Getting Ready For The New Dive Season - Everything Else
The winter is finally over and the new season is coming up fast. If you were sensible the winter period was the perfect time to have your kit serviced by a professional but if you didn’t now is an opportune time to dust off your kit and give it a good going over to pick up any problems early, leaving enough time to get them sorted out.
Although nothing beats a proper service, these little guides will take you through some relatively simple but well advised kit health checks, part 2 which you are reading now is for checking your BCD, Drysuit, and other important components, to see part 1 - checking your regulators.
With the state of the hose and port o-ring already checked during the regulator inspection all that’s left is the quick disconnect (QD) coupling. A nice, clean and well cared for QD should simply slide on smoothly and click into place without slipping off if pulled. The release collar should also slide and spring back cleanly without feeling and sounding like it’s got a bucket of sand stuck in it.
If it’s a bit sticky try soaking it in warm soapy water to help dislodge any salt crystals and dirt that may have become attached to the metal surface. There are not many serviceable parts within your standard QD coupling so if the problem can not be resolved with a simple but thorough clean then unfortunately a replacement may be in order ….. just remember to look after it this time!
Where a replacement is required remember that there are more than one size and shape of connector so be sure to get the correct length hose to suit the size of your drysuit / BC and also the correct coupling to match the manufacturers standard equipment. Also remember that you usually get what you pay for …… significantly cheaper usually doesn’t result in the same quality of product.
Need a new inflator hose? click here for our full range of inflator hoses
It’s a rubber component so it will be subject to the abuse of salt water, chlorine and other corrosive substances during its life and will eventually perish. Be sure to check each ring, perishing and splits are easily seen by stretching and bending the hose. Also check that the cable ties at each end are tight and secure, the last thing you want to do is pull off the inflator or hose assembly …… it kind of ruins the dive.
Inflator - inflate and deflate buttons
The inflate and deflate buttons generally don't require anything more than just an operational check over to make sure that they actually do what they are supposed to do. With the inflator hose connected and your regulator set pressurised make sure that the BC inflates and deflates when the respective button is pressed.
Also be sure to check that the oral inflation works correctly; blow into the mouthpiece whilst holding the deflate button down to manually inflate the BC, release the button to prevent the air coming back out.
With the system still pressurised and the hose connected to the BC dunk the inflator assembly in some water to check for any escaping air, particularly around the hose connection.
BCs typically have four means of releasing air these days, a dump valve on your right shoulder, one on your left or right hip, usually one incorporated into the inflator shoulder assembly and lets not forget that all important deflate button on the inflator assembly.
Make sure that the pull strings are not frayed, particularly where they enter the valve or pull handle which are chafe areas. The dump valves usually double up as a pressure release valve to prevent damage occurring from over inflation. Inflate the BC until the valves are forced open to release the excess air before sealing once maximum pressure has been restored. With the BC full of air test that each dump valve opens and seals correctly, air hissing out will indicate a dislodged or damaged seal.
Now to check the integrity of the BC itself. With the BC fully inflated to maximum pressure disconnect the inflator hose and leave the BC for a few hours. If when you come back it is still nicely inflated there are no issues, however, if the BC has noticeably deflated some investigatory work will need to be done to locate the leak. The easiest place for this is in a pool with the aid of a willing assist to run around all the seals and hunt down the hole or guilty valve.
Basically the same test as the BC variant, check that pressing the inflate button allows air in and letting go stops it.
If the button is a bit sticky try spraying a small amount of silicone spray down between the button and the outer housing and then repeatedly pressing the button to work the silicone into the o-rings and the shaft.
Some people prefer cuff dumps, others the auto shoulder variety. Whatever you favour a dysfunctional dump valve could have very dire consequences so be sure to pay particular attention to your drysuit dump valve.
The simplest way to check either of the valve types is to create a seal over the inside of the valve with your mouth and blow to check that air can pass out of the valve and then suck to test that no water can penetrate into your 'dry' suit.
With the zip open carefully inspect the teeth for any obvious damage and also frayed edges or threads that could allow even the smallest entry route for water.
Once completed, zip up the suit and check that all the teeth meet and that there are no visible gaps.
You should regularly (but not excessively) check and lubricate your zip to help maintain it and reduce wear. To see Aquazip, click here
Thoroughly check all the internal seams that you can physically get to, particularly look for damaged or peeling tape. If your suit is glued be sure to check that each join is not starting to split. Any remedial repairs required are best undertaken whilst the suit is nice and dry.
Particularly important for latex seals which quickly perish if mistreated and not looked after. Check the edges for tears and nicks that could rip when the you put your hand or head through the seal. Also gently stretch the seals looking for any perished areas.
To prevent the latex sticking to itself and speeding up the deterioration process make sure you lightly dust the inside and outside of the seal with plain, unfragranced talcum powder before putting the suit into storage.
Don't forget to look over your boots checking for gouges and splits in the sole and where your fins rub against them when in use. Boots are typically pretty heavy duty so can take a fair bit of punishment before they'll need replacing.
For this you're going to need some suitable bottles to stuff in the wrist seals, something like a football to wedge in the neck seal and some soapy water.
Firstly lay the suit out and give it a visual going over to spot any obvious nicks and gouges in the material.
Secondly, insert your bungs of choice into their respective seals, zip up the suit, close down the auto shoulder if fitted and inflate the suit. Sponge the water over the suit. Any pin prick holes should much more readily show up with expanding bubbles.
Ok, so that's all the big pieces of kit checked but don't forget all the little accessories that we carry:
These little fellas have a great knack of snapping just at the wrong time. Be sure to check them over, stretch them to look for any tears or splits. For your own sake make sure you carry at least one spare strap of each type you use in your emergency spares box!
Computers have had battery condition indicators for years now but don't forget that batteries are affected by temperature so even though the indicator might say 50% whilst on the surface attached to your nice warm wrist as so as it hits the water and cools down it could quite easily fail. Be safe, get it replaced (or do it yourself if it's user changeable) before the battery level gets too low.
Items such as your torch shouldn't be over looked either, the o-ring that is preventing it from being flooded should be checked. Carefully remove the o-ring (don't use sharp implements as you could nick or cut the o-ring), give it a wash in some warm soapy water and dry it. Inspect the o-ring for any damage and finally apply and a sparing amount of silicone grease.
The groove in which the o-ring sits should also be cleaned out and dried for re-inserting the o-ring.
A Final Note
Finally, these steps should never replace proper servicing carried out by a trained and qualified technician. Consider them a check that everything is in good working order and a means of spotting potential problems before they become an actual problem.