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Tactical Handyman – Flashlight Maintenance

You already know why you should carry a quality flashlight and you have already dropped some serious coin on the best light that you could afford. So, now what? A lot of guys know how to maintain their firearms. They may even know how to maintain the knife that they carry clipped in their pocket. But how many Regular Guys know how to maintain their flashlights? That’s right, that piece of absolutely essential life saving gear that you carry so you can see in the dark needs some occasional maintenance.

The o-rings, threads, contacts, and mechanical parts all need some attention once in a while. Parts need to be cleaned and lubed to promote the best function of the light. You may want to consider doing the following procedure at least once or twice a year if you are carrying the same light everyday. If you do this maintenance regularly, you will increase the likelihood that your light will be ready when you need it.

Materials:

  • A flashlight
  • Light oil (NO WD-40!!! CLP works pretty well and you probably already have some)
  • Lithium grease (I like the dielectric bulb grease that many auto parts stores sell.)
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rag
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Replacement o-rings (as necessary)

Procedure:

  1. Disassemble your flashlight down to its major components. In most cases this will be tail cap, bezel (or head), and body.

    Click on any image to enlarge.

  2. Inspect the o-rings. There will likely be an at least 1 o-ring at each sections of male threads. Replace them if they are cut, torn, or broken. This will keep the light water resistant and pocket lint resistant.
  3. Wipe the threads and o-rings with a rag to remove most of the old lubrication. Then use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to thoroughly clean the threads and o-ring. Remember, with some lights, the threads are an electrical contact. They should be kept clean for best performance.

    Clean and lube all threads, including the female threads.

  4. Apply a light coating of grease to the threads and the o-ring. O-rings should always be greased. This will make the light more water resistant and protect the o-rings from wear and tear.
  5. Clean any electrical contacts with rubbing alcohol soaked cotton swab. This will help clean any oxidization from the contact that may hinder performance. You may also want to look into a product like Deoxit if you have a lot of oxidization on the contacts.

    Electrical contacts should be shiny.

  6. Place a drop or two of oil down into the mechanism of your tail cap and work the switch a few times. This is especially important on “clicky” style tail caps since they have more moving parts. The mechanism can often benefit from some lubrication and cleaning just like any other mechanical object. I usually just use CLP because I have plenty of it and it contains cleaners as well as lubricants. The switch (tail cap) is just about the only moving part in a flashlight. If your light is going to fail, it will happen at the switch. Do not neglect this.

    Try to get a drop of oil down into the mechanism.

Don’t forget the more obvious maintenance tasks. Replace your batteries at least once every six months, even if you don’t think you need it. This is akin to doing a tactical reload on your handgun after use and before you holster it. You want you light in the best condition possible because you don’t know what will happen next. If your still using a flashlight with an incandescent bulb, you may want to consider swapping it out once a year for the same reasons. Switching to a newer LED based light is an even better idea.

Taking care of your flashlight really isn’t rocket science. The whole procedure will probably less than 10 minutes. That is time well spent.

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