How to Extend the Life of Your Scuba Gear
So, we see that you’ve started to develop a significant scuba diving gear collection, and we love to see it! You want to be sure your dive gear is always up to the task of keeping you comfortable and confident underwater, so let’s keep all that beautiful gear in tip top shape, shall we? Also, you have likely just dropped a pretty penny on that gear and you want to make sure it lasts as long as possible. Let’s chat, then, about how to properly care for your scuba gear so that you can keep using it and relying on it for years and years to come.
General Gear Care
Although every diver may have different gear and may handle their gear differently from one another, let’s start with some general habits that everyone can implement when it comes to protecting your gear.
- Check your gear before you use it: Look at your hoses, straps, and wetsuit and BCD fabric for any signs of wear and tear before you get in the water. It’s always a good idea to have a save-a-dive kit in case it looks like that mask strap may be on its last leg or one of your O-rings may have split while in storage. Save-a-dive kits include things like O-rings, silicone grease, mask straps, buckles, fin straps, zip ties, a snorkel keeper, silicone mouthpiece, and more so that you can stay prepared.
- Wash, rinse, & check your gear after your dive: While you’re rinsing all your gear, mask, snorkel, BCD, wetsuit, fins, etc., be on the lookout for any new tears or bits of overstretching on your gear. Make sure you wash and rinse everything thoroughly before hanging to dry to be sure there isn’t any sand or salt left in or on your gear.
- Regularly check what needs to be serviced and make sure it’s up to date: This is more of an extended-surface-interval type of thing. Try to keep a calendar of when your gear needs to be serviced and when the time comes around, make sure you have plenty of time before your next dive to get it done. These things can sometimes take a couple weeks so don’t try to get your gear serviced the day before your next dive. Also, be sure to read your gear’s manual on when to get it all serviced, but more on this later.
- Never pack your gear up wet; make sure it’s totally dry first: At the same time, don’t leave your gear in direct sunlight for long periods of time either. This may cause certain rubber or fabric elements of your gear to become overly dry and fragile to cracking.
Some gear that needs a little extra TLC
Here’s some gear that will need a little extra attention, mostly because these are quite complex mechanisms and they’ll need to be serviced at least annually (*annually is the usual check up time for most of these, some may be longer, some shorter, depending on the frequency that you dive and the specific gear you’re working with).
Your BCD: Like your other gear, you’ll need to rinse your BCD with fresh water after you dive. But you’ll also need to drain the inside of it as well the outside. Here’s how: flush fresh water into the bladder through the inflator valve (hold the deflate button down while doing this). Orally inflate the BC and give it a good shake to get the water into as many places as possible within. Drain the water through the dump valves and, for good measure, repeat the interior cleaning process once more. Then, inflate and deflate the BCD as quickly as possible to eliminate as much interior water as you can. Hang it to dry in a cool place partially inflated to keep inside pieces from sticking together. Remember, your BCD needs to be serviced occasionally, too. Figure out when that is and make sure you have a servicing plan for it.
Pro tip: The only thing aside from fresh water you should ever use in your BCD is BCD specific cleaner. BCD cleaner prevents salt crystals from forming which can harm the BCD bladder, inflator, and dump valves. Other chemicals could ruin your equipment.
Your Regulator: When you purchase a new regulator and look through the reading material that comes with it, you’ll notice that the manufacturer has explicitly stated how often you’ll need to have it serviced (for safety and for warranty’s sake). Back in the day, a regulator servicing would be recommended at least once a year. But now that regulators have started to excel in their technology and become more durable, some specific regulators have extended their service minimum to every two years (again, check with your specific regulator brand and model to find out when that minimum date is for you).
Did you know? When your regulator gets serviced, the technician will disassemble it, check the individual parts, reassemble it, and test its performance. Pro tip is to save ALL of your service and warranty forms. The record can help if there is any need to do a warranty claim on the gear.
Your Dive Computer: This bit of gear may be easy to rinse after a dive, but you’ll need to get it serviced every one or two years for calibration and a battery change to make sure it’s accurate and safe to use. Pro tip for computers with user changeable batteries, always use a small bit of silicone grease on the O-ring when doing the swap.
Your Scuba Tank: Depending on whether you have a steel or aluminum tank, your scuba tank can last up to 25-30 years with proper care and maintenance. Like the rest of your gear, you’ll want to rinse your tank off with fresh water after every dive (even removing your boot to do so). But like your regulator and BCD, you’ll need to get your tank serviced every so often (An annual visual inspection for the tank body and valve and hydrostatic testing on the tank body every 5 years). A tank that hasn’t been serviced beyond that time period may experience rust and pitting in places you can’t see and become a danger to you and those who fill it with air.
Your Wetsuit: Okay, so your wetsuit doesn’t need to be serviced, but you will notice a certain unpleasant smell and possible premature wear on it if you don’t take proper care of it. Not only will you need to rinse it with fresh water, but a good occasional wash with wetsuit shampoo will deliver the best long-term results. NEVER put away wet, always hang up on a wide hanger until it’s fully dry. You can even flip it inside out and help dry it down with a towel.
Pro tip: Rather than fold your wetsuit when you need it to be compact, roll it up to avoid uncomfortable creases from developing in the neoprene.
What’s the best gear care advice we can offer?
Go diving! These machines and bits of scuba diving gear are made to work and play, not sit in a closet collecting dust. So the secret to healthy dive gear is actually using your gear regularly and keeping all the parts moving. That is, after all, what we keep it serviced for.
How long does scuba gear last?
How long your scuba diving gear will last depends on the quality of gear you buy, how frequently you dive, and how well you care for it.
What scuba gear needs to be serviced?
You’ll need regular servicing for your BCD, regulator, dive computer, and scuba tank. The owner’s manual that came with each of these pieces of gear should indicate the ideal frequency for servicing.
Why do I need to clean my scuba gear?
Even if we’re diving in crystal clear waters, there are small elements that could make their way into our gear, like sand, algae, salt, and dust. Cleaning your scuba gear not only rinses off these tiny tokens of your last adventure, but keeps your gear smelling fresh. Additionally, salt water can be quite harsh on anything, including our dive gear. Giving a good rinse will help to keep your gear soft and pliable where needed.
How do I keep my wetsuit from getting moldy?
The best way to avoid wetsuit mold is by drying out the inside, then hang-drying the outside of your wetsuit. Using wetsuit shampoo for every rinse is ideal as well. You also want to be completely sure your suit is dry before storing to help prevent mold.
Why do I need to get my BCD serviced?
Your BCD is an essential part of your scuba gear setup. It is also a complex mechanism that needs a checkup every now and then. While it doesn’t look quite as complicated or sophisticated as your regulator, your BCD needs just as much quality care to make sure it will work as it needs to to keep you safe and comfortable in the water.