Your car, your home, your bicycle, heck even the human body needs a little tune up from time to time. If it has moving parts, it needs lubricating and inspection every so often. Let’s take a look behind the curtain and see what you should look for and what happens when you service your toys!
THE STUFF YOU CAN DO
Mask - A new mask needs cleaning right out of the box. When the mask is being made, oils get on the lens and this will cause it to fog no matter how much spit or defog you use. A mild cleanser or toothpaste does a great job removing it. Apply a commercial (or organic) defog before each dive and leave the mask on your face. If you take it on and off in the water, the defog is getting rinsed off. A little defog goes a long way. If using home-made or organic defog remember - the greener, the cleaner!! Rinse after use and store in a cool, dry place out of the sun. Inspect the strap for wear and rips and replace as needed. Toothpaste as needed to clean off chlorine, salt or Crater water buildup.
Snorkel - Clip it on and go! Rinse with fresh water after use and store it in a cool, dry place out of the sun. Check to make sure the clip keeps it secure and check the mouthpiece to make sure you didn’t bite off the mouth tabs last time that shark came a little too close!!
Fins - Full foot fins should fit snug. They are designed to be worn barefoot. If you use them a lot and develop hot spots, a thin neoprene sock will help with the comfort. Adjustable open heel fins have a strap and buckle that should be inspected before each dive. They are plastic and rubber and thus can brake. Many buckles can fit different fins, you can remove the male piece from the fin and have a better chance of making a different one fit if you don’t have the exact spare. Metal spring straps are a nice option for durability but don’t allow adjusting. Rinse with fresh water and store in a cool, dry place with the plastic insert in the foot pocket to help them keep their shape.
Wetsuits - (includes boots, gloves and hoods) Proper care for your suit includes a daily fresh water rinse each day of your dive trip and a nice hot rinse with a mild detergent or wet suit cleaner (like Sink the Stink) when you get home. Store it where? You guessed it, a cool, dry place on a wide hanger.
Drysuits - Care for this suit is similar to the wetsuit. You will need to rinse/clean the inside of the suit if it leaked or you were sweaty pre or post dive. There is dry suit conditioner you can apply if you have latex seals. Special care needs to be used on the zipper and make sure you use zipper wax daily and when storing. You should inspect the inflate and deflate valves and have them serviced by a pro if they are sticking. Cool, dry storage and loosely rolled up or on a super wide hanger or by the feet.
Lights, cameras and other o-ringed items - Check the o-ring before you dive. Clean and LIGHTLY lubricate as needed. Make sure any threads are clean as well.
Tank - Is it full? Does it have an o-ring? Not too much stuff you need to look at with a tank. The o-ring can get cracked or fall out and the burst disc may need replacement but that doesn’t happen too often. Never drain your tank completely as water can enter and cause corrosion. Tanks should be stored with at least 100 psi of air. They require a visual inspection once a year and a pressure test every 5 years. Give them a rinse and keep them in the CDP (cool, dry place)
Weights - Are they still heavy? Whether you use a belt or a weight integrated BCD, check to make sure the weights are still held in place securely and any buckles or Velcro are not worn out. Rinse them and keep them at the bottom of the CDP.
THE STUFF YOU WANT HELP WITH
A few thoughts on preventative maintenance. Everything we’ve looked at so far involved just that, looking at it. A visual inspection was enough to catch most potential issues. With regulators and BCDs it is different. There are moving parts involved that can not be seen by the naked eye. And because of the liability of these moving parts, manufacturers want some of them changed once every 1-2 years by someone they have trained to do it right. Just because “it breathes ok” doesn’t mean it’s good to go. Remember if your mask or fin straps breaks during a dive, chances are pretty good it will not be life threatening. If your reg or BCD malfunctions, well that’s a different story. There is a reason we call this gear your life support.
BCD - Before your dive, inflate your BCD. Do you see or hear any leaks? Captain Obvious here - if it’s leaking don’t use it!! There is no such thing as a “little” leak. (can you be a little pregnant?) Make sure all your clips still clip and Velcro still velcros. The tank strap may stretch when it gets wet so give it a dip before you put your tank on to stretch it before hand. After diving, a fresh water rinse is what they like. You also need to rinse the inside of the BCD. It is normal for some water to get inside the bladder while you are adjusting your buoyancy. Nasty salt water sitting in the BCD in the hot sun? Ummmm, smells tasty. There are some after market cleaners for the bladder you can use. Store it partially filled with air in the same cool, dry temperature and humidity controlled bunker you have added to your house that you store all the rest of your gear. Sitting up or on a hanger is better than at the bottom of your gear bag with your weight belt laying on it.
During the yearly service we are going to give the inflator a healthy check out and maybe change out the o-rings and spring that keep it from inflating or deflating by itself. We will also inspect the deflation valves to make sure they are not allowing any premature leaking.
Regulator - During your predive check, breath off BOTH your regs. Easy and effortless right? They better be!! If your reg breathes hard or has a leak remember what Captain Obvious said earlier about pregnancy. DON’T USE IT. After your dive, give it a fresh water rinse but remember, NO WATER IN THE FIRST STAGE! Also don’t push the second stage purge button while rinsing as water can get in the hose that way. Return it to the cool, dry, climate controlled, password protected dive bunker with the rest of your gear and leave it loosely rolled up.
This is where we earn our pennies during the yearly inspection. All the fun stuff happens inside the first and second stages so we are going to take them apart, give all plastic parts a soapy bath and the metal parts a dip in the ultra sonic cleaner. This will knock all the nasty salt-water corrosion off. We inspect it all and make sure it looks good. There are some parts the manufacturers want replaced regardless of wear. O-rings as well as low-pressure and high-pressure seats and some other odds and ends. We lubricate it and adjust the pressures as we put it all back together and voilà your regulator is ready for the depths of the ocean once again.