MARTIN SAMPSON offers some sage advice
I have previously described some tips to help you decide whether or not your regulator needs servicing. If you’re still not sure, however, common sense makes it hard to argue against the concept of preventative maintenance, so you might as well take your regulator to the dive shop and get it checked out without further worry. And that’s the crux of it – you shouldn’t feel stressed about your gear or anything else when you’re about to get in the water.
Caring For Your Regulator
The exquisite feeling of belonging that you get as you descend into the unknown comes from knowing that everything is right with you and your gear.
Slugs love wet gear stored in damp sheds!
Keeping a regulator in tip-top condition after it’s been serviced is down to your diligence as well as knowing a few good tips that can save you money in the long run, so read on to look at the things you can do to preserve your expensive life-support equipment and protect it from the ravages of sea, salt, sand and sun (and slugs too!).
To-Dos Before You Dive into The Water
Early in our training most of us are taught to lie scuba equipment down before it falls down – great advice where toes and pool tiles are concerned. On the beach, however, as much as I love being there, I hate sand because it gets into everything. Here are some better options:
Regulator check during dive
Put your gear together in the luggage space of your car and put it onto your back from there so that it doesn’t have to lie anywhere near sand and grit.
When that’s not possible, have a mat or ground sheet on which to lay your gear. I keep a few old carpet-tiles in the back of the car for just this reason.
Tuck your second stages, gauges and direct-feed hoses inside your BC to keep them away from the ground. You can also use your fins like wedges on either side of your cylinder to prevent it from rolling and spilling your neatly stowed regulators onto the sand.
Comparing the blocked and a clean filter
On boats, elastic bungee cord is often provided so that you can tie your kit into a cylinder rack. If you do have to lay it on the deck, make sure that it can”t roll when the boat rolls and damage plastic second stages or expensive dive computer transmitters. Again, wrapping your second stages inside the BC can help protect them.
Check the routeing of your hoses to make sure that they are not under stress, particularly near the ferrule at the end of the hose.
To-Dos During Your Dive
Secure your alternative air source close to your body within about 30cm of your mouth so that it’s not ploughing a furrow through the sand underneath you.
Occasionally check that it is still attached to you. Some clips are far better than others, and I have often seen divers swimming around unaware that they are trailing their alternative air sources through all sorts of debris. It’s a bad-enough day when your buddy runs out of air, but to then expect them to breathe an aerosol of air, water and grit is certain to cause a sense of humour failure.
As soon as you remove the first stage from the cylinder, dry the cap with a cloth or towel and fit it securely to the regulator. If you have a DIN regulator, check that the cap is actually waterproof – some are only dust caps. Waterproof caps are available from most dive shops.
The key point is to prevent water (especially sea water) from entering the first stage via the filter. If you do accidentally flood your regulator, take it to a service agent as soon as possible. A few minutes of expert care can prevent long-term corrosion damage.
Remove the hose protector to reveal the trapped sand
Pull back the hose protectors, especially those fitted to second stages. They may need hot water poured over them to soften and make it easier to move them. Use a hose-pipe to wash out the worst of any muck.
Immerse your regulator in warm fresh water. This is probably the most important thing you can do for your gear and, if you do it religiously after every dive, you will extend the life of your regulator almost indefinitely.
Soak your regulator for at least 20 minutes, or preferably for as long as you dived. It takes a while to dissolve the salt out of confined areas, such as inside the valve spindles of second stages.
Resist the temptation to slosh the second stage around vigorously in the water because you might be opening the second-stage valve and allowing water to flood the hoses leading back to the first stage.
Better still, immerse the regulator while it is attached to a cylinder and pressurised. You can then purge the regulator to help flush out any debris.
Many places in the world don’t have access to lots of fresh water, so you may end up rinsing your kit in a tank of dilute sea water because it’s been in use all day. Having given my gear a cursory rinse, I often take my regulator (and computer and camera…) back to my accommodation to soak it in the bathroom sink; it’s usually still clean enough to shave with afterwards too!
Pull back the hose protector to clean the accumulated debris
After a good soak, dry with a clean cloth and purge air through the regulator. Incidentally, it’s not a good idea to use compressed air to dry the first-stage area. Water can be forced into the filter and hence into the first stage, causing internal corrosion. For some reason it became fashion to not only blow-dry the dust cap, but the first stage too. A towel will do, and it’s also quieter!
At some point you will want to change a direct-feed hose. Hose end fittings are made from plated brass and are easily damaged if you use the wrong-size spanner or over-tighten them. Hose protectors have their uses, but don’t push them over the hose nuts. When you subsequently need to change a direct feed, pulling on the hose protector can cause unnecessary stress to the hose.
Storing Your Regulator Right
Padded regulator bags are surely a good idea, especially when you consider the expensive consoles and dive-computer transmitters that might be attached to them, but don’t over-pack a regulator bag and forget about it. That’s asking for cracked hoses.
Regulators and scuba equipment are best stored in the same way you would like to be; in dry conditions away from direct sources of heat and light. Hoses (and all rubber parts) crack and degrade as a result of the combined action of UV light and naturally occurring ozone in the atmosphere, but stress accelerates the process considerably.
However, damp and dingy sheds are often where dive kit gets stored – mind out for the spiders and slugs!
**Photographs by Martin Sampson