How to Guide - Cam care and maintenance

cam partsThe first and most important step in cam maintenance is inspection. Inspect your cams frequently. If you have any reason to doubt the integrity of a camming unit, (or any of your gear) heed your instincts and retire it. If it is a Metolius product, you can send it to us for inspection. You should destroy retired gear to prevent any chance of future use.

Look at the teeth on your cams. If they are worn unevenly or have been flattened in a hard fall, it probably means that the cam has lost its shape and is unsafe to use.

Check for slop between the cams and the axle. There should be some free-play, but too much play indicates that the axle holes in the cams have become oval. Compare the free-play to a new cam of the same size to get an idea of how much is acceptable.

Inspect the cable body carefully. It is okay to tweak the cable to straighten it after a fall, but if any of the wire strands that make up the cable have been broken or severely kinked, the unit needs to be retired.

Look at the springs and cam stops, which can break if the unit is improperly placed and then loaded. Also take a look at the axle. It's possible to bend the axle of a small unit in a hard fall, in which case it needs to be retired.

The most likely places to find damage to your units are the trigger wires or the sling. Straighten the trigger wires if they become bent. Try to get the wires completely straight so all the cams lobes retract at the same rate. The cam lobes should line up evenly when fully retracted or fully open. Keep an eye on the swaged joint on the trigger wire. It is the most likely place for the wire to fray. If the sling or the stitching show major signs of abrasion, or if any of the stitching is broken, the sling must be replaced. Metolius will replace slings or trigger wires on our cams for a nominal fee. We don't offer repair kits for the triggers because we like to get damaged or worn cams back in-house for a thorough inspection.

Care of your cams is a simple process. Keep them clean and dry. If they get wet, don't just throw them in the closet until the next trip. Dry them off and re-lube them as soon as possible. If they get corroded, you can use steel wool or a Scotch Brite pad to remove the corrosion. Keep your cams away from any corrosive substances or solvents. Acids are exceptionally bad for cam slings and other nylon climbing equipment. Even fumes from a car battery can reduce the strength of your slings by as much as 90%. If your cams come into contact with any corrosive substances or solvents, have the slings replaced immediately. If you have any doubt, contact us to see if the corrosive substance could have compromised the metal parts of the unit.

Replace the slings if you see any signs of damage or discoloration, after a severe fall, or after five years. Even though your cam slings may show no significant signs of wear, the nylon will deteriorate with the passage of time. If in doubt, send them to us for inspection. Store your cams in a cool, dry place away from U.V. light sources.

To clean your cams, heat water in a pan until it is near the boiling point. Swish the heads in the hot water while working the trigger bar, being very careful not to burn yourself. Apply liquid dish washing detergent directly to the cam head, then use a stiff-bristled brush to clean thoroughly all around the head, especially in the springs and inside the cam lobes. The Metolius M-16 brush is perfect for this task, however a toothbrush also works very well. Depending upon how dirty your cams are and what lubricants you have used in the past, they may require several cleanings to work all the dirt and old lube out from the axle. Using compressed air to blow the cams out while still wet can help. Dry the cams thoroughly and then lubricate. No amount of lube will restore good action to a dirty cam, so make sure your cams are cleaned thoroughly.

Now you're ready to lube your cams and restore like-new action. Shake Metolius Cam Lube vigorously, at room temperature, to mix all solids. (Use body heat to warm MCL if used in colder outdoor climates.) Apply MCL to the cam pivots and springs and work it in until the smooth action is fully restored. Wipe off excess lube with a rag then let MCL fully dry (several minutes to an hour). For optimum penetration, apply MCL to cams at or above 40°F (5°C). MCL can be applied to wet parts, but it will take longer to dry before becoming a waterproof, dirt-repelling shield.

Metolius Cam Lube is a patented, self-cleaning lubricant. When dirt attaches itself to the fully dried film, small particles of the lube will break away, carrying dirt with it. MCL keeps parts working smoothly and helps them last longer. MCL is waterproof after it has dried completely.

Special instructions for maintaining cams in saltwater environments.

Sea cliff climbing presents an added challenge to keeping your cams working smoothly. The high strength aluminum alloy that we use in the cam lobes is very susceptible to salt water corrosion. In this harsh environment, the steel parts will also corrode, even if they are considered to be "stainless steel". Before sea cliff climbing, we recommend spraying the cam heads with Metolius Cam Lube (MCL) or WD 40 lubricant, then wiping off the excess with a rag. After climbing, clean the cams in fresh water, dry them with a towel, and apply MCL or WD 40 to the cam heads. Metolius Cam lube is a wax-based lubricant that coats the metal parts, and keeps the salt water out for a short period of time. WD 40 is an oil-based lubricant that also coats the metal parts, and keeps the salt water from contacting the metal for a short period of time. WD 40 is compatible with the sling material, and will not reduce sling strength, but it is best to keep it away from the sling. We include WD 40, because it is readily available world wide, and MCL, our lubricant of choice, may not be available to you. Be sure to store your gear in a way that it can continue to dry after you have returned home. Avoid storing your gear in damp or humid environments.

If you go to climb in a dry dusty environment, and have been using WD 40, you should replace it with another lubricant that is not oil based. Oil-based lubricants tend to attract dirt and dust. Metolius Cam Lube is a wax based lubricant that tends to repel dirt. If MCL is not available, you can use graphite or Teflon-based lubricants, as these also tend to repel dirt. Be sure to keep the slings away from the lubricants.

One other thing to keep in mind, is that all carabiners, some harness buckles, and nuts, are made of the same high strength aluminum alloy as the cam lobes, and are very susceptible to saltwater corrosion. Be sure to give them a quick rinse in fresh water after each outing to the sea cliffs especially in tropical environments. Hot, humid climates accelerate the corrosion process.

If you do not completely understand any of the above or if you have questions, contact Metolius at (541) 382-7585 or info@metoliusclimbing.com.

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