Equipment Maintenance by Brian Goddard
Sunday, 27 January 2013 17:30

Winter is the time of year when the majority of divers hang up their fins and wait for the next dive season to arrive.

Throwing the dive kit into the back of the garage and forgetting about it is a recipe for disaster. With such treatment dive kit has a tendency to become a useless mass of salt and corrosion.

With a few simple precautions and a little effort the average diver can ensure kit is stored without deterioration and will be fit for the next dive season.

All divers are taught to wash their gear thoroughly after use to remove salt and other corrosive agents and contaminants. This is in fact a basic cleaning requirement, although it does get rid of the majority of salt, it by no means removes all.

If kit is to be stored for some months it is a good idea to go for a last dive in clear fresh water, Capernwray or Stoney Cove are ideal locations for this. Failing this, total immersion in a barrel or tank of fresh water for half an hour is a good alternative. Warm water is better than cold water as it dissolves salt crystals more readily. Once thoroughly rinsed all gear must be dried completely before storing; damp kit rots and corrodes.

SUIT MAINTAINANCE

Wet suits should be thoroughly washed with detergent and disinfected if you are in the habit of warming up the suit during a dive! Hang the suit on a wide barred coat hanger to dry thoroughly before storing in a cool airy dark cupboard.

Dry suits require a little more attention; wash the outside of the suit thoroughly and hang to dry on a wide coat hanger. This is the time to clean the inside of the suit, turn the suit inside out, wash with a warm solution of detergent and rinse thoroughly before drying and turning back the right way.

Pay particular attention to zips, if they have a build-up of dirt and lubricant, use warm soapy water and give them a brush with a soft brush (child’s toothbrush is ideal) inside and out. Rinse thoroughly, dry then apply beeswax or zip lube (do not mix them) to the inside and outside teeth of the zip. Close the zip short of fully closed keeping the slider just clear of the rubber sealing pad at the end of the zip. If the zip has grown whiskers remove them with a pair of sharp nail scissors, taking particular care not to cut into the rubber of the zip.

Check the seals for nicks at the edge, stitching or seems parting or the rubber perishing. Neoprene wrist seals usually give way along the seam and will rip if left. Stop the nick by adding a blob of Aquasure glue to the inside and outside. Once dry apply a light coating of scent free talc and store as for a wet suit. Apply a light coat of talc to the neck seal for storage. If the seal has become slack during the season now is the time to get it replaced, neoprene seals can be tightened if in good condition.

BCD/ WING MAINTENANCE

Once clean and dry inflate the jacket/wing and ensure it holds pressure. Check the fabric for wear and tear along with the harness. Pay particular attention to the attachment points and cylinder mounting points.

If integrated weights are used store them out of the jacket and out of the pouches, check the attachment mechanism. Check all hoses and their connections for damage or cracking and carry out a complete function test.

Ensure the buoyancy bag is empty of all water, it is a good idea to disinfect the inside once a year with a warm solution of “Trilugene” or “Buddy Clean”, do not use Milton. This will prevent bacteria building inside the bag, reducing the risk of lung infections. A ten minute soak followed by a cold rinse will ensure any nasty organisms are eradicated.

Store the jacket as you would a suit with the buoyancy chamber partially inflated.

REGULATOR MAINTENANCE

Servicing a regulator requires the expertise of a trained technician, if it is needed, now is the time to get the service done. Every manufacturer recommends an annual service, and this is necessary if the equipment is used heavily. My experience is for normal club diver use, a service every two to three years is sufficient, provided the kit is looked after by the owner and continues to perform OK.

It goes without saying that the regulator needs to be thoroughly rinsed and any traces of salt removed after each series of dives. Do not under any circumstance allow water to enter the first stage of the regulator. If this happens send it for immediate service.

Prior to storage check all the hoses for cracks or wear, check mouthpieces for tears or splits and ensure the tie wrap is tight and correctly fitted. Apply a little silicone grease to the “A” clamp “DIN” screw and hang in a dark airy place or loosely coiled.

The modern regulator bags that have become popular handouts with retailers are designed to protect regulators during transportation and are not suitable for long term storage.

OTHER KIT

All your kit should have a thorough rinse, dry and inspection for damage before storage.

Black mould inside the mask can be removed by soaking in a mild bleach solution and a gentle scrub with a tooth or nail brush, then a thorough soak in warm water to remove the bleach. Store the mask without the skirt being deformed out of the light in an airy place.

Store fins flat or hung from their straps to prevent them taking on a permanent curve.

Remove the line from your reels and allow to dry before rewinding evenly. Check the drum of the reel rotates freely and any latch mechanism is free.

Torches need regular attention during the winter if you wish them to work next season. Clean the “O” rings and the grooves they sit in, re-grease and refit.

Alkaline cells should not be left in a torch, they have a tendency to leak and will ruin the metal connections inside the torch if they do.

Rechargeable cells lose their charge over time. NiCad cells about 10% per month, the new Lithium Iron cells lose approximately 20% of their rated capacity per month. If left for a long period this is likely to reverse the polarity of the cells and render them useless. The remedy is simple, give the battery a top up charge every 6 to 8 weeks. To maximise efficiency before use next season carry out a test discharge and recharge. Fully charge the battery, assemble the torch and switch it on, place it in a bucket of water and allow it to run until the light begins to dim. Some advanced torches have discharge protection and will switch off when the voltage has been reduced to a predetermined level. Torches without this facility should not be run completely flat as this can reverse one or more of the cells. As soon as the illumination starts to fall appreciably turn off the torch. The manufacturer’s data will provide an indication of the length of time you can expect to obtain illumination. Once this has been reached turn it off and recharge the battery fully. This is called a conditioning cycle and should ensure your torch is ready for use at optimum efficiency.

Check all your instrument straps and replace if nicked or worn. Computer batteries should be checked for remaining capacity and the battery replaced if necessary.

These are all simple precautions that any diver can undertake and will help ensure kit works when next it is called upon. It may also save you a little cash.

 

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