I've had a Markins M-20 ball-head for a number of years now, it's been a great head but this winter it's started to become harder to adjust so I figure it's time to clean it (probably long past).

Markins has operating instructions on how to clean and oil the head:


However they say to use WD-40, and I was wondering if others had found an oil for ballheads that held up better to weather and use while maintaining lubrication, or if there were any tips around cleaning/disassembly I should beware of.

  • 3
    Perhaps I'm missing something, but why wouldn't you use the lubricant recommended by the manufacturer?
    – ahockley
    Dec 16 '10 at 2:35
  • I should have added that, but basically I feel like WD-40 was recommended only because it was common, I'm wary of it because it's not really a general use oil but a penetrating oil. It's a good point that the manufacturer recommends it, I just figured someone might know something even a bit better. Dec 16 '10 at 3:19
  • WD-40 isn't so much a lubricant as a part of the cleaning process. The "WD" in "WD-40" stands for "water displacement", and that's its main role. You actually want minimum lubrication on a ball head -- it should move freely, but it should also lock solid when you've got a heavy camera canted at a severe angle. Something that makes a really effective lube (like, say, a silicone grease) would make it sloppy and saggy.
    – user2719
    Dec 17 '10 at 22:19
  • I can see the WD-40 acting as a cleaner, but I still think something of a lubricant that keeps dust away can be of use - the dry lubricant mentioned below seems like it will do the trick. The clamping knob that keeps the ballhead in place seems to be pretty firm so I'm not too worried about it slipping. Dec 18 '10 at 6:29

I've heard people speak of tri-flow as significantly superior as a lubricant to WD-40. I don't have experience specific to ball-head maintenance, though, one way or the other. They actually have various products... their "superior lubricant" page claims to have a working temperature range of -60 to 475°F, though, which seems like it should work for you.

I imagine there are other options, as well... hopefully other answerers will touch on them.

Good luck!

  • Thanks, that stuff looks pretty good and there are some bike shops nearby that carry it. I found the store locator page here: triflowlubricants.com/buyonline . I'l mark as answered after I try it out. Dec 16 '10 at 3:25
  • 1
    Tri-flow it, (I believe) actually a dry lubricant, which is why it's nice. Basically, out of the can, it's the lubricant in a very high vapor-pressure solvent. Therefore, the solvent boils off immediately, leaving a thin coating of the lubricant behind. Having a solid lubricant is advantageous because it's not tacky, so grit is not carried into the mechanism due to adhesion to an oil coating, and it doesn't migrate as easily.
    – Fake Name
    Dec 16 '10 at 5:19
  • 1
    Whoops, specifically I am talking about the dry lubricant version. Buy that one.
    – Fake Name
    Dec 16 '10 at 5:20
  • Thanks for the advice, I was considering buying the grease instead of the lubricant, but I had looked at the dry lubricant too and was wondering if it would suffice... I'll go for that one. Dec 16 '10 at 5:47
  • Cool, I didn't actually know about the difference there... that does indeed sound useful! Thanks, @fake-name
    – lindes
    Dec 16 '10 at 8:51

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