I have a mantra when it comes to purchasing Scuba diving equipment, “buy right and buy once”. Sound advice, especially when it comes to life support equipment.
Purchasing a BCD is one of the most expensive components most recreational scuba divers will make. It is also one of the most overlooked pieces when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.
It’s a common occurence to stand next to someone suiting up for a dive, look at their BCD and see “salty crud” stuck to the outside. You can only imagine what infestation lives inside of it. This “lack of maintenance” is not only financially fool-hearty, it is also a safety issue. There are many components of a BCD that need to be clean and well maintained in order to properly and safely execute a dive. Think about it, nothing scares me more than a stuck inflator button and a rusty low pressure inflator hose that needs to be disconnected in a hurry before an uncontrolled ascent.
Some tips to keep your gear in good working order:
1. Have a professional Scuba technician maintenance your BCD regularly and at least according to the specifications outlined by the manufacturer.
2. Make sure it fits correctly and you are properly trained in using the equipment.
3. Disconnect all hoses after finished diving. Inspect and clean all hoses including the corregated hose for damage, cuts, slices, and splits. Remove and inspect weight pockets. If velcro weight pockets, then inspect velcro and clean with toothbrush. Don’t leave any dirt in the velcro. If they are locking weight pockets, make sure they snap back into the BCD with a loud snap. Weak snaps may mean a loose connection. In either case, make sure pockets release easily – but not too easily. Remove all knives and empty pockets. Clean independent of BCD.
4. Soak outside of BCD in fresh water after every day of diving. The longer the better, but don’t get crazy.
5. Fill BCD with water and air. Rinse the inside thoroughly. Shake vigorously with air and water inside the bladder. Repeat at least twice.
6. Make sure water runs through the Inflator Valve (inflate BCD with water and air and empty through inflator valve by holding the hose low and deflating). Use toothbrush to scrub around the inflator and deflator buttons. Repeat at least twice.
7. Fill bladder up with air and fresh water. Use dump valves to empty bladder. Make sure fresh water runs through dump valves. Remove and inspect dump valves. Look for rust on springs. Replace if rusty.
8. Inflate Bladder to full. Hold underwater. Inspect seams of bladder for leaking air. If leaking air, bring to Scuba Technician.
9. Hang Dry. Do not lie on the concrete floor.
10. When Dry, inspect thoroughly. Look for salt stains or dirt. If you find them, spot clean or repeat completely.