With the COVID restrictions resulting in divers being out of the water for longer than normal, checking through your equipment in preparation for a return to diving will be time well spent. In this series of posts we look at some post-storage checks that can easily become a part of your normal routine. Part 1 looks at regulator checks.
Making sure that your regulators are in good shape before you dive them may seem a bit of a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised what a service technician sees!
The obvious place to start is to check the last service date. We always recommend that you have them serviced annually as a minimum unless you dive frequently. If they are past date or getting close – contact your servicing agent and get them booked in. They’ll be happy to help!
If your regulators are inside their service date, here’s five simple checks you can perform ahead of diving them. They are also useful if you are a using rental set, before you get in the water.
Look over the hoses and give them a mild bend, especially near the crimps. Move the hose protectors if you have them to look under those. If they’re difficult to move try a little soap and twist them clockwise to prevent the hose unscrewing. Any cracking or bulging indicates a problem, and replacement is recommended. Bulging and bubbling of the outer layers are signs that there is a problem in the deeper layers. Note that some (but not all) hoses have small pinholes regularly spaced along the length, so don’t panic but do look well.
Check over any joints that are supposed to move – do they feel tight/gritty/immobile? Mobile joints should move freely but not loosely. Check that the pressure gauge swivel moves smoothly. It should also do this when pressurised.
Check the general condition of the first stage for damage or corrosion. Look at the valve connector. On an A-Clamp reg, check the yoke and the screw pin movement, and inspect the thread. If you are using a DIN regulator, check the o-ring, and inspect the screw thread. All movements should be smooth.
Look at the first stage filter – is it discoloured? If so, there may be contamination inside the first stage. Most filters are usually shiny (divers like shiny things!)
If the stage has moving parts (i.e. turret), check that it moves smoothly and isn’t too tight or loose.
Check the LPI hose connector. The collar should move smoothly and not be gritty or seized up. The small bearings inside the connector should move freely when the collar is pulled back.
The Shrader Valve should be able to depress and spring back with little effort, and the o-ring just above it should be in a good state (though you’d need a torch to see it!)
Look into the second stage (maybe use that torch again!) and possibly give it a light tap. I have seen ants come out of someone’s regulator left on the ground. A badly stored reg is a haven for insects!
Check the mouthpieces. Are they properly attached and not loose? If they are thoroughly chewed, they will need replacing… school and rental kit in particular can suffer from this where the regs have been used by new divers.
If you have venturi levers or adjusters, check that they move properly and are not loose, too tight, or grinding.
Checking that the diaphragm and exhaust valves are properly seated is easy to do: Block the first stage inlet with your thumb. You should not be able to draw air through, but will hear the second stage diaphragm pull down. If you can hear air hissing or are able to pull air, then you have a leak somewhere. If you can drawer air easily, then is it probably an issue with the exhaust valve or the diaphragm.
If you have one available, attach your regs to a cylinder. Turn on, check the gas pressure, and breathe from the them. The gauge should remain steady as you breathe with the gas on. If it fluctuates check the tank valve is fully open. If that isn’t the issue, you may have a problem with your first stage or your tank.
Test the purge button on both second stages. They shouldn’t free-flow with a light press and should start and cut the flow responsively. Once happy, give them a breathe, but be careful in case any dust (or something worse) has accumulated in there!
Turn the gas off again leaving the regulators pressurised. Leave for a few minutes and when you return, re-check the pressure. If it has dropped, gas is escaping from somewhere. If you can pressurise the reg set and submerge it, you might find the leak.
Of course, it goes without saying (so we’ll say it here) that if you do find any issues, call your local dive centre to discuss them, and if necessary arrange to drop off your regs for a technician to work on. Working on regs yourself is a bad idea unless you are qualified to do so, but as a responsible diver, you already know that!
These checks are not exhaustive and in no way replace a proper servicing regime. They can be used as a part of your kit check routine. You should get your equipment serviced by a qualified technician!
Rich Frew, May 2020