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"Back from the Beach" Gitzo Maintenance

If you've ever taken your tripod to the beach to shoot tide pools you may have ended up with more than good pictures. The Gitzo system of rotating leg locks works great and holds solidly, but it is possible to get sand into the joints. If this happens, the legs can become stubborn to unlock and can even make a grinding sound when you rotate the locking sleeves. Not something you want to have in an expensive tripod.

Typical Gitzo leg assembly

Fortunately, Gitzo tripods are fairly easy to disassemble and clean. Unscrew each leg lock all the way until locking sleeve is no longer engaging the screw threads on the leg itself. At this point, the leg tubes can be pulled apart. Inside each leg joint you will find a brown fiber (newer carbon fiber Gitzo) or black plastic (older aluminum Gitzo) compression bushing and a couple of black plastic fittings; carefully take all of these off and set them aside so you don't lose them. Then take off the locking sleeves themselves so you are left with just the leg tubes. Remember to make note of where everything goes so you can get it back together again after cleaning. Take an old toothbrush and some hot soapy water to the threads on both the leg tubes and the insides of the locking sleeves since the grease on them will likely have sand in it. Next, rinse off all the parts thoroughly including inside each tube to get rid of any lose sand. It is recommended not to get soap on the compression bushings but it is OK to rinse them off if need be. Set everything on some old newspaper and wait for them to dry completely.

Before you reassemble, inspect your black plastic fittings. Each one has a slit in it that should meet together with little if any gap. If yours have expanded, you will have a devil of a time getting things back together until you squeeze them back into shape. You do each one individually with your fingers, or you can easily do this to all of your fittings by sliding a pencil through the stack of them to hold them upright, then rolling them up tight in a piece of paper with a rubber band around it so as to compress the fittings. Take the time to get this step right and you will save yourself a lot of headaches later when you try to get them back inside the tubes. This is the only difficult aspect of the entire process.

To reassemble, slide a locking sleeve and an appropriately sized compression bushing on each leg section along with two of the plastic fittings. The black plastic fittings should fit snugly. Carefully slide each smaller leg segment into the next size up. Don't force it; if it binds, your black plastic fittings are too loose so take them off, squeeze them tighter, and try again. Then slide each compression bushing back into place in the tube ends. They will stick out slightly which makes sense since that's how the leg locks work.

Apply a thin coat of standard automotive grease to the male threads on each tube end being careful not to get any grease on any other parts. Then, screw the locking sleeves back into place. You may have to loosen it and retighten a couple of times to work the grease into the threads adequately.

You should now have a tripod with legs that are back in smooth working order. Consider it your 50,000 mile tripod tune-up.

Gitzo guts, both old and new Gitzo guts

Date posted: June 9, 2002

 

Copyright © 2002 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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