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Guides

MAINTAINING YOUR LIFEJACKET

6-STEP GUIDE TO MAINTAINING YOUR LIFEJACKET

When the boating season kicks off and you dust off your lifejackets after their winter hibernation it's worth carrying out a few essential checks to make sure all is well... 

1. Firing mechanism

The firing mechanism of your lifejacket may be a manual or automatic activation type. Automatically activated lifejackets rely on a mechanism that must be replaced periodically, so it's worth opening up your jacket and just checking to see if you need to replace it. There are three types of firing unit that are commonly used, and they are dated differently. Below are details of how to check yours: 

Firing mechanism

United Moulders - These units have a 'replace by' date stamped on to them. They should either be replaced by this date, or no more than 2 years after first use, whichever is sooner.  See more >

Firing mechanism

Halkey Roberts Super Bobbin - These units have a manufacture date. Replacement of these for leisure users is normally 3 years after fitting, but as fitting dates are not normally available it is often safer to use the manufacturing date as a starting point.  See more >

Firing mechanism

Hammar - This system has a simple green/red indicator window, as well as a 'replace by' date. If it either shows red or the replace by date has passed, it should be replaced. Hammar units are often now glued to their cylinders, so you may need to change the cylinder at the same time regardless of whether it has been fired or not. See more >

Firing mechanism

Trade Secret:  One of the most common reasons that lifejackets don't inflate is simply because the cylinder or firing unit has become unscrewed. A simple check that this is hand tight before using your lifejacket could save your life! See more >


SEE ALL RE-ARM KITS, ACCESSORIES & LIGHTS > 

2. Inflation cylinder

The inflation cylinder of your jacket is full of compressed CO2 gas, and when fired, either automatically or manually, it uses this gas to fill the bladder of the jacket. Cylinders don't have a specific expiry date, but its worth checking the condition of the cylinder. If the cylinder has been fired, a puncture mark will be visible at the tip, and this means the cylinder needs replacing. If the cylinder shows any signs of corrosion it's also worth swapping it for a new one. As a belt and braces check, you can weigh your cylinder just to confirm that it is full. You should find the full weight of the cylinder stamped in to the side of the bottle, if it weighs less than this alarms bells should be ringing. When replacing a cylinder ensure it is screwed tightly by hand back in to the jacket, a partially unscrewed cylinder will not work effectively, if at all!

Inflation cylinder

Trade Secret:  One of the most common reasons that lifejackets don't inflate is simply because the cylinder or firing unit has become unscrewed. A simple check that this is hand tight before using your lifejacket could save your life! See more >

lifejacket_maintenance
lifejacket_maintenance

SEE ALL RE-ARM KITS, ACCESSORIES & LIGHTS > 

3. Bladder

The bladder of your inflatable lifejacket holds the CO2 generated by the inflation mechanism and cylinder in the event of activation to generate buoyancy. These bladders are made of tough material, but are not impervious to damage from sharp objects as the jackets are worn. It is worth inflating your jacket once a year to confirm the air tight integrity of this bladder. It can then be deflated using the valve in the end of the oral inflation tube and re-packed according to the manufacturers instructions. A good test is to leave the jacket inflated for 24 hours. Be careful not to accidentally activate the firing mechanism when the jacket is inflated - this could cause serious damage to the bladder. Ideally the cylinder should be removed during the test to prevent this from happening. For safety reasons lifejacket bladders are not repairable, so unfortunately if you do find a leak the jacket must be disposed of.

lifejacket_maintenance

Trade Secret:  Try not to blow the bladder up with your mouth when testing, this puts moisture in to the bladder which is not good for the bladder in the long term. See more >

4. Straps/Buckles

Whilst checking our jackets it's well worth inspecting the webbing for any signs of damage, as well as the buckles and fasteners. Check the whole jacket over for any signs of stitching coming undone or tears and damage. 

guide-to-sailing-service-lifejacket

Trade Secret:  A great deal of research has shown how effective crutch straps can be at saving lives. If your lifejacket is not fitted with one you can purchase these as aftermarket parts here and fit them very quickly and easily. See more >

lifejacket_maintenance
lifejacket_maintenance

SEE ALL STRAPS, RE-ARM KITS & ACCESSORIES> 

5. Lights

Many lifejackets are now equipped with a light for use at night. These lights also normally have an expiry date, but even if your light is in date, it's worth turning it on just to check it hasn't accidentally activated inside the jacket and drained the battery. Manual lights can be switch on to check, and most automatically activated lights have some kind of manual override to test them. If you don't have a light fitted, during your annual check is an ideal time to fit one.

lifejacket_maintenance

Trade Secret:  When installing a light try and think about where the light will sit with the jacket inflated - the higher the better as this should offer good visibility all round. See more >

lifejacket_maintenance
lifejacket_maintenance

SEE ALL LIGHTS, RE-ARM KITS & ACCESSORIES

6. Spray Hoods

There is relatively little to go wrong with spray hoods, but while the jacket is open just give them a once over, and as with lights, if you don't have one fitted, now is a great opportunity to get on installed.

lifejacket_maintenance

Trade Secret:  When installing a light try and think about where the light will sit with the jacket inflated - the higher the better as this should offer good visibility all round. See more >

lifejacket_maintenance

SEE ALL SPRAYHOODS, LIGHTS & RE-ARM KITS > 

7. Safety Lines... 

If you have or regularly use a safety line, this is worth checking too. The webbing should be examined from end to end, checking for even the smallest amount of damage. These safety lines can be exposed to tremendous forces should they ever get used, so it's simply not worth risking any possible failures. If your safety line is fitted with an overload indicator, check this is still in good condition. Metal buckles can become stuck or corroded if they haven't been rinsed after use, these can often be lubricated, but again, if in doubt, replace.

lifejacket_maintenance

Trade Secret:  When installing a light try and think about where the light will sit with the jacket inflated - the higher the better as this should offer good visibility all round. See more >

lifejacket_maintenance
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