​How to Fix OTF Knives: Common Problems and Easy Solutions

​How to Fix OTF Knives: Common Problems and Easy Solutions

Dec 14th 2017

Out-the-front knives, or OTF knives, are a popular choice for their reliability, durability and convenience of carry. However, as with any tool, there can be problems that arise in the mechanisms that allow the knife to spring out and pull back over time. Other problems affect most knives with extended use and, luckily, there are easy ways to fix these issues.

folding knife on table

OTF automatic knives are unique in their design because their springing mechanism is susceptible to weakening over time. It may also fall victim to dirt and grime that enters through the blade slot and gets stuck in the springs, causing them to lock up. With proper maintenance, you may be able to fix your OTF knife on your own. In a worst-case scenario, as long as you haven't abused the knife, you can send it back to the manufacturer for repair. First, you should try some of these home solutions.

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automatic knife being released

Blade Is Stuck

The most common problem with OTF automatic knives is the blade gets stuck and doesn't spring out or draw back in. Sometimes this occurs when the blade is struck against something that doesn't move and it bounces back. Contrary to some popular movie depictions, the spring doesn't have enough power to shoot the blade out and pierce through bone. Usually, it will poke the object and then bounce back halfway into the blade slot.

If the blade has come off its track in this way, carefully pull the blade out all the way, and it should lock back into place. Slide the mechanism lock back and forth a few times to make sure it stays back on track. This reset should fix the problem.

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In fact, if you're going to clean your knife, you should deploy it against an inanimate object, like a pad of paper, so it comes off the track. This will eject it from the mechanism so that you can open up the knife to clean it. If you’ve never cleaned your knife before, you may want to do some research on how to clean a pocket knife.

If the blade is sticking, sluggish or completely stuck, then there may be issues inside the mechanism that need to be addressed. If the blade is loose, there is likely something broken in the mechanism. If the blade remains fixed, there is usually something jamming the mechanism.

Lubricating the Knife

To remove junk that can build up in the mechanism and springs, lubrication is one of the first easy solutions you can try. Use a light lubricant, like a gun or knife oil which includes rust preventative, and put a few drops on the bottom of the blade where it meets the handle. Move the blade in and out several times to work the oil down into the mechanism and springs.

If this doesn't work, try flushing out your knife with a cleaning solution by removing the glass breaker from the end of the knife. The solution should flush straight through; you may have to repeat this process several times. Use compressed air to dry the internal components and lubricate the inside mechanism.

Knife Spring Replacement

If none of the above solutions work, it's time to look at the springs. You will need a 2 mm standard bit and a 5/64th Allen wrench or a tri-wing screwdriver head to remove the screws from the handle. Pull the sides of the handle apart and remove the knife, slide and springs.

Use a lint-free cloth to clean inside the knife thoroughly and wipe down with a cleaning solution if desired. Use a little bit of lubricant and ensure it reaches all the nooks and crannies inside the knife, wiping out the excess oil before reassembling.

Take a look at the spring. If it's over-stretched or broken in the middle, it needs to be replaced. You can order a replacement spring from the manufacturer or you can send it back to the manufacturer for them to service. Follow the instructions for your specific OTF knife on how to reattach the new spring to the mechanism.

Reattach the handle together and try the mechanism a few times to ensure the blade is in good working order again.

holding knife and touching the blade

Blade Is Dull

A dull blade comes with normal use over time. The best way to sharpen your OTF automatic knife is to use a hand sharpener at home. Lightly sharpen your knife about once a week. If you have a serrated knife, take your knife to a local knife dealer who can use a specialized sharpener for your blade.