It’s winter time, the off-season for most scuba divers around the Great Lakes. Many divers take advantage of this time to have their dive gear serviced. Pretty much everybody knows it’s good practice to take your regulators and cylinders to your local dive center for service. But if that’s the extent of your scuba maintenance plan, you’re missing a lot and perhaps jeopardizing your safety.
First, let’s all agree that annual regulator and cylinder service is a given. Those are primary life support systems and obviously need to be in tip-top condition, especially if you dive in the demanding environment of the Great Lakes. But after you drop your regulators and tanks off at the dive center, what else should you do?
Head to Toe
Simply put, you should inspect every single piece of equipment you have and make sure it’s in good condition. I like to take a head to toe approach. I start with my hood and work my way down. Check the hood for wear, cuts, tears and anything else that will let cold water in. Next, check your mask. Look at the strap for signs of wear or rot. Examine the buckles and the skirt for defects. While you’re at it, take it to the kitchen sink and give your mask a good cleaning.
Continue on, carefully inspecting each piece of equipment. Inflate your wing (or BCD) and make sure it holds air. Make sure the overpressure relief valve is working properly. Check the inflator to ensure it isn’t sticky. If you find any issues, take it to your local dive center unless you know how to fix it yourself. Inspect the harness webbing for wear and replace as needed. Be especially careful where the webbing passes through the metal back plate. This is a prime wear spot. Sometimes buckles or d-rings can start to cut into the webbing.
I carry accessory items in my dry suit pockets, check these out next. I inspect my Surface Marker Buoy (SMB), safety spools and backup mask. Check the SMB the same way as the wing, backup mask just as the primary mask. Backup lights should have fresh batteries at the beginning of each season (if they use disposable batteries). Check the attachment point on your backup lights too. Make sure the line holding your bolt snap in place is in good condition and replace it if it isn’t.The line on reels and spools should be unwound and then rewound carefully and evenly. While you’re doing that, watch for wear and tear like cuts or frays in the line.
As we reach the “toe” portion of our head to toe inspection, we get to our fins. Look for any cracks, splits or signs of rot. Check the straps and buckles to make sure everything is secure. If you don’t use spring straps, consider switching to them as they are virtually indestructible.
Underneath all this gear, we wear a dry suit. Your dry suit represents a large part of your investment in dive gear, so pay careful attention to and keep it in good shape. Examine your suit closely for wear, especially around seams. Check out the zipper too. Loose, crooked or missing teeth are big trouble. Fraying is a common sign that it’s time to replace the zipper too. Zippers are usually not something you can replace yourself. You have to allow a fair bit of time for dry suit repair, so now is a good time to take care of it.
Hopefully, you get the idea that while taking your regulators and tanks in for annual service is great, it’s not the end of your maintenance duties. Spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon this winter going over every piece of dive gear. You may be surprised how many little things you find that need attention. Take care of them now, and they won’t bother you this summer.