Many things can go wrong with a spinning reel, and the drag system is one of the more difficult areas to repair. Spinning reels require constant maintenance and cleaning to run smoothly, especially if being used in salt water. There are a surprising number of moving parts in the spincast reel, and a lot of strain is put on each part. More often than not a good cleaning and lubrication will fix the problem, and once you have the reel apart, identifying any broken parts becomes easy.
Loosen the drag tension knob at the top of the spool and turn the spool to free the drag discs. A common problem with spinning reels is a frozen drag, which is often caused by dirt, debris, or the drag being left tightened. Always loosen your drag completely after using your spinning reel. If loosening the drag and turning the spool frees the drag, then there is usually no need for disassembly. Simply tighten the drag tension knob to test it.
Remove the drag knob from the top of the spool knob to access the drag system inside the spool knob. Both knobs can be unscrewed counterclockwise.
Remove the spring clip in the center of the spool knob with a screwdriver or your finger. The spring clip is under pressure so be careful it does not fly off.
Remove the fiber and metal washers that make up the drag system and place them on a flat surface in the order in which you removed them. Smaller spinning reels generally have just two washers, while larger spinning reels have more.
Identify and replace any broken parts. Inspect the spring clip, the drag knob and each washer for chips, cracks and rust. If you identify any compromised pieces, order replacement parts from the maker of the reel. If two pieces are rusted together, you will need to replace them both.
Clean and lubricate the drag system. Wipe the inside of the spool knob where the drag system sits with a damp cloth. Wipe both sides of each washer and let them air dry. Apply a small dab of reel grease to both sides of the washers and replace them in the correct order in the spool knob.
Replace the spring clip and hold the spool knob upside down to make sure the clip is on securely. With the clip facing down, gently shake the spool knob like a salt shaker. The washers should have enough room to make noise -- but not fall out.
Screw the reel knob back on top of the spool knob and screw the spool knob back onto the rest of the reel.
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