Part 2 – Buoyancy Control Devices: Scuba’s Most Neglected Equipment?

The most important maintenance to prolong the life of your BCD and ensure its proper operation during every dive is to thoroughly rinse it with fresh water after every use. The salt particles left behind when seawater evaporates work their way into the fabric and webbing, stiffening them and causing the material to wear prematurely. Chemicals in saltwater speed the corrosion of metal components in the BCD, and over time will interfere with the proper operation of dump valves and inflators, or cause leaks to the air bladder.

What Could Go Wrong?

Unfortunately, a quick post-dive rinse is where most divers stop when it comes to BCD maintenance. The things that can go wrong with a poorly-maintained BCD might surprise you.

Imagine you are on a charter boat, preparing for an exciting live boat drop-off in 80 feet of water. You queue up with the other divers, and when your turn comes to enter the water you execute a textbook giant stride. As your momentum carries you beneath the surface, you feel a tremendous tug from somewhere behind you, and your second stage regulator is nearly wrenched from your mouth as you splash and return to the surface. As you collect yourself and give an OK to the divemaster, you find that your scuba tank has slipped almost completely out of your BCD, and is attached only by the hose connecting your first stage regulator to the power inflator of the BCD.

Or this: Your entry has gone perfectly, and you are waiting at the surface for the rest of your buddies to gather for a group descent. You are perfectly weighted—a little heavy at the beginning of the dive, so your trim will be perfectly neutral at your final safety stop when just over 500 psi remains in your tank. After exchanging OKs you raise the corrugated hose on your BCD and depress its deflation button. The gentle tug of that motion detaches the corrugated hose, resulting in a giant BURP as all the air in your BCD dumps out at once. You begin to sink, but you’re correctly weighted so you are able to remain at the surface by vigorously treading water. The divemaster tosses a line to help you back to the boat, but your dive is over before it begins.

One more: The first part of the dive has gone perfectly, and at the halfway point of your intended 40-minute run time, you and your buddy are approaching the deepest part of your planned gradual descent to a colorful reef at 110 feet. You reach for the power inflator on your BCD to give it a tiny burst so you can trim out to neutral buoyancy. But instead of the short hiss that usually comes as air enters the bladder, you hear instead a loud Whoosh! as air streams into the BCD at full throttle, generating immediate positive buoyancy as your body begins what could be a disastrously quick ascent toward the surface. The inflator valve has stuck in the open position! Do you have the training—and the necessary practice—to immediately dump air from your BCD while simultaneously detaching the inflator hose to stop the mad rush of air, while you sort out the problem?

All of these scenarios have happened to recreational divers in the real world, and each of them can be attributed to the failure of BCD components that might have been avoided through proper maintenance and repair. When you trust the scuba equipment experts at Monterey Bay Diving to inspect and (if necessary) overhaul your BCD, you can dive with the peace of mind that comes from knowing this critical piece of gear is in tip-top condition.

What’s Included in BCD Servicing?

Monterey Bay Diving begins with a Standard Inspection. We visually examine all the external components of your BCD, looking for wear, cracks, broken or missing parts. We check for proper operation of the tank-mounting straps along with all buckles and snaps. We then pressurize the BCD and check for leaks in the air bladder. We validate the inflator by ensuring that it cycles properly between inflation and deflation, with no leaks in either operation. If necessary, we will replace any broken or missing parts.

For greater peace of mind (and recommended for older BCDs and all units that receive extensive use) we offer our Complete BCD Overhaul which begins with all the same careful checks as our Standard Inspection. Next, our experienced technician will remove and disassemble the dump valves and inflators, cleaning the components in an ultrasonic cleaner and looking for worn or cracked internal parts. We wash the internal bladder to remove saltwater residues, then reassemble the BCD with new O-rings, gaskets and Schrader valves, the button-activated valve that allows pressurized air to enter the bladder. We then perform a final leak check and test for proper operation of all valves and connections.

Don’t be one of those “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” divers. BCDs are typically very reliable pieces of equipment. They play a significant role in a diver’s safety and when something goes wrong, it can go very badly. Have the Buoyancy Control Device specialists at Monterey Bay Diving service your BCD and give you the peace of mind you deserve as you venture underwater to enjoy the fabulous experience of scuba diving!

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Buoyancy Control Devices: Scuba's Most Neglected Equipment? Part 1Every Breath You Take: Proper Scuba Regulator Service - Part 1