As you’ve probably noticed, summer is already approaching the Bay! As you are lugging out your gear packed away during the winter, you might notice some of it may be missing, damaged, worn or frayed. Perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve had your gear serviced or maybe your tanks need filling or a visual inspection. Dive gear is an investment and can make and break a dive. To make sure you get the longest life out of your gear while being safe, it’s important to consider the following tips.
Tips for Home Maintenance
Home upkeep is the first, and probably the most important step to long-lasting gear. Make sure after each dive that you rinse your gear with fresh water thoroughly. Chemicals, cleaners and salt water can be extremely corrosive, and when exposed to your equipment, can eat through it quickly.
When rinsing your regulator, don’t completely soak it in water. Rinse gently but thoroughly. Remember while rinsing the first stage of your regulator, to keep dust cover on to avoid extra exposure. When rinsing your second stage, refrain from pressing the purge button as this can expose and trap water.
Use appropriate cleaners. Dive-gear, appropriate cleaners should be available at your local dive shop. These products are usually all natural and don’t have harsh chemicals and additives.
Be sure to store your gear indoors in a controlled environment. Critters love silicone – especially insects and rodents. They also tend to be attracted to lubricants commonly found in regulators. Exposure to the sun or harsh environments – such as the Florida sun – can add wear and reduce the longevity of your gear.
Hang your equipment properly. Specific hangers are available for each piece of equipment and are thicker and more durable than normal hangers. This allows gear to last longer and reduces likelihood of hangers making marks on gear.
Be sure to flush the bladder of your buoyancy control device (BCD). Some BCDs even have a hose hookup, including the Zeagle BCD shown to the right. Once you have rinsed and have hung to dry, add a little air to give positive pressure so the bladder doesn’t stick to itself. Regularly check for seals, lose hoses, buckles, connectors and zippers for wear and tear.
Look for dried, old and cracked O-rings and if you are using enriched air or nitrox, make sure they are special oxygen-safe O-rings.
To rinse and clean wet suits, be sure to soak and dry thoroughly. It’s usually best to first dry the suit inside-out once the inside is completely dry, flip it right side out to complete drying.
You can easily save your dive by having a Save-A-Dive Kit available. In this small kit, you are able to keep extra O-rings, spare mask and fin straps, patch kits, mask de-fog and Allen wrenches that can easily repair simple gear glitches. Also, always keep extra safety equipment available including safety sausages, whistles, reelsand lights, just in case conditions aren’t ideal or an emergency arises.
Getting Your Gear Regularly Serviced
First and foremost, use a dive shop you trust and don’t be afraid to ask questions about your upkeep. Your local shop should have a basic knowledge of your gear maintenance as well as be able to direct you to more information.
Always have your gear serviced regularly depending on your manufacturer instructions or the owner’s manual. The servicing date can be based on the number of years and/or dives you have done. For instance, Atomic regulators have a two to three-year recommendation for servicing, while others have a one-year servicing recommendation. Follow instructions and don’t be afraid to ask if you aren’t sure.
Make certain when you are having your gear serviced, that they use parts from the original manufacturer. This is not only important to the warranty of your gear, but also to the life of your gear. There can be subtle variations and proprietary parts used in many types of dive equipment.
Plan on servicing your gear before a trip. The last thing you want to deal with during vacation is an equipment malfunction that could have been prevented. If you’re headed to a remote location, servicing and parts may not be available. Try to plan your servicing more than a month prior to your trip to prepare for unforeseen servicing needs and parts ordering.
Don’t Forget About Your Tanks!
Be sure to have your tanks visually inspected annually and hydro-statically tested every five years. If you don’t, you run the risk of being unable able to fill them. Dive shops won’t fill tanks that aren’t inspected regularly. Also, it’s not safe to breathe on – there may be rust, water or other contaminants which can be bad for your health or reduce your oxygen intake. Rust in steel tanks can remove the amount of actual oxygen available that you breathe on. Aluminum oxide, or corrosion in aluminum tanks, has been reported to cause acute health effects to the nose, throat and lungs. The presence of contaminants to pure oxygen can also increase the risk of explosion while filling your tanks.
Never fully empty your tanks to less than 300 pounds per square inch (PSI). Just like never letting you car’s gas tank empty, this helps avoid contaminants entering the tank by keeping clean air in your tanks.
Always rinse your tanks – especially the valve and at the boot. The boot, or the bottom of your tank is often overlooked. Occasionally, remove the boot. It’s important to have your tanks inspected regularly to avoid lingering contaminants or salt water. Part of cleaning your tank valve includes purging the valve to make sure that it remains dry.
If you are using Nitrox, or an enriched air tank, be sure that it is clearly labeled. Enriched air tanks need to be specially inspected for oxygen contents and it’s a good idea to make sure the tank and the tank valve have been oxygen cleaned so they can be safely filled at dive shops that use either partial blending or pre-mixed nitrox. This way, you can get your tanks filled anywhere and in any style. If you plan on using enriched air, make sure you are nitrox-certified and that you are able to check your own tanks after being filled. It’s a good idea to invest in an air analyzer to accurately calculate the percentage of oxygen.