There is hardly a week that goes by without someone contacting me, expressing that they are having issues with their automatic OTF knife. Because automatic OTF knives are totally different than other knife designs, there are special care and maintenance procedures that apply to them only.
By design, automatic knives, in general, will not be as reliable as a manual opening knife, this is especially true with OTF automatics. The OTF design is susceptible to failure as far as the blade locking up when fired (deployed), and not fully retracting when desired. The opening at the end where the blade fires out is susceptible to dirt, crud, and pocket lint migrating inside the knife where springs and mechanisms are located. This can cause lock up problems during deployment and retraction of the blade, and is the number one reliability issue with an OTF design.(Note: Some of the internal tolerances on your higher quality OTF knives are thousands of an inch.)
The other reliability issue with OTF knives is lubrication. OTF knives require more maintenance than any other knife. Each individual OTF knife will have it’s own requirements regarding the amount of lube/oil to keep it functioning properly. As an owner, you will have to determine how often lubrication is required to keep your knife functioning.
If the blade does not move at all during deployment or retraction, more than likely something has failed inside the knife. This means it is time to send it back to the manufacturer for repair. When the blade is trying to deploy but is having problems locking up, or is not fully retracting into the handle, a large percentage of the time the problem is from contamination, lack of lubrication, or both.
When blade deployment and retracting issues occur, the first thing to address is lubrication. To lubricate your automatic OTF knife, use Rem Oil (Remington Oil) and apply small amounts on both sides of the base of the blade, and work the blade in and out to re-lube the parts inside the handle. You will probably have to do this several times before the blade deploys and retracts with no problems. You can even spray a little inside the handle, but don’t overdo it – a small amount goes a long way.
The best way to clean your automatic OTF knife is to flush it out with a good gun cleaner or a quality cleaning solution. If your automatic OTF knife has a removable glass breaker on the end, removing it will make the flushing procedure easier. You will be able to flush it out from end to end. It is important to note that you may have to flush it multiple times to remove all contamination. After you have flushed it out, use compressed air and dry the internals (inside the handle) out. After you have dried the internals , you will want to re-lube your knife. Follow the “Lubrication” instructions above.