Inflatable life jackets
Give your inflatables a once-over
When a life jacket fails to inflate properly, the result can be deadly. Unknown bladder leaks, fabric degradation or an improperly installed carbon dioxide cylinder can render an inflatable life jacket ineffective by preventing its inflation or ability to stay inflated.
Proper inspection and maintenance ensures that all parts of the life jacket are in good working order. Follow the maintenance instructions for your brand of inflatable life jacket as instructions vary by manufacturer.
The following basic inspection guidelines should not replace or supersede manufacturer recommendations or instructions.
Before getting underway each time:
- Inspect the service indicator, if any, to ensure it’s green. If it’s red, the mechanism has been fired or is incorrectly fitted.
- Check for visible signs of wear or damage; make sure there are no rips, tears or holes, that the seams are securely sewn, and that the fabric, straps and hardware remain strong.
- Ensure that auto-inflating components are armed and not expired. Following manufacturer’s instructions, reveal and inspect the inflation system and oral inflation tube. Check that the CO2 cylinder is firmly secured and free from rust or corrosion. If you remove the cylinder for inspection, replace it carefully and don’t over-tighten.
- Repack the lifejacket following manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure that the pull-tab lanyard is accessible and unlikely to be inadvertently snagged when being worn.
Periodically, as recommended by the manufacturer or when in doubt:
- Inflate the bladder using the oral tube, and leave it overnight in a room with a steady temperature. If the bladder loses pressure, take the life jacket to an authorized service center for further tests. Don’t attempt to repair a life jacket yourself. If pressure remains steady, deflate the life jacket by turning the inflation tube cap upside down and pressing it into the inflation tube. Gently squeeze the inflatable life jacket until all air has been expelled. Do not wring or twist the life jacket.
- Repack the life jacket following the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure the pull-tab lanyard is accessible and unlikely to be inadvertently snagged when being worn.
- Store your life jacket in a dry, well-ventilated location out of direct sunlight. Rinse your life jacket with freshwater after saltwater exposure, and dry it thoroughly prior to storage. If your life jacket is set for auto-inflation, remove the auto-inflation cartridge prior to rinsing. The life jacket manufacturer may have specific requirements, so read the instructions on the jacket.