Hands up if you have a drysuit? Keep your hand up if you know the misery of drysuit failure in the water? Keep your hand up if you have jumped in with the zip open and done the walk of shame?! (I will admit to all of those!)
There is an easy fix for the third question. Check your zip yourself and do a mental double check before you jump!
As with all the important pieces of kit, it is recommended that you service your drysuit annually. This is after all, an important piece of your life support, and your second source of buoyancy. You’d be silly not to look after it.
Before you last put it away (according to the manufacturer’s storage instructions of course!) did you realise that it would be in storage for so long? I’m guessing maybe not! So was it thoroughly washed and dried out, and did you do your zip maintenance, or did you fold it into the corner with a loose plan to come back to it?!
Here’s a quick checklist of things to look through for when you get your drysuit out of storage.
Seals: Visually inspect the wrist and neck seals. Take your time and give them a bit of a stretch, such that they would usually have when donning and doffing. They should be able to tolerate that as a minimum! Look for nicks in the seal edges, and holes/worn areas.
Check the tape and glue around the seals where they are joined the suit. Loose tape doesn’t mean the seal has gone, but does indicate an area that will need attention.
If you have a dry glove system, check the connecting rings, and their respective o-rings. If you can safely remove them, do so and look around them, flexing the o-ring as you go and looking for cracks and damage. They may also need re-lubrication before putting back in place and using.
Look at the manufacturers recommended storage instructions. They have good advice on zip maintenance, and will also have specific periodic suit checks which are well worth following to improve the life of your suit.
Inspect your zip for kinks by curving it GENTLY, not with any force – just let it open on a natural curve. Be aware that too much flexing, especially of an open zip, can actually cause the kinks you are looking for, so be careful!
The zip teeth should be clean, free of corrosion, and not too threadbare. Loose thread along the zip can interfere and cause leaks. They can be trimmed with fine scissors and a steady hand! Also check the rubberised material either side of the zip. With increased use, the zip slider can cause wear and tear along this area, which can lead to leaks in older suits.
You should lubricate the zip of your suit when you have rinsed it after use (also ideally just before you put it on.) If you have not lubricated it, it may be stiff do operate. We recommend a coating of beeswax or zip lubricant before moving the zipper if it has been sat a long time. Be careful if you find it takes force to open, you don’t want to break it!
Firstly, checking that the valve is properly screwed in and not loose is a good idea. This can be the source of mystery leaks on a dive where everything is working fine. You can check the inflator by connecting it to your pressurised regulator LPI, and pushing the inflate button. The button should allow flow, and cut it off with no lagging. If it is slow to respond to push and release, this can indicate contamination in the moving parts, and they need cleaning and lubricating. Some inflators can be done by the owner, but check before you try, or take it in for a good service!
Note also that the connection to a pressurised LPI should be sturdy, but also not too hard to remove should a problem in water require that. You should be able to pop it off with relative ease, but it shouldn’t be so loose as to come off unintentionally.
As with the inflator, check that it is properly screwed into place and not lose. Probably the easiest way to check your deflator function, is to put the suit on, inflate and deflate! It should exhaust well when you hug yourself and squat into a ball but it may take a moment to catch up .
It should also not allow air in when you stand up again! If does allow air back in, the valve is either damaged, folded back, or has a contaminant keeping it open. Using talc on your wrist or neck seals can lead to a valve leak due to accumulation of talc on damp surfaces.
Again, some valves can be operator repaired, but best to check in on your friendly local dive centre!
If you have a means of blocking off the wrist and neck seals (PET bottles, kids footballs, etc.) then you can inflate the suit and listen for leaks with the deflate valve closed. You could also leave it inflated for a while to see if it goes down, but be aware that whatever is blocking the seals can also be the source of a leak!
If you don’t have seal-blocking items, you can always have fun inflating the suit while wearing it and running around pretending to be the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters. Once the novelty wears off, get a good friend to check around you for leaks!
If you think you have found a leak, apply some soapy water to the area, and if it bubbles then you have found it. As always, if you do find any issues with your kit, best to book it in for a service. Let us know if you are unsure who you can take your gear to…
Of course if you do find any issues, call your local dive centre to discuss them, and if necessary arrange to drop off your equipment for a technician to work on.
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
Look out for Kit Shakedown Part 5 coming soon – Accessories check through!