ve simply threaded the line incorrectly.

How to Fix it

You’ll simply have to thread it again, making sure you go under the bail arm. 

The tip is to open the bail arm before you tie up to the arbor. For a quick spin spooling lesson, check this video out.

4. Spinning Reel Won’t Turn

This is similar, if not the same as your spinning reel locking up. There can be multiple causes for this, but it’s best to check simple things first.

How to Fix it

Before you start pulling things apart, make sure your line hasn’t gone underneath the rotor or spool. 

This is a common issue and can cause your reel to stop turning.

It’s not uncommon for fishing line to create quite the mess and lock-up. 

Remove the spool, and hopefully, you can pull the line free. If it got under the rotor by some chance, you might have to remove the rotor.

It could be a serious issue that causes lock up. 

Refer to the process outlined in item 2 above. A process of elimination is required to identify the problem. Look for corrosion, broken parts, and misaligned gears.

A common issue is your reel may be jammed with sand. Beach anglers often drop their reels in a sandy slurry, and once inside, it can stop your reel from turning. Here’s an easy fix.

5. Spinning reel won’t lock

This issue often means the anti-reverse is broken or not functioning for some reason. 

Often it’s as simple as a loose or broken spring, and other times it’s bearing or bush slippage.

How to Fix

This is perhaps the most common and frustrating issue with spinning reels. You should become proficient at this repair since it often occurs while you’re fishing.

All reels will have slight variations in the anti-reverse system; so get familiar with yours. Open your reel to access the critical parts. 

Assess the cause. If it’s not the spring, you’ll need to delve further.

Often the best option is to remove the clutch assembly, clean and inspect very closely, then reassemble.

If the issues continue, the bearing may need to be replaced. For the basic procedure. Check this video out.

6. Spinning Reel Line Always Gets Tangled

This often happens because of an overfull spool, under full spool, using an old line, or line outside the reels ratings. The fix is obvious in this case.

However, poor line lay can be the cause of consistent tangling, as the uniform line lay is required for tangle mitigation.

How to Fix it

Once you’ve established that the issue is not an old or inappropriate line, you’ll need to investigate further. 

Often, a shim will be required to restore effective line lay. Installing shims can be a little tricky, as the parts are often very small. 

This video provides comprehensive insight and will not only solve the issue but may improve your casting. Check it out here.

7. Spinning Reel Bail Won’t Close or Stay Open

The main reason a bail arm is not closing is usually due to a bent arm. For auto bail arms, closing and opening issues are most likely corrosion in the spring, or a broken spring or actuator.

How to Fix it

Bending the arm back into shape is very much trial and error. It’s best to remove it first, so you don’t strain it at its anchor points.

To assess corrosion or sand ingress, you will have to remove the bail arm and assess the mechanism.

You may have to clean, reconnect, or replace the spring, or simply remove the dirt and sand collected in the mechanism. 

This video gives a step-by-step for isolating and fixing the issue.

8. Old Ball Bearings on a Spinning Reel

Most modern reels have anywhere from 3 to 13 ball and roller bearings. Over time they can wear, fail, and need replacement. 

Often, however, they just need a clean and regrease to return to peak performance.

How to Fix it

Use the reel schematic to identify the questionable bearing. You will have to remove it to clean and inspect it properly. Heavily corroded bearings should be replaced.

You should note proprietary bearings might not be required, so go to a bearing supplier with your bearing, and check for a non-genuine replacement. 

In some cases, you’ll get a better quality bearing.

More often than not, the bearing has filthy grease that should be replaced. Sand and water contaminate grease which impacts bearing performance significantly.

Sometimes proprietary bearings might be required. 

In the case of Daiwa Mag Seal bearings, you must use mag seal grease, which is not available to the general public and must be sent to Daiwa.

Here’s a great video to show you how to clean or replace bearings in a spinning reel.

9. Using the Wrong Line Size for Spinning Reel

Using a line class outside of reel specifications is possible but can be problematic, with tangles and poor casting performance the likely outcome.

How to Fix It

Find out the recommended line class for the reel. It’s often printed on the side of the spool. If it’s not, check online by punching your reel model and size into a google search.

If it’s an old reel and information is scarce, try looking at the specs for another reel of a similar size and make.

Once you know the correct line type, simply remove the old line and replace it with the appropriate line class.

10. Over Lubrication Issues

Too much lube can be messy. It can also impact the performance of your reel. 

Clutch bearings, in particular, can malfunction if inappropriate lube gets on them, having leaked from another location.

How to Fix it

Removing excess lube might be as simple as using a rag to dab away the excess. 

You will need to open the side plate and perhaps remove the rotor to address the issue.

Sometimes a rag won’t suffice, and we’ll need a full degrease and clean and a reapplication of the appropriate quantity of lubricant.

11. How to Fix Fishing Reel Handles if it Falls Off

Reel handles take a heck of a beating. They can bend and break but often fall off due to missing nuts or threaded shafts or nuts.

How to fix it.

Finding replacement nuts is usually straightforward and can often be dealt with at your local hardware store. 

If the nut is a little unusual, you might be better placed to go genuine or try a specialty fasteners store.

In the case of worn threads, a quick fix can be achieved by using plumbers tape. Often this achieves great results, but will eventually become unsatisfactory. 

Plumbers tape is generally a poor option for high-demand fishing, such as big fish hunting.

Replacement of your handle is the most effective fix, and you can only find one at a fishing store. 

The best option to avoid this issue is to service handles. Here’s a trick for mixing and matching old reel handles.

This video has a good segment on handle maintenance.

12. How do you Service your Spinning Reel to Avoid Corrosion?

Corrosion kills reels and fast. Often, a reel that has the potential to last a lifetime won’t last a season of heavy saltwater exposure, if not cleaned properly.

The Fix

The best way to avoid corrosion is to clean your reels after every session. Water, a rag, and full drying are all that are needed to add years to your reel’s life.

Don’t store reels wet, never dunk your reel if at all possible, and always be aware of your reel’s sealing limitations.

The best fix for corrosion is prevention. And the best prevention is scheduled maintenance of a deep clean every few months, depending on usage.

An external clean and protection are best done with specific reel cleaning products or a light wipe with WD40. 

Make sure you don’t spray it on directly, as its degreasing properties will cause issues if it gets inside the reel.

A reel used in the surf every other weekend will need a full clean every few months. It can be a little time-consuming, but it’s worth it, particularly with expensive reels.

The video listed in item 11 shows a good routine. Here’s another you can follow to extend the life of your spin reels.

13. Spinning Reel is Noisy

A noisy spinning reel is generally a sign that internals need some attention. More often than not, lubrication is the fix.

How to Fix it

Remove the rotor and side plate and first inspect to see if nothing is broken. Breaks and gear cracks can be noisy, but you can bet that your reel simply needs a full lube.

Here’s a quick lube job that doesn’t require disassembly.

14. Cuts on Your Spool Lip

Over time we can get spurs or cuts in the lip of the spool. These are very bad for the line, causing cuts and abrasions. 

This is a common issue with spools that are made from softer alloys. Often, it’s best to replace the spool, but you can attempt a fix with a file and extra-fine wet and dry sandpaper.

How to fix it.

For deep cuts and dints, it is best you replace the spool. For slight burns it’s possible to file it carefully and then use wet and dry sandpaper wet, making sure it’s the finest grade you can get.

Dints shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but it’s critical that you remove any rough or sharp areas. 

If you have doubts about the smoothness of the job, it’s best replaced. 

Generally speaking, however, a good job with the sandpaper will be enough to restore a smooth and line-friendly lip.

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