Maintaining Tripod Angle Joints
Does Your Tripod Need Maintenance?
It’s very important to clean and maintain your Really Right Stuff tripod in order to maintain top-level performance and ergonomics in the field. This post will focus on proper cleaning and maintenance of the leg angle joint which contains both the “wrist pin” that holds the leg onto the apex and sets the joint tension, and the pull-tab style angle stop mechanism that allows setting of the leg angle. These areas are corrosion-resistant like the rest of the tripod, but can be susceptible to dust, grit and other contaminant buildup over time. It’s important to keep these tightly-fit moving parts clean and free from contamination whenever possible to allow smooth operation and maintain the desired leg angle joint tension set by the two black screws at the top of each leg.
In normal operation, the Wrist Pin and Clevis Screws act as a single unit and rotate in tandem with the tripod leg whenever the leg joint rotates. Grease on the Wrist Pin and inside the Apex Wrist Pin Bore assures smooth rotational action. However, leg joints can seize when they become contaminated with debris or if corrosion is present due to exposure to water or high moisture conditions. When this happens, the Wrist Pin freezes in place but the Clevis Screws continue to rotate with the leg joint; when the Clevis Screws start to unscrew, the leg joint loses tension and feels floppy or wobbly. In this situation, the tripod will never regain proper leg joint tension until you disassemble it and follow these maintenance steps.
Testing Your Tripod Leg Joints
Install hex keys into the Clevis Screws on both sides of one leg joint. Rotate leg joint. If hex keys do not rotate evenly in tandem with the tripod leg, then your Wrist Pin is frozen and you should use the procedure below to perform the necessary maintenance.
This video covers diagnosis of a problem tripod leg joint in depth.
Maintenance Procedure for Tripod Angle Joints
Maintenance requires just a few household items in addition to the tools provided along with your tripod. You will need:
- two hex keys for your tripod leg angle joints (included with the tripod tool kit)
- TQC-14 tripods use 5/32″
- Versa 2 & 3 tripods use 3/16″
- Versa 4 tripods use 7/32″
- bearing-grade grease (less than 1cc needed)
- cotton swabs
- damp & dry cloths
- rubbing alcohol (or any residue-free cleanser)
- fresh water
- abrasive cleaning pad (Scotch-Brite™)
For tripods with severely corroded or contaminated joints, or those with stuck wrist pins, you may also need the following:
- heat gun or hair dryer
- hard bristle brush
- hammer (or rubber mallet) & long punch
This video covers all the necessary tools and steps for maintaining a tripod leg angle joint. Jump to (2:35) in the video to start the process if you have all the necessary tools and items assembled. We also have the procedure’s basic steps outlined below.
Prepare your Work Area
Lay out a towel on a flat surface and collect any other tools that you might need.
Disassemble One Leg at a Time
Install hex keys into the Clevis Screws on both sides of one leg joint. Rotate each hex key counterclockwise to unscrew both Clevis Screws from the Wrist Pin. Expect resistance; threadlocker may have been used during initial assembly **. It’s ok if only one of the Clevis Screws can be removed.
• If you applied threadlocker fluid to your Clevis Screws after you received your tripod, you may need to apply heat to loosen the bond; use a heat gun.
• Corrosion or contamination can make the screws difficult to remove.
• Your tripod may have been assembled with a stainless washer under each screw head; these washers will not be re-used and can be discarded.
**Please note that as of May 2014 we no longer use or recommend using threadlocker on the threads of the wrist pin or its screws.
Remove Wrist Pin and Leg
If you removed both Clevis Screws in the previous step, use your fingers to lightly thread one of the screws back into the Wrist Pin. Insert a hex key into the other end of the Wrist Pin and tap it to push the Wrist Pin free of the Apex. Throw away the original Wrist Pin and Clevis Screws. Gently set the tripod leg aside. Set the two brass Washers aside for re-use.
• Washers are matched in pairs at the factory, so it’s important to use the same Washers for re-assembly.
• Corrosion or contamination can make it difficult to remove the Wrist Pin. Jump to (3:00) in the video above for tips on removing a stubborn Wrist Pin.
Clean All Surfaces
Examine the brass Washers and Apex Wrist Pin Bore. Surfaces must be clean and dry before proceeding to Step 5.
• Scrub the brass Washers with the Scotch-Brite scour pad to remove any corrosion. Wipe them clean and dry and set them aside.
• Determine best cleaning method for Apex Bore. Depending upon the level of contamination of your tripod, use a combination of fresh water & soap and/or Formula 409 cleaner. See our online video for specific cleaning suggestions.
• If there is residue from previous use of threadlocker fluid, use toothpicks or chopsticks to dislodge it. In worst case scenarios, we recommend using a .38 caliber bore brush with nylon or brass bristles to remove all traces.
Grease Wrist Pin
Apply a very small amount (1/3 of a 1cc tube) of the grease to the outside of the Wrist Pin. Use your fingertip or cotton swab to apply a thin, even coat. Take care that grease does not enter the inside of the Wrist Pin. Any grease found on the inside of the Wrist Pin will have to be removed.
Grease Apex Wrist Pin Bore
Slide Wrist Pin into clean and dry Apex Wrist Pin Bore. Twist the Pin as you insert it to evenly spread the grease in the Bore. It can help to slide the Pin in and out several times, twisting as you go, but avoid pushing any grease inside the Wrist Pin. Remove the Wrist Pin and set aside on a lint free surface. Use cotton swabs and alcohol to remove any excess grease around the Axle Wrist Pin Bore.
• Place Washers on each side of Apex Bore. Hold them in place while you replace the tripod leg, front facing out; align all the holes. Washers must be sandwiched between the Apex and the Clevis.
• Re-insert the Wrist Pin. Examine the inside of the Wrist Pin one last time; if there is any grease inside, remove it with a cotton swab.
• Install new Clevis Screw. Rotate the Clevis Screw clockwise while holding the other hex key fixed. Tighten and check leg angle tension; tighten or loosen as desired.
If you have any further maintenance concerns or questions, please feel free to contact our friendly and helpful Customer Service Department by email at email@example.com or by phone at (385) 248-0777 (8am-5pm Mountain, Monday-Friday).
If you find that any of your tripod hardware is beyond reasonable cleaning or is damaged, we do offer replacement kits for all tripod models that include the necessary hex keys, screws, wrist pins, and a single-use tube of our recommended grease. You are also encouraged to send in your tripod for maintenance if you feel that other issues may exist – please note that the determination of warranty coverage for repairs must be made after the gear has been inspected and diagnosed by our technicians.