Fixing a “Frozen” BH-55 Ballhead

Stiff ballhead with loose lock knob.

With a loose lock knob, the ballhead is still stiff. What the heck?

The BH-55 is our go-to ballhead for the strongest, most stable support from Really Right Stuff. With three knob controls, the powerhouse gives complete customize-able control over how the head pans and pivots. Looking at the back of the ballhead (opposite of the logo) there is the large main lock knob on the left and two stacked small knobs on the rob. The lower small knob controls the rotation of the ballhead on the 360° base, while the recessed upper knob controls drag tension for the balls movement. Here is a quick fix if your main lock knob is loose and yet the ballhead seems stuck or “frozen”:

  1. 1
    Start by tightening the main lock knob to be fairly snug.
    Tighten the main lock knob.

    Tighten the main lock knob.

  2. 2
    Spin the upper drag-set knob so that the numbers are decreasing, until it stops
    Decrease the drag-knob tension.

    Decrease the drag-knob tension.

  3. 3
    Go back to the main lock knob and loosen the tension.
    Loosen the main lock knob.

    Loosen the main lock knob.

  4. 4
    Voila! Your seemingly stuck ball head should now be free.
    The ballhead is now loose.



  1. Camp Murphy says:

    What if my main lock knob is “frozen”? I can’t turn mine at all.

    • Jim @ RRS says:

      Hi Camp,

      If you can’t turn the Main Lock Knob (MLK) by hand, but the ball is free moving, it needs to go clockwise to free up. Try wrapping a thin kitchen towel, rubber jar opener, or even a large rubber band around the knob to get a good grip, and turn in a righty-tighty (clockwise) direction.

      If the MLK is stuck and the ball itself is frozen, it needs to loosen in a counter-clockwise direction (“lefty-loosy”).

      If you need further assistance with that, shoot us an email at


  2. Chuck Schmidt says:

    My head is frozen and I turned the main lock to tighten as you described in the video, but my tension knob is already at zero and will not turn. Any suggestions?

    • Jim @ RRS says:

      Remember that “0” is not necessarily the lowest tension point – the numeric scale on the drag knob is only for reference and does not indicate a particular level of tension. Once you’ve tightened the main lock knob as tight as possible (don’t be afraid to really turn it tightly) the pressure on the drat set knob is relieved, and you should turn that counterclockwise until it stops (pay no attention to the numbers). Once you’ve done that, release the main lock knob and the ball should be free.

  3. L.Taylor says:

    My BH55 works fine overall in that the ball moves properly , the main lock is fine and the rotation adjustment knob is fine but the drag tension knob won’t budge at all. Any suggestions? I can use the head as a whole but would like to have this function back. Fortunately the drag tension is stuck at a good setting for me.

    • Jim @ RRS says:

      If the drag knob is stuck but the ball is free to move, that means it’s stuck at the loose end of the travel and needs to turn clockwise to free up. We recommend using a rubber band or thin cloth to get a better grip on the knob (no metal tools!). It also helps in some cases to tighten the main lock knob first to relieve any tension from the drag knob.

  4. shilpa says:

    Tension drag knob stuck at 2 and the ball head stuck in the drop knotch on bh 55, pls help

  5. shilpa says:

    Drag tension knob stuck at 2 and ball head stuck at drop knotch. Other 2knobs moving.pls help

  6. vivek dutt says:

    my drag knob is held so tight that i cannot twist it at all. please help.

  7. brad doherty says:

    Good Afternoon: My drag knob is stuck also. I have tried all of the above loosening and/or tightening main knob, but it is still stuck. This is so aggravating. I would appreciate any other suggestions.Thank–bd

    • Jim @ RRS says:

      Hi Brad,

      Please feel free to shoot us an email at, or give us a call at 888-777-5557. We’ll be happy to help you troubleshoot your ballhead.

      Generally speaking, if the drag knob is stuck it’s simply wedged at one end of its travel and needs to be forced in the proper direction. If the ball is loose and the drag knob is stuck, turn it clockwise (after tightening the main lock knob as much as possible by hand). If the ball is frozen AND the drag knob is frozen, tighten the main knob and loosen the drag knob by turning it counter-clockwise.

      Because of its small size, it can sometimes be difficult to grasp the knob to loosen when it requires a lot of force to dislodge. We find that using a rubber jar opener, or a short length of surgical/rubber tubing allows for a good firm grip on the knob without causing damage.

      You can also send us your ballhead so we can free up that knob. 9 times out of 10 I can do so using a little bit of 1/4″ rubber hose we have in the shop. The important thing is to relieve whatever tension you can off the drag knob by really tightening the main knob as much as you can (but never with metal tools).

      Again, please let us know if you have any other questions.

      Jim Weise
      Customer Service
      Really Right Stuff

  8. My drag knob was stuck but the ball moved freely. Your telephone rep told me to send the BH-55 in for a $40 to $60 repair. However, the solution was a simple one detailed right here in this series of posts. Maybe ya’ll should make sure your reps read the blog?

    I dunno’….just saying…

  9. Mike says:

    I sure do wish they accepted paypal. I would already have one heading my way!

  10. Jenni says:

    Thank goodness this worked and it was so simple. I am on a photographic tour in Sydney and it froze at Circular Quay tonight and I almost cried. Going back for sunrise now it is fixed. Great and more than great ball head, but I was very cranky with it tonight. Luckily it froze almost in a level position so I kept shooting. Thank you πŸ™‚

  11. Kirsten says:

    My ball head froze as I was out shooting tonight’s sunset. I couldn’t adjust the drag knob at all, & since that was the last thing I’d changed before the ball froze I assumed the solution would be to find someone strong enough to turn the drag knob back. There was no one strong around so, very upset thinking that my ballhead would never work again, I panicked and used pliers – a big mistake as they have left ugly permanent marks.

    Furthermore, forcing the drag knob from position 1 through to 7 didn’t change a thing – the ballhead stayed stuck. Finally I googled the problem & found this page. My first attempt at the solution suggested here failed and I was in real despair, but I tried again using all my strength to tighten the main knob and was finally able to turn the drag knob.

    While I’m pleased to have a functioning head again, I’m disappointed that a first class piece of equipment like the BH 55 could fail in such a major way – especially without warning or apparent reason. I don’t recall receiving any material explaining this phenomenon when I bought my RRS gear, I really do hope that people who buy it now are adequately warned and made aware of the solution before they encounter the problem. Unfortunately my ballhead is now permanently marked by the pliers .

  12. Jeff Chen says:

    The pan lock knob on my BH55 is frozen, and the panning base cannot be locked down. Is there a way to free up the pan lock knob?

Leave a Comment