A buoyancy control device is a major piece of dive equipment that you should be able to trust to keep you safe on all your diving adventures. A sticking BCD inflator can lead to a runaway ascent; blocked dump valves or punctures can result in a BCD not holding air, which ultimately causes buoyancy issues; residue salt crystals can rupture a BCD bladder. With just a little bit of extra TLC you can give your BCD or Wing a long and happy life so take care of it and it will take care of you!
- Correct washing
Rinse the BCD in fresh water and allow it to soak to allow the salt to dissolve out of the materials. Cleaning is recommended immediately after use in a pool, because chlorinated water will ruin rubbers and plastics. Take care to rinse pockets, buckles and the Velcro cummerbund.
Rinse the inflator and dump valves to wash out any grit. Depress the oral and power inflation buttons to make sure they move freely. You should do this both in and out of the rinse tank. If the buttons seem sticky, there could be sand or corrosion obstructing the mechanism.
It is important to also flush the inside of the BCD as during a dive water is often forced into the bladder by the exterior water pressure. This will leave salt crystals behind. You can use a hose to get water into the bladder via the oral inflator (make sure you hold down the deflate button to ensure the water doesn’t escape). Allow the water to fill the BCD to about halfway and then turn the BCD around to wash in all the folds and corners. Drain the water out of one of the dump valves. Orally inflating the BCD will also help to force the water out but be careful not to inhale any water as there may be mould or algae inside.
You might consider using McNett BC Life Conditioner to help clean and protect the inside of your bladder. Do not use bleach or betadine. Most BCD bladder materials already contain antimicrobial agents. When clean, partially inflate the BCD and allow to dry.
Check over the entire BCD for abrasion damage, punctures or lose threads at any of the seams. Inflate the BCD to full capacity and leave it for an hour or so. Check that it has stayed fully inflated. If it hasn't, use soapy water to try and find the leak by pushing it under water and looking for bubbles.
If diving on boats or at quarry sites, take care that smokers are not loitering around your BCD as the ash or cherry from a cigarette can cause serious damage to the bladder.
Check the corrugated hose bends without any cracks appearing, which would indicate it has started to perish. Attach your BCD to an lpi hose and connect to a pressurised diving cylinder. Leave for a few minutes. If your BCD has 'self-inflated', the power inflator is dribbling gas and must be replaced.
The Schrader valve inside a BCD inflator is similar to that in a bicycle pump and can cause leaks if corroded. You can spray silicone lubricant into the quick disconnect valve to keep it from sticking but a qualified service technician will replace it as standard.
- Dump Valves
Check all the pull dumps work correctly, that all parts move freely and that pull cords are in good condition. As well as plastic and rubber components, the BCD hose has a metal cord inside that acts as another dump valve when the hose is pulled. This can perish if not looked after properly. Always check valves have been screwed tightly closed and are not mis threaded. If the dump valves do not exhaust expanding gas effectively, you may have a runaway ascent. To test them, orally inflate your BCD fully to see if they release air when fully inflated (they are called over-pressurisation valves after all). Pull the dump cords one by one and listen for the reasuring hiss of releasing air. We stock a number of spare dump valves and corrugated hoses that our qualified service technician can fit for you in the event of failure.
- Straps and Cummerbunds
Use a comb or tough toothbrush to remove any hair, sand or lint from a Velcro cummerbund; check that plastic quick releases are still quick; rinse and dry metal cam bands carefully to avoid rusty hinge mechanisms.
Work all the zippers open and closed when rinsing to ensure they are not holding grit or sand in the teeth. Rub beeswax or a non-petroleum based product like McNett Max Wax on the outside edges of the zip.
- Integrated Weight Systems
Give the weight pouches a good visual check for any fraying. Ensure they lock properly into place and release easily without sticking. These checks will avoid lost weights during a dive. Remove all weight from the releasable compartments before storing your BC.
Prior to storage, fully inflate the BCD and leave for an hour to check for bladder integrity. If it deflates then you need to check for a leak and send for a service. If you aren’t diving for a while, partially inflate it again for storage to prevent the bladder sticking together on the inside. Use a strong BCD hanger with no corrosive materials like the Mares Universal Hanger.
BCD fabric can quickly fade when exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays so store in the shade. Extreme heat can damage the air cells welded seams. Avoid storing near oil, petrol, aerosols, or chemical solvents. After a couple of days go back to your BCD, hold the inflator upside down and release any residual water from the bladder.
If you need a BCD service then Mike's Dive Store is one of the country's leading dive equipment service centres. Our BCD servicing is conducted by a fully authorised service technician and we only use manufacturers service kits. We also flush your BCD's internal bladder with an anti-bacterial wash to stop algae growth internally. All servicing comes with a 3-month warranty and all BCD servicing is done to BS1003 standard. The usual turnaround is 7-10 days but faster times can be arranged with a phone call and a bit of notice.