Pre Season Checklist
Dive kit needs regular maintenance to stay in top working order so here are some suggestions to check on each item of your scuba gear before you go for that first dive of the year....
Regulators should generally be serviced annually or every 50 dives. Parts within the first and second stages wear even when you aren't using them and they will eventually start to allow air to flow through causing that trickle of bubbles to escape. Also any salt water or sand that has got into the first stage can play havoc with the internal parts and cause damage and corrosion.
We service most makes and models of regulators and you can either drop them into the shop or you can post them to us and we can courier them back to you. During the service the first stage and both second stages will be taken apart and the relevant parts cleaned in an ultrasound bath, all o rings will be replaced aswell as a host other parts that are included in the manufacturers service kit. Once everything is reassembled the interstage pressure is re-set to the correct setting and the regs are thoroughly tested in the pool to ensure they are performing perfectly.
Even if your regs are still in service the chances are that they won't have been for a dive for a while so you should still do a quick visual check yourself to cover the common problem areas.
Hoses - hoses perish over time either from UV or other damage. If you have hose protectors fitted pull them back so you can inspect the entire hose. Look for any fraying, cracks or damage. Most manufacturers now recommend that hoses are changed every 5 years as you get a build up crystals inside the hose over time that can restrict air flow or even cause full regulator failure. See the DAN article abut this issue.
Mouthpieces - Check your mouthpieces to make sure they aren't perished or damaged. We get through loads of these as many people chew through them so do check, and it is always worth taking a spare one on holiday. Also check that they are still cable tied on securely - we have seen cases where the mouthpiece separates from the regulator mid dive!
2nd stages - Check your second stage and octopus for any cracks in the housing. They may be tough bits of kit but they are still prone to damage from a knock from another heavy piece of dive kit.
If you have a tank connect your regulators and listen for any leaks. Small bubbles are best detected in water so lower them into your bathtub or similar. Even better, book yourself in for a pool dive once we are re-open to double check everything is working as it should.
Turn it on and check the battery level. if it is showing 'Low Battery' bring it in for a battery change and pressure test, to get it ready and check it is still reading the correct depth. Also check the condition of the strap and retainers - you don't want to breaking or falling off during a dive!
Your BCD is another piece of equipment that should be serviced annually. The inflator and dump valves all have wear and tear parts that do vital jobs during a dive and should be serviced and checked. There are also some simple checks your can do with your BCD:
Visual Check - Check over the entire BCD to look for abrasion damage, little punctures or damage at any of the seams.
Leak test - inflate the BCD to full capacity and leave it for an hour or so. Check that it has stayed fully inflated. If it hasn't you can use soapy water to try and find the air leak.
Corrugated hose - The corrugated hose needs a good check to make sure it bends without cracks appearing that would indicate it has started to perish.
Dump valves - Check all the pull dumps work correctly, move freely and that are pull cords are in good condition.
Integrated weight systems - Give the weight pouches a good visual check then make sure they properly locking into place and release as they should do without getting stuck.
Remember also to always drain any water from inside your BCD after a dive and leave it fully inflated so the internal bladder can dry. You don't want any nasty microbes growing inside your BCD!
No one wants to get wet in their drysuit so make sure you check yours out.
Visual Check - Give the suit a good look over to check for any abrasion damage or potential problems.
Seals - Check your seals are in good condition and aren't perished.
Zip - Check the zip is in good condition and runs freely. Lubricate with either Zip Slip or Beeswax and distribute evenly by running the zip a few times
Valves - Check the valves operate smoothly. Drysuit valves which aren't rinsed after use can stick and cause easily avoidable injuries.
If you have a cylinder at home you can pressure test your drysuit and check it holds air. Block off the wrist and neck seals with tubs or plastic bottles and attach your drysuit hose, fully inflate the drysuit and, like the BCD, it should stay fully inflated. if it doesn't you can use a spray bottle (plant sprayer or old kitchen cleaner bottle) filled with soapy water to find the leak. A small leak can be repaired with Black Witch or Aquasure, but bring the suit in for professional repair of any larger holes or damage.
Check the condition of the skirt and strap. Modern silicone is very durable but can be cut easily so check for tears that could affect the seal integrity. Also check your spare mask that often lives forgotten in your BCD or drysuit pocket until you need it. Is it clean and in good condition? If you don't have one yet a spare mask is such a useful bit of kit - we have seen mask straps break or masks get dropped over the side of a boat just before a dive which is a disaster if you don't have a spare.
Check any silicone elements like the flexible elbow and the mouthpiece for damage. If it has a purge valve check that it is in good condition and is clear of any sand or grit.
GLOVES, HOODS AND BOOTS
Check the condition of seams, zips and stitching as well as look for punctures and damage in the neoprene.
Check the condition of the straps and buckles for wear and also give the fins a good visual check and flex to check the blade.
Check the condition of the blade, sheath, lock and straps. Most straps are made of rubber and will eventually perish regardless of how well you look after them. is the knife itself clean, sharp and free of rust?
Clean and lightly grease any compartment o-rings to ensure they seal properly, check the physical condition of the batteries for damage or leakage and replace if damaged. If the torch has a rechargeable battery give it a full charge and check to make ensure it holds a charge properly.
Check your test stamp / sticker and bring them in for a test if required.
REELS & SMBs
Play out the line, check the mechanical condition of the reel and then slowly reel the line back in under a little resistance being sure to check the line for any damage as you go. Unroll your SMB or delayed SMB and give it a check over at the seams and any securing loops or fastenings. If you can inflate it do so to ensure it stays inflated correctly.
Check the condition of your weight belt, the clamping mechanism and the weights to ensure they are all secure. You wouldn't want them going anywhere unexpectedly.
SPARE PARTS KIT
Also check, or put together, a spare parts kit. Some small simple spares can save a dive when you are out on a boat or the beach about to dive. Typical things to include are:
Fin Strap with buckles (or spring strap)
O-rings of various sizes
A handy Multi-tool
We have all these items in stock and can help you personalise your own spare parts kit, based on your equipment.
And finally, don't forget to check yourself! Are you fit and well and ready to dive? Diving is a physical activity and we all need to keep ourselves in good shape for diving. If you have any yes answers on the standard PADI medical form you will need to have a current (within the last 12 months) signed doctors note to confirm you are fit to dive. If this does apply check the date on your last medical and make an appointment if it has, or is about to, expired
And you should now be ready to dive! Good luck and we look forward to seeing you in the water soon!