HOW LONG DO LIFE VESTS LAST?
Even familiar waters can be unpredictable. Sea creatures have various adaptations to survive rough waters. For us humans, life jackets are the only hope for survival when high winds and strong waves come crushing. The best protection from life vests lies in ensuring that the protective gear is in superb condition.
Life vests are made of materials that break down due to prolonged use. Because of this material degradation, life vests do expire. Connoisseurs of water safety cap this expiration date at ten years for inflatable and foam-filled life jackets. Before you head out into the waters, we suggest you test or check the quality and integrity of your life jacket.
Why Do We Make this Austere Proposition?
An old or expired life jacket may look okay on the outside when things are drastically degraded on the inside. The grave risk is that the expired vests might not provide buoyancy. A damaged life vest could torpedo you to the floor of the ocean.
The Lifespan of an Inflatable Life Vest
Ten years is the lifespan of an inflatable jacket. These are life vests that need to be filled with air every time you head into the waters. Most models have refillable air cartridges that use CO2. The vest is either manually activated or autonomously releases the gas in the event of submersion.
The fabric of these jackets comprises neoprene alongside a heat-sealed nylon urethane bladder. With prolonged use, both the fabric of the connecting bladder and the canisters may give in to wear and tear. The tanks typically have a 1-3-year life span and can often be replaced or cleaned in the jacket's life.
Excessive wear and tear on the fabric and canisters comprise their ability to keep you afloat in the water. Proper storage and maintenance of inflatable life jackets may help to prolong their lifespan. Experts recommend regular servicing at an interval of two years.
The Lifespan of Foam-filled Life Vests
Foam-filled life vests hardly last more than a decade. These jackets are inherently buoyant. In other words, you stay afloat automatically without having to pull a plug or activate a floating mechanism.
Materials used in foam life vests range from polyvinyl chloride to polyethylene. Back in the day, these vests were stuffed with kapok, cork, and balsa woods to guarantee the safety of sailors in stormy seas.
Just like inflatable life jackets, foam-filled jackets are susceptible to wear and tear. That includes abrasions, cuts to the clothing, and damage to buckles. The resultant damage to the buoyant materials drastically affects how the vests safeguard the user in the waters. Foam-filled life jackets are typically maintenance-free. Nonetheless, yearly inspection and proper cleaning and storage can extend the usefulness of these life vests.
Factors that Limit the Lifespan of Life Vests
UV sun damage and overheating: Overexposure of life vests to the sun's heat accelerates fabric determination. These factors make the vests more susceptible to rips and cuts in the course of usage.
Salty water: Some water bodies have higher pH levels than others. Some lakes are clean, while others are infested with algae. Salty waters, algae and mold, and mildew pose a deadly risk to the structural strength of the life jacket materials.
Improper usage: This could be anything from yanking the fabric material of inflatable life vests to using foam-filled vests as seat cushions in the boat.
These actions will surely chop the years off the lifecycle of your life vest.
Improper storage: The foam in foam field life vests lose cushioning when stored in compressed conditions. The fabrics in inflatable vests also become susceptible to wear and tear in storage conditions where there are many compressions.
How to Prolong the Lifespan of Life Vests
It is easy, and it can be summed up into things: proper usage and proper storage. Without these best practices, your life vest may give up its ghost long before the fifth year. Follow the recommendations below:
Clean the life jacket before storage: Salty water, mud, algae, and mold should be cleaned off from the jacket immediately after your water activities. Clean by your hand using mild soap and fresh water.
Dry well before storage: Hang your vests to dry in a well-aerated space. Let the jacket dry out in the sun if possible-speed-drying them speeds up their wear and tear.
Thorough checks: After washing and drying the life vest, check for signs or evidence of tears, rips, and holes. Ensure that all straps are securely attached and that all parts are functioning correctly.
Store in a cool and dry place: Once cleaned and inspected, store life vests in a cool, dry, and dark place. Eliminate all forms of compression in the storage area for this crushes the vests and reduces their floating efficiency.
Do note store soiled life vest. Stains feed mold and mildew, and these weaken fabrics and destroy the vest performance.
Do not store wet vests: Wetness breeds mold and mildew, which damages the structural strength of the fabrics.
Test Well Before Use
With proper usage and storage, a life vest should serve you well to the ten-year mark or maybe even beyond. With improper usage, things could go away way fast. Before you set for the waters, test to confirm that you are putting your trust in the right jacket. You can test foam-filled life vests by wearing them and floating in confined water conditions. A well-functioning vest fits snuggly and easily keeps you floating.
The vest should not rise above your shoulders in the water. If you are not floating safely with the life vest, it can mean its fabric or foam inside have lost buoyancy. No repairs - the vest should be replaced. For an inflatable life vest, wear the vest and get into a confined water space. The vest should fit the right way. If you cannot float efficiently and safely, it could mean that the C02 tank has expired or that there is damage to the vest's fabric and other
Word for the Wise
There is endless potential for great fun and recreation in the waters. However, don't forget about safety. Upgrade your life vests every few years and take the right measures in servicing and maintenance to boost their floating efficiency. Stay floating. Stay safe.
Also of Interest:
- What Is A Type 3 Life Jacket?
- Can You Drown with a Life Jacket on?
- Life Jacket Types: A Beginner's Guide
- Do I Need a Life Vest to Kayak?
- How to Choose the Right Kayaking Life Vest?