Gear Maintenance: How to Take Care of Your BCD
ABuoyancy Compensator is one of the most important and costly items in your scuba gear set. If you want your BC to provide years of reliable service, it is your task to care for it properly. Good preventative maintenance can greatly extend the life of your BCD.
Some of the basic maintenance advice every diver should follow would be to protect your BCD from prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, extreme heat, and chlorinated water. You should also keep your compensator from chafing against any sharp objects or rough surfaces, as well as avoid any contact with oil, gasoline, aerosols, or chemical solvents. All of this damages the fabric and makes it decay prematurely.
To go into more detail, let’s look at the recommended pre-dive, post-dive BCD maintenance as well as some tips on its proper storage.
1. Check whether your BC inflator is functioning properly. To do this shoot a few bursts of air into the compensator and simply release the inflate button. Listen carefully, if you hear the air still leaking into the BC, the inflator is stuck. Take the BC to a certified technician to fix any leaks before you get in the water.
2. Check if the BC holds air pressure by fully inflating it and leaving it to stand for about 20 minutes.
3. Check the cummerbund, waist strap, shoulder straps, tank band and all the buckles for excessive wear.
4. If your BC has metal buckles, check them for corrosion, as it will weaken the metal structure and eventually cause the buckle to fail. If the buckle is slightly corroded, you can try to clean it with a stiff brush using some white vinegar. After doing so, rinse the buckle thoroughly to remove the vinegar. In order to prevent future corrosion, spray the buckle with some food-grade silicone.
1. Soak your BC in clean, fresh water as soon as possible after the dive. Whether you are diving in open water or within a pool, it is very important to remove the residue built up from either salt crystals, debris, or chlorine. Be sure to swish the BC around a few times, and to soak it for at least 10 minutes if possible.
2. After soaking your BC, rinse it off with a hose or shower. It is more convenient to rinse the equipment with a hose because you can direct the water better, but you can use whatever is available. Don’t forget to rinse the valves and buttons as well as the surface of the material.
3. Be sure to clean the interior of the BC as well. Debris and salt crystals can make their way into the BC when underwater through the ventilation of air. To clean the interior, push the deflation button while aiming the water from the hose into the mechanism. Cleaning can also be accomplished by using a specifically designed BCD Flush Hose. Once the water has entered the interior, shake the BC a few times to spread it around. You can repeat this process several times.
4. Empty all of the water from the inside of the BC. To accomplish this inflate your BC and then turn it upside down. Hold the deflate button while pressing the BC against your body, thus forcing the water out through the inflator hose.
5. Always inspect your BC for tears, ripped stitching, cracks, and any other problems. This will take only a few seconds but will help you to prepare for your next dive, especially if something needs to be fixed.
6. Dry your BC in a cool, dry place. You can inflate it slightly, and then hang it over a railing or a hanger. Be sure that the BC is completely dried before storing it.
Caution: When cleaning the inside of BCD bladders, do not use chemicals such as dilute sodium hypochlorite ('liquid bleach), alcohol-containing mouthwash, povidone-iodine, or chlorhexidine. Most of this stuff is not only ineffective but even harmful to use. It will damage the plastic elasticiser inside the bladder and make it brittle. Normally, ordinary tap water works just fine to rinse your BCD. If this does not seem enough for you, use only the proper commercial products, labeled specifically for BCD interior cleaning.
How To Store Your BCD
- store your buoyancy compensator in an enclosed space, where it may be exposed to temperatures below -18°C (0°F) or above 49°C (120°F);
- expose the BCD to direct sunlight, fumes, solvents, and chemicals;
- spray silicone or other chemicals inside the BCD or on the oral inflator.
- store your BC in a cool, clean, dry place preferable with the hose on the downward side;
- partially inflate the compensator to prevent its insides from sticking together;
- remove all weight from the trim pockets and releasable compartments before storing the BC;
- apply a small amount of silicone lubricant to the rubber parts of the BCD for prolonged storage.
One final piece of advice is to have your BCD annually serviced. No matter how diligently you care of it, make sure it is regularly checked and tested by a certified technician. Keep in mind, many manufacturers offer limited lifetime warranties that remain valid only if the BCD is serviced annually.
Need a new BCD? Read our article on how to choose the best BCD for your needs.