Experienced divers know that come winter, they need to think about servicing their kit. It is not too late for those who have been negligent. A close look at your gear can be done anytime, as long as you anticipate problems and handle them before the next dive. Having a professional do the job is your best bet, but below is a basic guide for do-it-yourselfers and those who want to know what is involved during a kit health check.
No matter the state of the rest of the equipment in your kit, hoses should be of primary concern. The best regulator is worthless if hoses are not in working order. It is all about the provision of air and ensuring optimum flow. Never risk your life with a split hose. It can empty your cylinder mighty fast, even before you are able to get back to the surface.
When checking hoses, be sure to watch for perishing, cuts, or missing chunks. Don?t fail to observe the condition of the ends as well. Hose protectors should be included in a detailed once-over. Slide them down and look for damage beneath. Many divers fail to give this area adequate attention. Be careful when you pull on the hose to avoid damage to the various layers. Use warm, soapy water between the hose and the protector if it doesn?t want to move readily. You can then turn it clockwise to prevent it from unscrewing.
Replace any worn hoses that show more than a very tiny perish crack. If you see bubbles forming under the outer layer, it indicates a break within the inner layers and, again, replacement is warranted. This is common with high pressure hoses. Next check the O-rings while the hoses are removed, watching for loose, split, or pinched ones. It must not be perished in any way. Everything must be in order before hoses are reattached to the first stage.
Regulator WET TEST
Every test is mandatory, but it is not always done. Don?t overlook the regulator wet test: it is simple. Place your assembled, pressurized regulator in a bath of water for a few minutes. You will be looking for bubbles coming out of the first stage or any ports. You are also checking for bubbles from second stage connections or other areas such as the high pressure gauge and instrument connections. An O-ring problem would be the culprit.? Escaping air within the second stage would be a critical problem to address and is likely the result of a worn valve seat that is not functioning as it should or the IP (intermediate pressure) is too high. Another cause could be a poorly tuned second stage regulator post servicing. A trained technician must step in at this point.
Assistance may be required to change filters, especially if they are greatly corroded (or are growing things). Servicing in this case would be in order. A major taboo is to allow water (salt water in particular) to enter the first stage. Most people are well aware of the pernicious effects over time. There are several stages involved in checking first stage filters that require an IP gauge that is available in one of two options: a low pressure port (LP) or a BC style quick disconnect model.
FIRST STAGE IP
The prevailing choice for manufacturers if a 9-10 bar IP. Others including the Poseidon could be options for high pressures. It is imperative to connect an IP gauge to check operation of the needle point. It must lie within the required range of the regulator in use. If it points to a lower number, performance will not be optimum. On the other hand, a higher pressure would risk the chance of free flows.
The term denotes a situation where the IP climbs rapidly to the correct pressure. However, it may not stop and will continue to advance to the point where the second stage downstream valve opens. This is necessary to vent excess pressure. Bubbles will appear as noted in the wet test. The needle in a proper-functioning IP should remain the same even when left overnight. If not, check for a worn or compromised high pressure seat in the first stage and if needed, employ an experienced service technician.
In terms of first stage performance, immediate pressure, or IP, must be recovered at a certain pace. When the diver breaths from the regulator, the IP should not fall more than a few bars before it rises rapidly after inhalation. Slow recovery is undesirable and warrants a look at the cylinder valve. Even if just open a small degree, it can restrict air flow significantly into the first stage. You must address response time of an entry level basic regulator. It will be slower than a more expensive high performance unit.
At this stage, the checking process is minimal. Try shaking it and listen for sounds. It will rattle like a bunch of nuts and bolts are within. The lever may also lightly tap against the diaphragm. Adjustments are likely to be necessary if it swings back and forth or if you detect a hissing noise when purge button moves beyond 5 millimetres. A locking system is built into regulators, preventing essential parts from dislodging during use. Nevertheless, it is advised to check as you might accidentally remove the front cover. You also might find that the hose connection does not readily unscrew as desired. Make it a point to check the valve seat, diaphragm and exhaust diaphragm seals while the first stage duct cap is on. Simply inhale through the mouthpiece and take note. No intake of air should be allowed when a second stage seal is fully operational. Furthermore, leaks should be fully apparent. Forced inhalation could result in dislodged or damaged diaphragms.
Mouthpieces can be fragile and require frequent checking. Are there missing lugs or splits in the teeth grips? Did you look around the cable tie for perishing? Sometimes they simply require replacement and it goes without saying to select the correct one in terms of size and fit. If yours is too small, it could split when stretched; conversely, if it is too large, it can cause leakage or dislodging from the regulator. Don?t wait for a big surprise to happen: be vigilant ahead of time.
The cable tie should be on your checklist to ensure verification that it is tight and secure. Any excess that has been cut off should leave a smooth finish?no sharp edges that might cut the mouth area. Wearing many mouthpieces out is a tell-tale sign to heed. Generally, one per year is average and if you fall short, you may need to invest in a more expensive model.
HIGH PRESSURE GAUGES
This is one area not to sweat about. The only factor of consideration would entail bubbles trickling from the gauge during a wet test. The swivel inside the connection is probably the cause and simply needs its O-rings lubricated or replaced.
The Rest of Your Gear
By now you know to check the hose condition and the port O-ring. You now tackle the disconnect coupling or QD as it is called. It must be clean and well-cared for such that it slides smoothly and clicks in place. Be sure it doesn?t slip off when pulled. Check that the release collar slides properly and also that it springs back without a noisy sound. Sticky collars can be remedied easily with a warm, soapy water bath. Salt crystals will be whisked away along with any residual dirt on the metal surface. The mechanics are not complicated but you must attend to problems or replace the unit using only the requisite shape and size of connector. The hose must be the right length to suit the dry suit/BC. Keep in mind that the correct coupling from the same manufacturer is your best bet. Quality comes with a higher price and is well worth it as you know.
The corrugated hose is made of rubber so it will should the effects of salt water and chemicals such as chlorine over time. Sooner or later, if unattended, it will fail. Each ring requires more than a passing glance. Look for perishing and splits when stretching and bending the hose. Cable ties at either end must be secure. No diver wants the consequence of pulling off the inflator or hose assembly.
INFLATOR ? INFLATE AND DEFLATE BUTTONS
A quick check is all that is needed for inflate and deflate buttons. If they are operational, move on. Now connect the inflator hose and pressurize the regulator set to see if the BC inflates and deflates when the correct button is pressed. Oral inflation must also come under scrutiny. You can tell by first blowing into the mouthpiece while the deflate button is depressed. This will manually inflate the BC. You then let go of the button to prevent air from coming out. Subsequently, dunk the pressurized system and connected hose into water and watch for escape of air. The hose connection is the critical area of focus here.
BCs release air in several ways. A dump value is placed on the right shoulder, the left or right hip, and one into the inflator shoulder assembly. There is also a deflate button on the latter equipment. Frayed pull strings are taboo, especially at the entry point to the valve. The pull handle should be checked as well. These are both chafe areas. Over inflation is the role of dump values working as pressure releasers. Thus, they help prevent damage. To perform a BC full of air test, you inflate the BC to force open the valves. Excess air will be released before the valves seal once maximum pressure is restored. Any hissing sound will signal a dislodged or damaged seal.
The BC needs more attention. To check its integrity, you inflate it to maximum pressure and disconnect the inflator hose. After a few hours, it should remain inflated. Noticeable deflation is a tip off of a leak problem. Performing the test in a pool is handy with someone nearby to observe all the seals and help detect the hole or valve in jeopardy.
The BC test is also used for the inflator. You are checking to make sure that activating the inflate button allows air in and that releasing it results in stoppage. Spray sticky buttons with silicone, hitting the area between the button and the outer housing. Try the button a few times to work the spray well into the area, including the O-rings and shaft.
When it comes to dump valves, there are distinct preferences?anything from a cuff dump to an auto shoulder type. Just make sure it works! Dysfunction equals disaster. Check them by creating a seal with your mouth over the inside of the value in question. Next blow to see if the air passes out of the valve. Suck to check for water penetration of your dry suit.
The teeth are the target in checking zips. Open them and inspect carefully watching for obvious damage or frayed edges. Caught threads may even allow water to enter the suit. Yes, believe it. Upon finishing the check, zip up the suit and observe where the teeth meet. Are there any gaps? Then lubricate as needed. It will help reduce wear.
Among the many items to check are accessible internal seams. Any damage or peeling tape should be duly noted and dealt with. Joins of glued suits also require attention. Splits can grow so they require immediate repair. It goes without saying to work on a suit when thoroughly dry.
Some seals can take punishment, some cannot. Latex seals perish quickly and need to be attended to quite often. Don?t mistreat them! Tears and nicks in the edges can cause seals to rip when the head or a head is inserted through them. So have a look at a gently stretched seal to see what condition it is in. Furthermore, you want to be sure the latex never sticks to itself which can speed up deterioration that is already occurring. Refurbish them by lightly dusting inside and out with plain talcum powder. Then you can safely store the suit for future use.
Boots require inspection for gouges and splits in the sole or any area where fins rub against them during a dive. As a rule, they are heavy in nature and can handle rough wear and tear. Replace as needed.
This inspection requires a few items that need to be gathered together before beginning. Bottles will be stuffed in the wrist seals and a football used as a wedge will go in the neck seal. First, scan your suit for nicks and gouges. Then insert your bungs of choice into their seals before zipping up the suit. The auto shoulder will be closed down, if fitted, before inflation. Taking soapy water, sponge down the suit in order to reveal tiny holes?no bigger than a pin prick.
The problem with this gear is snapping. Thus, they too require a once-over in the hunt for tears or splits.?It doesn?t hurt to carry emergency spares for each type you use.
Batteries aren?t fool proof, especially when it comes to temperature. That?s why there are indicators to let you know where they stand. A reading taken on the surface does not necessarily reflect underwater conditions. For example, it may show 50% on a warm day, but cools quickly down below and may fail. Charging is a prerequisite before relying on it each time you dive. You can certainly do it yourself in most cases. If it does not accept the charge, by all means replace it.
Your checking is not yet complete. The torch needs to be included to be sure the O-ring that prevents flooding is operational. To have a look, you remove the part with care to avoid nicking or cutting it and wash it in warm, soapy water. After drying, a close inspection will reveal any damage. Finish the check by covering the O-ring with a small amount of silicone grease. Don?t fail to clean and dry the groove within which the device fits to complete your task.