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 5 looks at a few common accessories.
Most of the equipment checks listed here really don’t need a full page each for the basics, so here are a few things to run through for kit that most of us carry.
Your SMB is an underrated piece of kit and as such it doesn’t get looked after very well! Storing it wrapped up will eventually create seams and kinks, which lead to weak spots and pinholes.
Check your SMB by inflating it and leaving it for a while. Once inflated, it should stay inflated. If not, a patch repair can work in some areas but not in all cases.
Check the dump valve operation, and if there is more than one way of inflating it, check them all. If the dump valve leaks, try running some fresh water into the SMB and sluice it out through the dump valve. This may clear it, but if not we find that most SMB dump valves are usually simple enough to unscrew and check for damage or debris. If your SMB cannot stay inflated for at least an hour or two, then it is not much use as a marker, and you should replace it.
If you have an SMB then you surely have a reel! The issue we find with reels mostly, is that the line on them is not kept in a tidy state.
Uneven reeling of a mechanical reel can cause a buildup of line on one side of the spool which can spill over, jamming it. Uneven line doesn’t reel out very well either, and any loose line on the spool can create tangles, which can jam it, and a jammed line on an ascending dSMB is a problem!
After using it on a dive, you should reel out as much line as you used, and reel it back in tidily with a little tension so it sits nice and compact on the spool.
When getting it out for another dive, make sure to check the lay of the line, look over your reel for damage, and check that any moving parts work as they should.
Are your Lights and Cameras ready for action?! Camera and lighting housing maintenance is a HUGE subject, and very model specific, so here we stick to the basics. For more in depth reading – look in your manual!
Waterproof housings should be maintained and inspected regularly. Look over the housings for damage, particularly near any sealing surfaces and buttons, switches etc. Check if they open smoothly and that the working surfaces are clean and corrosion free. When removing the sealing o-rings (as per manufacturers guidelines of course!), it is worth wiping the surfaces with a lint free cloth to remove any dirt and old grease – old grease gathers up dust and sand whenever possible! Check that O-rings and seals are clean and lubricated, but you don’t need to go nuts on that grease!
Check that the batteries are in good condition – if they have been allowed to charge down while left in the equipment, then there is the potential for them to leak. Storage with batteries in can create problems, so again – check manufacturers advice.
Bolt snaps are a pretty basic bit of kit and don’t need a massive amount of care and attention.
Check the operation of any clips and bolt snaps you use. It’s annoying when they seize up, but they can be worked free again or replaced if they’re that bad!
The issue with bolt snaps is that we rarely give the internal springs a good rinse. Salt water dries up and can leave grit and salt deposits which will eventually cause damage. A good rinse with warm water and maybe a little detergent will help. You can put a little silicone grease into the spring runner, BUT bear in mind that this will attract dirt again, so if the clip works well without having to do this, then that’s ok!
Ensure you also check the connection of the snap to the equipment it carries. A loose/frayed knot, or broken tie can be a costly mistake!
Straps often get neglected and then give up at the worst possible time!
When getting your kit together, check fin, mask, computer, and any other straps you use, for any nicks, damage and wear. Replace if needed – it isn’t worth chancing that a fraying computer strap will hold for another couple of dives!
Carrying spares in your save a dive kit can be the difference between a nice dive and an expensive cup of tea on a boat (definitely been there!) or worse – losing equipment in the water.
There’s not much to check on a mask really, but they are worth a look over.
Look around the skirting for nicks and cuts, and give it a little stretch here and there to look for holes. If the mask strap connects to the skirt instead of the frame, this can be a weak point, as it can get stretched here when you put the mask on.
We probably don’t need to tell you to check that the glass is not broken!
It is also worth checking into any tight corners inside the mask, for example where the skirt meets the lens. Dirt loves to gather there, and a good scrub might well be in order!
Computer checks are really a combination of some of the above ones, plus a couple of extra specifics. Naturally you should check your manufacturers guidance if you haven’t already, but here’s a few basics…
Check the straps are in good order, and power it up to make sure that the batteries are ok. If the battery is user changeable, then check the manual to see if it should be stored with or without, and you will know for next time!
If you do check the battery in the compartment, make sure to check the o-rings and sealing surfaces are clean and undamaged, and lubricate o-rings before putting them in place.
A good many dive computers can be interfaced with desktop/laptop software, and can run diagnostics and a firmware update. These are both worth doing periodically but may be automatic when you connect.
With dive computers it is worth stressing again – check the manual! If you haven’t used it for a while, it is worth a quick recap, so you have confidence in knowing what your computer is telling you on a dive.
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 equipment for a trained 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