Whether you’re cleaning, drying and storing your kit to store over winter until spring, or simply aim to keep it in tip-top condition after each and every dive, our expert team has some pointers on how best to prolong the life of your equipment
Phil Alberts, BSAC HQ Team: “Your diving equipment is your life-support system, so if you look after your dive-kit, your dive-kit will look after you. A good kit-maintenance routine not only enables you to dive safely and enjoyably, but also ensures that you can get the most out of your investment.
“Good diving equipment is not cheap… and we all know that the spending continues as you progress with your drysuit diving. So maintaining your kit is essential if you want to keep getting the best out of it – and your investment – for many years to come.
“The key to a good kit-care routine is to know what you can do yourself and when to call on the professionals. And prevention is undoubtedly better than cure when it comes to potential kit problems.
“Start with the calendar on your mobile phone and diary in the ‘non-negotiables’ – your cylinder-testing due dates and annual reg servicing etc. Then step back and look at your typical and future scuba-diving plans so that you can start your dive year with a clean bill of health for your kit.
“At the start of the season, run through all your kit, from your fin-straps to drysuit zips, and check for signs of wear and tear. Simple fixes now can save you lost dive-time, but don’t forget to try out any repaired or replaced kit in the pool or sheltered water first, if you can, before heading into open water.
“And when your dive season is up and running, make sure you get into a good routine of checking kit before each dive or trip to ensure that everything is ship-shape and dive-ready. This includes the box of essential spares you have in your kit bag – spare batteries can leak, latex seals can deteriorate, lids can come off and seawater can corrode.
“However, if your kit needs repairing and you are in any way unsure, leave it to the professionals. A few missed dives might be irritating, but a bad repair job can shorten a dive… or worse.
“Lastly, how you pack and store your kit at the end of your dive season – waxed zips, rinsed regs, cylinders and BCs, drysuits stored in a dry area etc – will get you off to a sprint-start next year and back in the water.”
Matt Clements, PADI Regional Manager UK & Malta: “I still have kit from the 1990s that’s in great working order (albeit a tad faded and possibly more serviced than Trigger’s broom). I put it down to my training from centres that made sure kit was looked after.
“You need to properly clean and dry (and possibly re-lube) everything that gets wet when drysuit diving. After replacing vast amounts of faded gear, I would be careful about leaving things in the sun to dry.
“Once dry, try to hang or store the items as your centre or the manufacturer suggests. I have half my garage filled with racking and big boxes that are left open to allow air to circulate.”
Emma Hewitt, PADI Regional Manager, UK & Ireland: “Don’t leave your equipment to be serviced only when you need it – keep it regularly serviced to avoid unnecessary additional damage. When taking care of your diving equipment, remind yourself that it is a life-support!”
Alex Griffin, PADI Course Director & Trimix Instructor-Trainer: “While it’s tempting to throw all your gear into the boot of a car and hope the servicing pixies see to it overnight, it’s essential that you actually maintain your equipment.
“One method is to seal yourself in a darkened room until you have learned to strip and rebuild your regulator by touch alone in under 10 minutes, all while repeating the mantra: ‘This is my regulator. There are many like it, but this one is mine’.
“Alternatively, rinse everything in fresh water (discovering that your kit has grown an attractive coating of fungus over Christmas is a bad surprise), hang or roll your suits up rather than ball them into a bag, and remember that as well as your regs, you’ll need to get your BC and drysuit serviced too.
“Get your local dive-centre to sort them out, because DIY disasters aren’t great in the context of life-support equipment.”
Emily Petley-Jones, PADI Regional Training Consultant & Course Director: “This is the time of year when many divers put their kit away to hibernate over winter. Ensuring that your kit is completely dry before you store it should go without saying.
“When thinking about storing your drysuit, in particular, you should always check whether there are any special recommendations from the manufacturer for this. Tips such as leaving the zip open to help prevent it from seizing, and putting some talc on latex seals to stop them from sticking, can help to lengthen the life of your suit. Consider getting your kit serviced now so that you know it will be ready to go for your next trip.”
Vikki Batten, PADI Examiner & Training Supervisor: “Your washing-machine is a part of kit maintenance! I once had a Divemaster who turned up to help with a very stinky undersuit. I mentioned to him that he was a one-man exclusion zone, and he explained that the undersuit came with instructions not to use washing powder!
“That might be true, but those instructions didn’t say ‘don’t wash’, they just gave guidelines on washing the garment while maintaining wicking efficiency, so check with the manufacturer on how to wash your thermal protection.
“Wetsuits can be even worse if (like 99% of divers) bladder-control escapes you the moment you put on a wetsuit. You can buy specific washing liquid to combat that issue. I just put my wetsuit in the washing machine, I know it probably reduces the lifespan of my wetsuits (and maybe also my washing machine), but the suit smells nice and I don’t suffer from salt or sand abrasion when I next use it.”
Garry Dallas, Director of Training RAID UK & Malta: “Scuba diving is quite an equipment-rich ‘sport’, agreed. We almost have, or should have, a symbiotic relationship with our equipment, meaning that, for our kit to take care of us as divers, we need to take care of it above water.
“Unfortunately, not unlike our relationship with our vehicles, when our kit loses its lustre it sometimes loses its appeal for us to spend the time looking after it in as much in detail. This is where things go downhill… just rinsing the salt water off your kit is not always enough care, though it will help.
“A common issue is to assume that because it worked perfectly yesterday, therefore it will also work today! I generally assume that equipment will at some point fail, so this gives me the mindset to want to check things very regularly.
“You don’t need to be a service technician to maintain your kit well, but some good tips to assure good working order before submerging will make your dives more pleasant. As with all your kit, rinse with clean fresh water and dry regardless, then check:
“Tanks/valves for corrosion; O-ring failure; damage to valves; clean threads; that the valve wheel is not getting stiff. Store with some pressure (50 bar).
“Regulators for general wear and tear; that anything that swivels does so freely; SPG needle is present, zeroed and working; SPG is free from orange/brown stains and water droplets; quick-release connectors work freely when pulled and twisted. Suck on the second stage while blocking the first-stage inlet to create a vacuum – there should be no air-leaks. Mouthpiece secure and not split. Rinse with dust-cap on the first stage.
“BC/wing: Dump- and inflator-valves for correct operation; plastic clips and adjusters for cracks (they help support your tank and weights on your back). Rinse inside bladder with sterilising agent; store partially inflated.
“Drysuit/wetsuit for zips; neck- and wrist-seals; suit tears; inflator not stiff; dump-valve and P-valve.
“Accessories, especially piston-clips for seizing; lines not frayed; DSMBs operational; mask for cracks, pinholes and seal tears; fin-straps. Finally: instruments!”
Photographs by Mark Evans & Garry Dallas