Once bitten by the diving bug, most divers start looking to buy some or all of their own equipment. And while some bits of gear are more expensive than others, all is worth looking after no matter the cost. Here are some of our best tips for basic dive gear maintenance.
Choosing between different styles and brands of diving equipment and weighing recommendations and personal preferences may seem hard enough, but it would be positively heartbreaking if you damaged your new gear simply because you didn’t look after it. Never fear — you needn’t become a scuba technician just yet to keep this from happening. Many agencies offer an equipment-focused course that gives you more knowledge about your gear, as well as hands-on experience in taking care of it. These classes are generally good value, especially if you’re not technically minded or simply didn’t grow up taking apart and putting back together cars in your spare time.
If that’s not available to you, here are some practical pointers.
Start with cleaning
Maintaining your equipment really begins with how well you clean it. While it’s usually not necessary to wash equipment between dives, you should make an exception for computers and cameras to prevent salt residue from drying on the outside of your equipment and potentially damaging buttons and other moving parts. Most other equipment is fine with a freshwater wash at the end of a diving day. Rinse tanks allow you to fully immerse your gear, which is a great way to remove or minimize salt residue. Beware, however, of being the last person to use the tank at the end of the day. In a busy dive center, you’ll be washing your gear in brackish water and should add a freshwater rinse from a hose if possible.
On a dive vacation like a week-long liveaboard, there are often restrictions on how much water you can use. In that case it’s a good idea to give your gear another thorough wash when you return home. If you’re limited for space, use your shower or bathtub to clean gear.
Exposure gear like wetsuits and booties often benefit from being rinsed with a bit of disinfectant on a daily basis, especially if you had to pee in them. At the end of a trip, consider washing your suits, rash vests and boots with a gentle shampoo or specialized wetsuit shampoo.
Drying your gear
Having talked about washing, drying is just as important. Dive pros can sympathize with this one: as most of our gear is never really dry, it’s hard to prevent mold growth, especially in warm, tropical environments. At best unhygienic, over time this mold will start to eat away on the silicone skirt of masks and more. Even if it takes three days to dry out those booties: do it.
Another secret to well-maintained dive gear is simply to prevent problems. Every so often, examine things like mask and fin straps for deterioration. Often, dive gear deteriorates over time as opposed to failing without warning. You may be able to spot the rubber on the strap looking brittle in good time before it breaks in the water. Similarly, a small tear in a mask strap may take a bit of noticing but often develops long before the strap actually rips.
Mind those hoses
If you have your own regulators, hose protectors may hide more problems than they prevent. Many technical divers simply remove them or choose hoses without protectors in order to monitor any deterioration and aging hoses.
If your regulators have hose protectors, pull them back from time to time to clean underneath and check the health of the hose itself. Look for corrosion on the metal parts, for example. If you are using Miflex or similar hoses the outside braiding may begin to fray. That may not require immediate hose replacement, but it’s smart to check with a technician.
Rubber hoses start to get brittle on the outside, meaning the internal braiding that holds the pressure of the gas in the hose is less protected. Brittle rubber may signify that the hose itself is aging. How long you can use a hose varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but, in general, extreme environments exact a bigger toll than moderate conditions do. How much you use your gear also plays a role.
If you can see bubbles forming under the rubber part of a hose, it’s reached the end of its lifespan. Bubbles mean gas has escaped the braiding under the rubber, and the hose is no longer strong enough to hold pressure. Replace it now before it ruptures suddenly.
Other pieces of gear
It’s also easy to maintain the mouthpiece on your regulator. While not life-threatening, diving with a torn mouthpiece is at best uncomfortable and can prove distracting, thus taking away your focus and leading to other problems.
Next on our maintenance list are BCDs and wings. Every open-water diver learns to rinse the inside of their BCD. The main reason to do so is to keep bacteria from growing inside uncontrollably, which will eventually damage the bladder itself and shorten the BCD’s life. Rinsing it is all about protecting your expensive gear. Next, look at your inflators and dumps. Are all buttons and strings moving smoothly? If not, try cleaning them with hot, soapy water. Should that fail, it’s time to get the professionals on the case.
DIY when you can
Chances are, as your diving career progresses, you will become comfortable enough to fix small problems yourself, like changing O-rings on tanks, or the DIN connector of your regulator or at the end of a hose leading into your first stage. The key to competently doing so is having a tool kit and a few spares handy — a save-a-dive kit, so to speak. This needn’t be huge. In fact, there are plenty of useful multi tools available, some of which can even fit into a BCD pocket and safely go underwater.
Generally, divers will need a selection of Allen wrenches (know the difference between metric and imperial sizes and which you need), adjustable spanners and an O-ring pick or two as a start. Keep a selection of O-rings suitable for your equipment on hand and lastly, never underestimate the versatility of cable ties when it comes to saving a dive (or a dive day) by applying a temporary fix. While not ideal, especially when diving in a remote area, these can save more than just the proverbial day.