How often do you check your BCD or wing? They often get taken for granted, and more than a few times, we have seen people having issues with them at the dive site that could have been avoided by some simple checks and maintenance.
Buoyancy compensators should be serviced regularly and we recommend annually as a minimum. If yours is still in date when you dust it off after a long dry spell, then you can run through a few checks after storage. These are also useful when checking school or rental kit.
Check that the pull dumps actually do pull, and aren’t seized before you try to inflate, otherwise the valves may not open upon over-inflation.
Firstly look over the valve housing for damage, and check that it is not loose. A broken housing is rare, but they do happen – usually from heavy objects dropping on them!
When you operate the valve, you should feel a little resistance from the valve spring. If the spring is damaged, it’ll either not move at all, or move but not spring back. Either way that’s an issue worth raising with your dive centre before you dive with it!
If the unit wasn’t well rinsed after the last dive, water on the dump valve can evaporate leaving a salt deposit that can stick the valve closed. Rinsing with fresh warm water can loosen it up again.
Test the tightness of the corrugated inflator hose connections at both ends to ensure a good connection, and look over the rubber of the hose for any damage. If a knife is kept in this area, check for nicks and cuts!
Check that the elbow connecting the hose to the BCD – or the pull dump if the hose has one – is nice and tight.
Attach the regulator LPI hose to the power inflator connector, and check that it holds well in place. If you are renting, it’s worth remembering that not all LPI connectors are the same. It’s rare, but sometimes the two parts don’t fit well. Some shrader valves can be a little too short to allow gas flow.
Once connected, turn on the gas and check that you can disconnect the LPI hose while it’s pressurised. The LPI hose should be secure, but not too hard to disconnect in an emergency! Inflate the unit in bursts so that you can see if the inflate button lags. The button should start and cut the gas flow quickly, so a poor response indicates a problem with the valve which can lead to runaway ascents.
Fully inflate the BCD (this also checks the over-inflation valve on the pull dump works). When fully inflated, disconnect the LPI and listen for any leaking sounds. If you leave the BCD inflated, it should remain inflated. If you hear hissing, it’s time to play find the leak! If you have time, you can check that it remains inflated overnight if checking for slow leaks.
While it is inflated, pick up the BCD and rotate it around. There shouldn’t be any liquid moving inside it. If there is, then it was stored wet, and the “water” in it will be nasty! You can drain it via a dump valve, but you should sluice the bladder again with fresh water or preferably an appropriate disinfectant. A well stored BCD is a dry BCD!
When releasing air from the bladder, use all dump valves checking that they operate smoothly, opening and closing quickly with no lag. Again, any poorly responding valves should be sorted out before any diving.
Check the webbing is in a good state, with no cuts or frayed areas. Webbing can take a certain amount of damage and still work, but it is worth replacing! If you are using a wing, pay attention to point where the webbing threads through the backplate, particularly at the shoulders. This is the point where the highest tension on the webbing rubs against the metal of the plate.
Make sure that all the clips are in good working order, and that you are able to adjust the fit if needed. Don’t forget to include the tank strap and releases. Bare in mind that releases should hold fast, but be easily operated in an emergency.
If your setup has an integrated weight system, make sure it operates correctly and you can work it easily.
Again – if you find any issues, you should get in touch with your dive centre. Some are easy fixes, but we always recommend a technician look over problems unless you know what you are doing.
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