You’ve finally booked your next dive trip, and you can’t wait to relax into the cool, blue depths. But a nagging thought creeps into your mind: “Will my dive gear perform as expected?” You remember your last trip when your alternate second-stage regulator began to free flow just as you were about to get in the water. The captain quickly replaced the hissing regulator, but he said he noticed some corrosion and sand, which probably caused the free flow. That dive was saved, but you worry your equipment might act unpredictably again.
Remember that your dive gear is life-support equipment — designed to help you breathe, see and control your movement underwater. To be confident your gear will function properly, you should develop a few important habits. First, thoroughly rinse all your dive gear in clean fresh water after every dive or at least every day of diving. This is especially true when diving in the ocean; rinsing away as much salt as possible will help keep the equipment functioning as intended. After rinsing, allow gear to dry completely in a cool, shady and well-ventilated area before you put it away.
Always be conscious of your gear’s exposure to the sun. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can be very damaging to dive equipment. Some exposure to the sun may be inevitable, but the more you can limit it, the better. On the way to a dive site, store your gear in the shade if possible. If there isn’t any shade available, cover your equipment with a towel.
Here are some recommendations on how to care for specific pieces of dive gear to maximize its longevity and reliability.
Mask, Snorkel, Fins and Computer
Treat these items carefully so they aren’t crushed by heavier gear. It’s also a good idea to keep this equipment (as well as the rest of your gear) well organized to minimize the risk of it getting stepped on or kicked overboard. After rinsing and drying these items, store them properly. The box that came with your mask, for example, will help prevent other equipment from crushing or deforming the lenses or silicon skirt. Remember to check the battery icon on your dive computer, and replace the battery as needed.
Wetsuit, Boots, Gloves and Hood
Neoprene can be especially susceptible to UV damage, so take extra care to keep your wetsuit and other neoprene items in the shade. If your wetsuit takes on an unpleasant odor, add some wetsuit shampoo to the postdive rinse tub. After rinsing, hang your wetsuit inside out on a wetsuit hanger, and allow it to dry completely before you turn it right side out. If it’s possible to turn your gloves and hood inside out as well, do so. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on wetsuit zipper maintenance; some require periodic lubrication.
Test your regulator’s function as soon as possible after you board a dive boat so you can address any problems before you get too far away from the dive shop. If possible, clean your regulator assembly while it’s still connected to a scuba cylinder and pressurized. Soak the components for several minutes to allow the fresh water to dissolve the salt in all the nooks and crannies. If the system is pressurized, purge both second stages several times while they’re submerged in clean fresh water to promote removal of contaminants from their interiors. If it’s not possible to soak the regulators while they’re connected to a cylinder, make sure the dust cap is firmly in place so water is prevented from entering the first stage. Also, take care to not press the purge buttons as that can allow water to enter the hoses and possibly reach the first stage.
Once the second stages are adequately soaked, shake off any excess water and set them out to dry. If your second stages are equipped with knobs for controlling breathing resistance, turn them all the way out to decrease the spring tension on the internal components. Once the regulator assembly is completely dry, store it in a regulator bag to keep dust, debris and pests away from your vital breathing equipment. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on how often to have your regulators serviced by a professional technician — an annual overhaul is a good idea.
As with your regulators, test your BCD before diving to make sure everything is working properly. When soaking your BCD after diving, press down on the inflate and deflate buttons while holding the BCD underwater to work out any trapped salt, sand or debris that might be inside. Orally inflate the jacket and, while it’s submerged, pull on each of the dump valves to work out any debris that might be trapped around them. Be sure to rinse out the inside of the BCD bladder — sometimes salt water will enter in the process of deflating the BCD while diving. Using a hose, introduce clean fresh water into the bladder as you hold down the deflate button. Next, fill it with air by mouth. Hold up the BCD and rotate it so the fresh water sloshes around inside and coats all the interior surfaces of the bladder. Hang the BCD on an appropriately sturdy hanger and pull the lowest dump valve (or hold the BCD upside down and press the deflate button) to allow all the water to escape. Repeat until you are confident that little or no water remains inside, and then partially inflate the jacket for storage. Again, the manufacturer will provide a recommendation on how often to have your BCD serviced; dropping it off at your local dive shop every year with your regulator assembly should ensure it works reliably.
Always handle pressurized cylinders carefully as they contain a lot of potential energy. To prevent the incursion of water, never drain a cylinder completely of gas. When rinsing your cylinder after diving, thoroughly rinse around the valve, and remove the tank boot regularly to prevent buildup of salt or other debris. (For more about the care of high-pressure cylinders, see “Tank Safety,” Alert Diver, Spring 2012.) Remember to have your cylinder visually inspected every year and hydrostatically tested every five years.
It doesn’t take much time or effort to ensure your life-support equipment will work as intended. Proper care and regular maintenance of your dive gear is an important way to stack the deck in your favor.
© Alert Diver — Q4 Fall 2013