Tech (Dynafit/Onyx) Binding Heel Unit Lubrication


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

It is terrific how most of today’s automobiles are nearly maintenance free (except for oil changes and long-term stuff). Tech bindings such as Dynafit and G3 Onyx are an even better set-it-and-forget-it proposition. I know guys who’ve run the same set of Dynafits for half a decade without lubrication. But just as you’ll eventually have to change your transmission fluid or flush your radiator, sometimes tech bindings need love too.

Until today, the eternal question in all this is what grease do you use? In the factory, they use lubes that are specified for plastic parts (Dynafit is said to use Dow Corning Molykote EM-30L). it’s possible to get such lubricants (they’re sold as gear lube for model cars and computer printers, though they may not perform well in the cold).

Instead of something proprietary or as hard to get such as Molykote, I’ve found that plain old white lithium lube works fine. I tested in my freezer and it gets stiffer when colder, but doesn’t lock up. And after years of use I have not seen any plastic degradation (it comes in a plastic tube with a plastic cap.)

Better still, guess what arrived at WildSnow HQ the other day? Yep. G3 binding grease that’s said to be as good or better than Molykote, and most certainly is better than white lithium. (Note: G3 Binding Grease should soon be available at selected retailers and etailers, MSRP $31.90 for a large tub that’ll last a long time.)

G3 backcountry skiing binding grease.

G3 backcountry skiing binding grease.

Here is what a G3 product development engineer told me about their grease:

The grease we use and now sell is not that far off what you have suggested in the Molykote EM-30L. Key for us was low temperature performance, high load carrying capacity, compatibility with acetal (editor’s note: Delrin plastic), and friction reduction for sliding plastic parts. Although Molykote grease is very similar to our requirements. Where I *think* the grease we use differs is:
– definitely a little thicker and stickier
– provides better water washout resistance
– lower coefficient of friction (in theory)

This is based on review of the spec sheets, which of course never seem to offer exactly comparable test data or specs, so I have to read between the lines a little. Given the choice, I think that grease we are using is a little more suited to the job of lubricating a binding. That said, when it comes to real world performance, both greases should do a good job without ruining bindings. Ultimately the goal for the G3 binding grease is to be able to provide the same high quality OEM grease we use building the binding to dealers and shops so that they can service the bindings and maintain a high level of performance.

Grease for backcountry ski bindings.

White lithium grease from the hardware store, works fine but dedicated binding grease is better.

In the case of Dynafit and other tech bindings with the same type of heel construction, the aluminum “heel spindle” post that the heel unit rides on can be susceptible to lack of lubrication after high mileage or abuse such as repeated water immersion or road salt exposure. (In the latter case, road salt can work havoc on any ski bindings — if possible NEVER expose your bindings to it, and if you do, flush binding with tap water as soon as possible, and dry in a warm/dry location.)

Dynafit binding lubrication.

First step in lubricating Dynafit rear spindle is removing rear spring barrel. Only tackle this if your binding doesn't rotate smoothly and doesn't snap back to center after being rotated by hand. Re-inserting the rear spring barrel is tricky, VERY easy to cross thread!

Onyx bindings have a different configuration in the heel unit. At first glance Onyx appears similar to Dynafit, in that during lateral release a plastic housing rotates on the heel spindle. But instead of the lateral release mechanism being internal in the housing over the spindle as it is with Dynafit, the Onyx housing instead has a couple of external lobes that press and rotate against a spring loaded piston.

In my real world experiments, I wasn’t bold enough to remove the Onyx heel unit from the spindle, as doing so requires removing a large machine screw that felt permanently installed. That’s fine, as it would be rare to need to clean and lubricate this tightly enclosed space. On the other hand, the Onyx external lobes and piston could indeed attract dirt, or loose their lubrication after exposure to excessive moisture such as road salt spray. Photos below tell more of the Onyx story.

Onyx rear spindle, underside.

Onyx rear spindle, underside. Arrow indicates large machine screw you'd have to remove to extract spindle from housing. It would be rarely necessary to do this, as the actual lateral release mechanicals are located OUTSIDE of the spindle housing.

Onyx backcountry skiing binding.

Looking at Onyx heel unit underside. Arrow indicates EXTERNAL lateral release lobes where lubrication could possibly be required.

The most important two points in this:
1. Do not bother taking your bindings apart and lubricating if the heel rotates smoothly and freely. If they need lube you can feel it being kind of sticky and sluggish to return to center.
2. Known that re-inserting the Dynafit rear spring barrel is incredibly tricky — even look at it sideways and you’ll cross thread it. Repair is expensive.
3. The mechanism hidden under the top plate of both the Dynafit and Onyx heel units is complex and rarely needs lubrication. If you do need to lube this part of the binding, see Dynafit disassembly and assembly instructions here. Onyx tear down is similar.

Onyx heel unit vertical release.

Onyx heel with top cover removed. With both Dynafit and Onyx these internals are well lubricated at the factory, and somewhat protected. They rarely (if ever) need cleaning or lubrication. Nonetheless, bindings that receive heavy use over several years may eventually need clean and lube of these parts. Yep, another blog post about that coming up in the future.

In the case of Dynafit, if you do need spindle lube job, use a wide blade screwdriver to remove the rear spring barrel. Pull out the springs you’ll see underneath, then use a pick or the corner of a screw driver to pull the internal thimble bushing rearward so you can lift the housing off the spindle. Complete directions for this process can be found here.

In the case of Onyx, simply remove the heel unit from its carrier plate (the “swap” plate attached to the ski). Working from the underside of the heel unit, rotate the lateral release mechanism so you can see the moving lobes. Inspect for dirt and lubrication. If necessary clean with a small stiff brush then lubricate.

In the case of any tech binding, NEVER clean any plastic parts with solvent, especially when the binding is still assembled. Doing so can damage the plastic, and if the binding is assembled you could end up with solvent trapped who knows where, eating away at plastic parts.

Cleaning backcountry skiing bindings

After you get the Dynafit heel unit off, clean the spindle and surrounding parts. Don't worry about cleaning inside the housing, unless it's got grit or salt in it. In that case you can clean with a bit of WD40 on the tip of a rag.

Lube backcountry skiing binding.

Spots for lube: 1 & 2: Smear some grease on top of the spindle and around the sides, especially on the back where the thimble bushing rides. 3: A bit of grease on the metal where the bottom of the heel unit may rub a bit. 4: Rub some alpine wax on the brake retraction plate.

Last thing, remember, be super careful not to cross thread the spring barrel. I’ve found that inserting the spring barrel first with my fingers and making sure it turns and threads easily helps with cross threading prevention, as does visually inspecting the barrel after you get it started in the threads, to make sure it’s not going in crooked. Also, be sure the thimble bushing and spring are all the way in before you insert the barrel, if the spring and bushing don’t seem to want to go in all the way, try pressing down on the top of the heel unit as you work the bushing/spring combo in.

Comments

52 Responses to “Tech (Dynafit/Onyx) Binding Heel Unit Lubrication”

  1. RandoSwede March 26th, 2010 9:47 am

    This, along with re-gluing skins is the annual end-of-season ritual. I also take the pressure off the springs by backing the DINs off to less than zero before hanging them up. Thanks for the refresher, Lou.

    Off topic, but has anyone had de-lam problems with the Manaslu after two full seasons? Just curious as there are deals to be had these days.

  2. cam March 26th, 2010 10:19 am

    G3 does sell the lubricant, and will be available at shops this fall. Ask your retailers to bring it in if you want it. It is safe to use for any plastic metal combination regardless of brand.

  3. Lee March 26th, 2010 11:08 am

    Randoswede I have had a de-lamination problem with my Seven Summits (just over two years old) – base de-laminating from the edges (heard I certainly wasn’t the first to have this problem with the first generation Sevens). Dynafit wouldn’t replace them as they said the ski was too old now. Was going to get Movement Iki’s to replace them, but eventually bought some Atomic Freedreams, hope to get out on them very soon.

  4. RobinB March 26th, 2010 11:32 am

    While you have the bindings apart, you should check the condition of the bushing as well, and be prepared to replace them. Especially if you use brakes… They are cheap, but a bit of a hasssle to get a hold of.

  5. ToddL March 26th, 2010 12:00 pm

    RobinB, what are the bushings?

  6. gonzoskijohnny March 26th, 2010 1:07 pm

    great timing and thanks for spreading the wisdom Lou!
    - I took my spring ski setup apart just last night and total filthy gunkage inside, plus some barely percievable thimble wear. 2 seasons of hard use incl. some memorial day red snirt and rain storms at American basin, plus stream skiing in the Cevedale area sure add up!
    I now always replace thimbles when servicing as they are so inexpensive, and they are right there while apart. A whole lot easier now, rather than after you just kicked one off worn out and pre-releasing down the Allalin glacier (did that in ’05 :shocked: ).
    I have used an old tub of mtn bike fork “judy butter” for lube (it is designed to not harm poly elastomers or seals) with good results.

  7. Jonathan Shefftz March 26th, 2010 2:01 pm

    ToddL, just look at the second link in the post for a more detailed look at the assembly/reassembly process and all the parts (including the bushings).

  8. Jgage March 26th, 2010 2:23 pm

    What’s with the rear-spring barrell anyhow.. Yes, I have cross threaded one before… How hard would it be to have a stronger non-plastic-thread insert that did not strip so easily? I know the weight-weenies might not like the idea but how much weight would it really add?

  9. Lou March 26th, 2010 3:58 pm

    Jgage, the spring barrel is a legacy thing. With different threads it would probably be much easier to work with. The reason why it ended up that way is because it’s the same part that was used on the toe unit of the Iser touring binding back when Dynafit was first invented. The Iser part was in reverse, with the housing being metal and the barrel being plastic, so if it got stripped replacing it was no big deal. Low Tech actually bought hundreds of the spring barrels from Iser. As happens in manufacturing, tooling was done to match that part, and was never changed to work better due to cost, and probably due to lack of corporate vision or lack of awareness about how prone to cross threading the barrel is.

  10. Lou March 26th, 2010 4:01 pm

    Gonzo, good tip on the fork lube. You might want to stick it in the freezer, however, and make sure it doesn’t get too stiff when cold.

    All, please click on the links in the post if you want details. We went to a lot of trouble to make those how-tos that the links point at.

  11. Lou March 26th, 2010 4:29 pm

    All, Dynafit is said to use Dupont Molykote at the factory. If anyone knows where we can get a reasonably small quantity of this let us know. I found one source who had a gallon can, but he didn’t want to sell it, instead he wanted to keep it in storage. I guess he didn’t read the specs that say Molykote has a shelf life…

    If you’re curious, here is a link to info about Molykote

    http://www.dowcorning.com/content/news/molykote_news_EM30L.asp

  12. Graeme March 26th, 2010 4:57 pm

    Lou, the only problem I’ve had so far in several seasons of Dynfit use has been some surface corrosion on the rear springs, noticed initlally after 2 seasons of use without taking the heel housings off. Because of this I question your advice not to take the heel housings off if the rotation to center is smooth. I remove them at the end of season now, to grease the springs.

  13. SteveG March 26th, 2010 5:52 pm

    In the last 12 months I’ve removed/replaced a Dynafit spring barrel about 20 times without stripping.Thought I’d share my technique. Rule # 1-Always start threading it back on with your finger-NO TOOLS! #2- Turn counter clockwise until you feel a slight “click” as the two mating thread ends pass each other. #3- Then, with your finger, turn clockwise while you apply a slight upward pressure (toward the top of the heel piece). #4- If you feel any resistance in the first 1/8-1/4 turn, back it out, wipe off the threads and start over.

  14. Lou March 26th, 2010 6:40 pm

    Nice Steve, thanks!

  15. Jack March 26th, 2010 9:33 pm

    Lou, another exceptional post on Dynafit detail!

    A question on the toe piece:

    Does the FT 12 have a stronger spring in the toe binding?

    I’m having trouble staying in the toe of my ST10′s after mounting them on the Greg Hill Stoke. Stokes have been terrific! :biggrin:

    But, to stay in, I’m resorting to full time tour mode on the toe.

  16. Lou March 27th, 2010 6:24 am

    Hi Jack, no, same toe unit on both bindings. Seems that what’s happening to people is that the size/weight/leverage of larger skis and boots (and sometimes the skier) is sometimes exceeding the retention characteristics of the binding. I predicted this when the first Dynafit compatible beef boots came out a few years ago.

    And some Euros have addressed the challenge, for example ATK (I think that’s the one, anyway) has adjustable toe unit springs that can be made stiffer by adding small “disk” springs.

  17. Jack March 27th, 2010 10:01 am

    Thanks, Lou! It seems you may have mentioned that a lot of people in the Alps ride down in tour mode.

    Here’s some data on my ST10s:
    175 lb skier
    125/88/111 mm / 174 cm / Spirit 3 – stayed in all conditions
    129/105/119 mm / 173 cm / Spirit 3 – popping out of toe

    Have fun on Denali.

  18. Lou March 27th, 2010 11:28 am

    How many times have you popped out? Also, the Dynafit to release has to pop out at the toe, so what exactly do you mean by “popping out of toe?” Oh, and what release settings, and I’m assuming the bindings and boots are the same, and that the binding heel clearance is set exactly?

  19. Jan Wellford March 27th, 2010 1:16 pm

    Jack, it’s the same thing that’s happening to lots of people, as discussed ad nauseam in other Dynafit posts (and most recently in the G3 Onyx post). It happens pretty easily with all Vertical series Dynafits, and the FT12 is no stronger in the toe wings than the ST10.

    I assume it’s happening on pretty hard snow, at a ski resort. As to why you never experienced it with the 88-waist setup: it is a lot easier to exert the type of force needed to lever out of the toe with a wider ski. I can do it with a skinny ski pretty easily too, so I guess you just never got the conditions just right to make it happen on your 88-waist setup.

    Bottom line: don’t use your Dynafit setup at resorts if conditions are firm, and lock your toe in the backcountry if a pre-release would be consequential. You shouldn’t experience toe pre-release in soft snow conditions at all (except maybe slamming on the brakes into a pile of snow or something).

  20. hectorvictorious March 27th, 2010 4:00 pm

    Lou,
    I have a bee in dow-corning’s bonnet. trying to procure some.i’ll let you know!

  21. Lou March 27th, 2010 7:12 pm

    That’s great Hector, I got burnt out on trying to get that stuff.

  22. Bar Barrique March 27th, 2010 9:38 pm

    I inspected the bushing of our bindings, and, lubricated in the fall. I used Castrol Syntec synthetic automotive grease. It is supposed to work at low temperatures, though I did not cool it to verify. Maybe I should. There are other synthetic “moly” greases out there, but I could not find them locally.
    1. As far as wear on the bushings; depress the brakes FULLY before rotating the binding from the ski position, and, you will not have a problem (I’m sure Lou knows this).
    2. Maybe it’s just me ( 150 lbs. Goode 95′s, 175 cm), but I can ride groomed runs doing racing style carving turns with no problem. I have used Dynafits on other skis as well, skiing hard moguls etc with no problems (other than the fact that the softer touring boots show their weaknesses in hard snow conditions). I do have a more technical finesse style, but I have busted a lot of alpine gear over the years.

  23. Mark W March 27th, 2010 9:44 pm

    Yes, cross threading I have done–new heelpiece $75. And I have seen too much the ravages of road salt on corroded edges, etc. My singlespeed rear hub bearings failed completely after only one year of all-season use. Mag chloride is terrible! Don’t ever subject your skis to that stuff. It eats metal without a second thought.

  24. Jack March 28th, 2010 12:07 am

    I never use my Dynafit set up at the lifts, Jan.

    Lou, I’ve come out of the toe 3 times, once in tour mode on a steep ascent with hard snow. I set the binding heel clearance set with the Dynafit gauge. The toe piece opens when I come out.

  25. Lou March 28th, 2010 7:08 am

    Jack, it’s important to be clear about pre-release in uphill or downhill modes. Are you saying you’ve pre-released 2 times while in downhill mode, while skiing with heel latched? Out of how many days of skiing was that? Thanks, Lou

  26. Jack March 28th, 2010 9:51 am

    Lou, with heel latched I came out on consecutive days for a total of two times before I started keeping the toe bindings in tour mode full time on both the ascent and descent.

  27. Lou March 28th, 2010 11:16 am

    Thanks Jack, just clarifying.

  28. Lee March 28th, 2010 12:45 pm

    I came out of the toe binding (locked) on some ST’s during an ascent on icy snow on some 88 waisted skis the other day – thank god I managed to grab the ski before it made a 1500m descent without me!! Just one of those things I guess, but I think I might use my leashes on the ascent from now on.

  29. Lou March 28th, 2010 1:05 pm

    The interesting thing is that, yeah, the toe tension could be higher, but at a certain point the toe pivot pins will have so much pressure they wear out themselves and the sockets they’re in. More about that tomorrow, I’ve been playing around in the workshop :angel:

  30. David March 28th, 2010 7:26 pm

    I came out a total of 4 times on FT12′s – twice at the resort when I was testing my new boots and twice in the backcountry. I weigh 185 lbs and ski fairly aggressively but am not “hucking” cliffs or anything like that. The 2 at the resort were not in powder but were also not in really rough conditions, but were in steep terrain. One of the backcountry ones was in powder and one was powder over a crust. 2 of the 4 incidents involved falls and I usually only fall once per season. I now ski with the toes in the first click up towards tour mode and have not released. I am guessing that one click up is less release tension than full up. I feel that having the pre-release is more dangerous to me than the reduced ability of the toes to release in that I don’t normally fall. I thought about leaving the toes down in flatter terrain, but that is typically when I ski the fastest.

  31. Bar Barrique March 28th, 2010 8:22 pm

    I guess I should add that I have come out of the toes a few times on ascents, and, descents with new boots & bindings. This problem seemed to be a “break in” issue that disappeared after 2 or 3 days.

  32. Steve March 28th, 2010 11:15 pm

    I have the FT12s and want to mount them on skis, rookie user used to Fritsche. What would you say is the max underfoot you would want to go to ski agressively? They are equipped with 110mm brakes. I was thinking of the Line prophet 100…

  33. SteveG March 29th, 2010 7:02 am

    Just a thought for all the ST/FT users releasing on ascent while in tour mode. Could it be your boot toe hitting the longer lever of the ST/FT ? Are you a long, aggressive strider? Happened to my son and that was his observation.

  34. Lou March 29th, 2010 7:43 am

    Steve, while there might be some correlation between wider skis and more pre-release, it’s not something to obsess on (grin). I’d go for anything the brakes will work with.

  35. will March 30th, 2010 11:48 am

    Since it seems that I’m not the only one to cross thread the spring barrel, how about a quick how-to on fixing this common problem?

  36. Lou March 30th, 2010 12:24 pm

    No way I know of to reliably fix cross threaded plastic with these size/pitch of threads… that’s why it’s so important not to do it, as the fix is buying a whole new heel unit.

  37. Richard November 8th, 2010 8:39 pm

    If you have ever worked bare handed outside in zero weather like we do (or used to do when houses were still being built) in Jackson you may have heard about a lanolin product call Udder Balm that helps heal and protect cold- cracked hands. (also works on Udders- that is why you get it at the feed and grain store!) It is also a excellent lubricant at any temperature, and costs a fraction of the brand name lithium stuff. :D

  38. Ed November 8th, 2010 9:18 pm

    About Dynafit toe pieces – since last winter, each time before heading out, I’ve taken to putting a little dab of white lithium grease into each of the Dynafit toe inserts – on the boots though. Boots go into a ski boot bag in the trusty 4Runner and when I put them on in the lot, the little bit of grease keeps ice from building up in the boot toe inserts while we fiddle with skins, offer incantations that we all return in one piece, etc. The amount of grease is really small but it seems to let me get into the bindings properly first time – I used to get ice build-up as the boots cooled down from the car ride – no more. it no doubt also helps with lubrication on what is a friction point/ wear point in the binding design.

  39. Ed November 8th, 2010 9:23 pm

    Sorry – can’t resist – it’s probable that some “Udder” grease than white lithium would work in the toe inserts too . . . . :-)

  40. Mark W November 9th, 2010 10:22 am

    I need some of that grease, though it ain’t cheap!

  41. Doug G. November 10th, 2010 9:04 pm

    Hey Lou, I have a Dynafit mounting question:

    I just took my TLT verts off a pair of Voile Insanes I’ve sold. The next ski is a Fischer Watea 94. I put 110 mm brakes on the TLTs in order to work on the Voiles, but now I plan to mount them on the Fishers.

    Is it worth the risk of stripping the spring housing threads to switch from the 110mm brakes back to the 100? mm brakes or do you think I should just keep the slightly wider brakes on?

    Is it necessary to remove the brakes in order to mount the bindings on my new skis?

    Thanks, Doug

  42. Paul March 31st, 2011 1:40 pm

    I still can’t find G3 binding grease for sale anywhere, even online. Every link ends up pointing me to a local retailer who carries G3 products, but not the binding grease. Anybody have a source? Thanks.

  43. Gordon April 20th, 2011 11:59 am

    Just ordered a small amount of Molykote® EM-30L Grease from a supplier on eBay. I’ll let you know how it goes….

  44. Lou April 20th, 2011 12:22 pm

    Gordon, I’m amazed you found that. Please please let us know how it goes.

    I found a guy with a gallon of the stuff a while back, but he didn’t sound motivated to get rid of it and I never worked out a deal with him. Molykote has a life span, so beware if it’s really old and been stored for a long time. Should be easy to tell if it’s in good shape or not, just by consistency and appearance.

    Bummer the G3 stuff is so hard to get, I thought it was going to be the perfect solution. Shame on retailers for not carrying it, especially etailers such as backcountry.com, I mean, what’s so hard about them getting a few tubs of the stuff into their inventory?

  45. Gordon May 4th, 2011 2:01 pm

    Received the grease. There is no question in my mind that it is Molykote. It’s on eBay as item number 280646126932 sold by oemwholesalewh. The container that I received had been crushed in transit. So, you might want to have a spare container lined up before you order. I rooted around in our recycling bin and found a discarded hand cream container. Perfect!

    Four ounces is a huge amount. I’d gladly split my grease with anyone who can help me acquire a pair of 100mm brakes for the new Radical’s. I need to bench test them over the summer. (And, there’s always the chance I will get desperate for a ski fix.)

  46. Lou May 4th, 2011 2:25 pm

    Gordon, thanks for letting us know! Is the guy selling more? Link?

  47. Gordon May 4th, 2011 2:40 pm

    I’d suggest a query on eBay for Molykote. There are many options (package size, seller) available. The item number that I ordered is listed above. There’s more in the warehouse waiting for you. Here’s the link:

    Dow Corning MolyKote EM-30L Synthetic Grease on Ebay

  48. jim knight June 2nd, 2011 2:10 pm

    Speaking of lubes – What would you use to lube the carbon cuff of the Dynafit TLT5 boot? I’m seeing some wear grooves & dust from friction between the cuff and metal part of spoiler?

  49. Lou June 2nd, 2011 7:39 pm

    Jim, I have that going on as well and really don’t think there is any lubricant that would make a difference. What it needs is a thin sacrificial plastic washer between the two layers, and user serviceable cuff rivets. But hey, IANABE (I am not a boot engineer)…. :D

  50. Lou Dawson June 23rd, 2014 6:51 am

    If anyone has actually bought some Molykote off this Ebay store, please let us know how your purchase worked out. We’re getting some spam here so I’m checking everything out.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/280646126932?ru=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fsch%2Fi.html%3F_sacat%3D0%26_from%3DR40%26_nkw%3D280646126932%26_rdc%3D1

    Thanks, Lou

  51. See June 23rd, 2014 3:52 pm

    I bought 2 oz from them 3 years ago. Received a jar of white greasy stuff that I assume is “M-kote EM-30L” like it says on the label. Bindings haven’t exploded yet. Seemed legit to me.

  52. Lou Dawson June 23rd, 2014 4:08 pm

    I just ordered some as a test. I think this is an ok source.

    The spam came from Spain, re another company, confused me.

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