Life jacket maintenance and servicing

5th October 2021 Jack O'Rourke

Life jacket maintenance and servicing

Just carrying a life jacket on your boat doesn't make boating safe. Inspecting the life jacket and making sure you carry out essential maintenance is paramount.

There are many different styles of life jackets available, including foam and auto-inflatable options. They will need care and maintenance to ensure they work when needed.

Here's how to do it.

Maintaining your life jacket

Life jackets will be exposed to heat, sun and even salt over their life span, so it is important to regularly inspect them. 

  • Rinse the jacket and check for damage.

  • Store in a dry, well-ventilated area out of sunlight.

  • Remove new life jackets from their plastic wrapping before storing.

Checking an inflatable life jacket

An inflatable life jacket can only help you if it's in working order, so they need a bit of extra care.

  • Check there are no visible signs of general wear and tear. 

  • Check that the CO2 cylinder is not pierced and is screwed in firmly.

  • If it is auto-inflating, check the cartridge is sealed tight and still in date. 

  • Replace the cartridges if they are passed their expiry date. 

  • Check the pull cord is free and ready to use.

Servicing your life jacket 

New inflatable life jackets need a service within a year of the date of purchase. The Deckee app allows users to create safety equipment reminders to help you keep track of when other safety equipment needs to be replaced or serviced.

Take note of whether the manufacturer requests that your life jacket is serviced by an authorised professional, as they will be able to ensure they meet standards and are in good working order. A regular service makes sure the bladder, inflation mechanism and CO2 cylinder are in good working order.

If self-servicing, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Self-service a life jacket by:

  • Checking for visible signs of damage and ensuring fastenings and buckles are in working order.

  • Inflate the bladder using the oral inflation tube and leave overnight. If the bladder loses pressure, do not attempt to repair it yourself and take it to an accredited service agent. 

  • Deflate the bladder by inverting the cap on the oral inflation tube and pressing down on the valve inside the tube. 

  • Inspect the CO2 cylinder by removing it and looking for rust and corrosion. Replace if necessary. 

  • Weigh the cylinder on scales – it should be the minimum gross weight shown on the cylinder, or within 2 grams. While the cylinder is removed, test that the pull cord and firing pin are functional. On auto-inflating lifejackets, make sure all auto components are ready to use. Refit the cylinder to the inflation system and tighten it by hand until just firm.

  • Repack the lifejacket as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure the pull cord is free, accessible and unlikely to catch on anything when worn.

  • Record the date when your lifejacket was serviced and set a reminder for the next inspection date.

Being aware of life jacket expiry dates is an essential part of boating safety, and looking after life jackets will mean they work properly in an emergency. Be sure to check with your own state's safety requirements when it comes to life jackets.

Keeping a life jacket hidden away on board is not useful for anyone, and it could lead to you or one of your passengers drowning. Inspecting it regularly and using it every time you are on the water is essential for boating safety.