Caring for your equipment

By admin

Keeping equipment functional and safe

Scuba diving is an equipment intensive sport and when we dive our health, or even our life depends on having gear that is dependable. Maintaining you gear to a high standard can help ensure that failures of this nature will not put you im harms way.

Not only does having badly maintained gear add to the risk of the dive it can also be expensive to fix in the long run, so it really is beneficial to look after your gear.

Although diving equipment manufacturers design and construct dive gear to be rugged and long lasting, they cannot prevent abuse or neglect. The following are just a few typical examples resulting from poorly maintained equipment:

  • A broken fin strap.
  • Sand or corrosion which jams open a BCD or dry suit inflator. Resulting in fast ascents.
  • A neglected or poorly maintained regulator can result in a first stage pressure leak that causes free flowing.
  • A regulator mouthpiece breaking or holed, causing water to enter the airway.
  • Sand clogged in the exhalation valve, causing flooding of the second stage.
  • A poorly maintained depth gauge can give a false reading.
  • An exhausted battery can cause a dive computer to stop working in the middle of a dive.
  • Torch flooding.
  • Valves that won't turn on or off.
  • Zips that stick or break.

Sources of Damage

Before you can begin to care for your dive gear properly, you must be aware of the many different sources of damage that can cause equipment malfunction, deterioration or breakage. These include:

  • Sea water - Ocean water contains a variety of salts, iodine and other minerals that can cause clogging, jamming or deterioration of your equipment. This is especially true of moving metal parts such as power inflators, regulators, zips, hose connectors etc. These dissolved minerals can be quite corrosive.
  • Chlorine - Chlorine and mild acids are added to swimming pool water to retard bacteria, fungus or algae growth. Unfortunately, these chemicals can be highly destructive to dive equipment. All dive gear used in swimming pools should be thoroughly soaked in clean, freshwater to remove any chlorine or acid residue.
  • Sunlight - Direct rays from tropical sun can be destructive to rubber or silicone products such as the face mask, fins, wetsuit and so on. For this reason, your dive gear should never be left on the open deck of a dive boat or beach. Strong and direct sunlight can also damage diving instruments such as computers, depth gauges and pressure gauges by overheating and distortion of O ring seals.
  • Bacteria - Small amounts of water (fresh or salt) left inside BC bladders, masks, regulator second stages and dive suits can result in bacteria growth. There are many different strains of bacteria that can grow under these conditions and they can result in a variety of infections.
  • Oxidation - Oxidation is a chemical reaction that results from the combining of air and water with a metal surface such as the inside of your scuba tank. If the tank is made of steel, this oxidation is more commonly known as rust. If the item is aluminium or some other metal, the oxidation is often referred to as corrosion. This is quite common in stab jacket emergency cylinders as they are frequently left unpressurised and absorb water as the pressure increases during the descent. This can be prevented or reduced by carefully washing and drying your equipment after use. It is particularly important to remove any water that might be trapped under the surface of a tank boot or other partly enclosed area. Internal oxidation in scuba tanks can be avoided by keeping a minimal amount of pressurised, dry air in the cylinder at all times.
  • Sand and silt - As sand and silt particles are floating in suspension, they often find their way into the small crevices of such working parts as the BC power inflator, quick-snap hose connectors, the regulator second stage, the octopus second stage and the purge valve in a mask. Piled up sand or silt particles can cause such items to jam either shut or open, depending on the situation. Sand and silt particles are also a major menace to O ring seals on such items as dive lights, underwater cameras and strobes and piston type regulator first stages. The tiny sand or silt particles floating in the water tend to stick to the silicone grease on an O ring, causing a small build-up of residue that can eventually cause the O ring to leak.
  • Battery failure - The small batteries that power dive lights, computers, watches and digital depth gauges will not last forever. Battery exhaustion is simply a question of when. Divers must be continually alert for low battery warnings or develop a routine for regular replacement or charging of batteries. If using dry cells, dead batteries should be removed as soon as possible, as they could begin to leak and cause internal corrosion. Batteries that can be removed by the user should be replaced between dive trips to avoid electrical shorts or leakage.
  • Leakage or flooding - Water leakage or flooding can cause an equipment malfunction. This can be especially destructive if it occurs in sea water. Such leakage or flooding is often caused by an O ring seal failure on such items as a dive light, computer or camera that has a user replaceable battery. Owners must take special care in cleaning and lubricating O rings to remove any build-up of salt crystals, hairs, silt or sand residue. Care must also be taken in properly closing any O ring sealed battery compartment, as an ill-fitting O ring will cause immediate flooding.
  • Electrical shorts - Electrical shorts are usually cause by dampness in such items as dive lights or computers.
  • Equipment breakage - Although dive gear is designed to be tough and rugged, breakage does occur, owing to poor packing or disregard for the equipment. When traveling, dive masks should be packed in protective containers. Sensitive electronic instruments such as dive computers or digital depth gauges should also be packed in a padded, protective container. Cylinders, weight belts and people are the usual cause.
  • Self induced - Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) and other petroleum jellies can destroy masks and latex seals. Talcum powder can get into valves.
  • Wear and tear - All equipment will experience normal wear and tear. Regulator mouthpieces will begin to deteriorate, neoprene wetsuits become stiff, swim fin blades begin to split, mask straps break, hose connectors leak etc. Careful inspection of your dive gear will often reveal signs of this type of wear. If detected, the item should be replaced before it breaks.