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Chris White // July 7, 2014

9 Reasons Why Regulators Leak

9 Reasons Why Regulators Leak

 by John Francis

Common Regulator Leaks.

The leak - First stage.


Where - From orifices and seams in the first stage housing. 

Looks like - Anything from an occasional bubble to a constant small stream. 

The problem - Wear and tear, or misadjustment of the internal parts during overhaul. 

The fix - Requires a technician. 

Abort the dive? - Judgment call. It's not likely to get worse quickly, and an occasional bubble might be tolerable for the day. If leakage increases, head for the surface. 


The leak - Sherwood first stage bleed.

Where - From a single orifice of a Sherwood first stage. 

Looks like - A steady stream of very tiny bubbles. 

The problem - None. The bleed is intentional, a design feature of the dry piston-type first stage. 

The fix - Put your wrench away. Please! 

Abort the dive? - Read my lips: there's nothing wrong. The air loss, by the way, is minuscule—less than one breath in an hour. 


The leak - Regulator yoke.


Where - Between the tank valve and the high-pressure valve seat at the yoke. 

Looks like - Anything from an occasional bubble to a constant stream. 

Sounds like - Bubbling from almost-flat soft drink to a boiling kettle. 

The problem - The O-ring is dirty, cracked, worn, dry or the wrong size. Or the seat is nicked or dirty. Or the yoke is loose or not positioned correctly. Some DIN-to-yoke adapters make alignment of the yoke difficult. 

The fix - Remove the O-ring, clean and inspect the seat. Replace the O-ring with a new one, coated with just enough silicone to make it supple, not greasy. Tighten the yoke by hand, but firmly. No luck? Try a different tank. 

Abort the dive? - Judgment call if the leak is very small, but it's better to return to the surface and replace the O-ring. 


The leak - Tank O-ring.

Where - Between the tank valve and the high-pressure valve seat at the regulator yoke. 

Looks like - Other divers leap backward like they've seen a cobra. 

Sounds like - A Boeing 727 on thrust reversers. 

The problem - This usually happens when you first turn on the air, if you haven't tightened the yoke enough. With the seat loose, pressure forces the O-ring to squeeze through the gap and tear, causing a loud escape of air. Another cause is using the wrong-size O-ring. 

The fix - A new O-ring and a stronger hand on the yoke screw. 

Abort the dive? - Only until you calm down. 


The leak - Hose O-rings.


Where - At either end of any hose, between hose end fitting and whatever it screws into (first stage, second stage, BC inflator, SPG, etc.). 

Looks like - Anything from isolated bubbles to a constant stream. 

Sounds like - Nothing, or a faint hiss. 

The problem - The O-ring is dirty, cracked, worn, etc., as above. A leak immediately after an overhaul probably means the tech has not tightened the hose enough. If very loose, the O-ring can blow out with sound effects as above. 

The fix - Also as above. Where there is a swivel on the hose, be sure to separate between the swivel nut and the next nut, not between the two nuts and the SPG or second stage. How much to tighten the hose? One ungh on a short wrench. 

Abort the dive? - If it's the high-pressure hose to the SPG, it will be a small leak. As long as it doesn't seem to affect the gauge, you can probably continue the dive. The high-pressure hose leak looks dramatic but involves very little air—the orifices are tiny. A low-pressure hose actually leaks more air, but you will still have time to return to the surface calmly and deal with it. 


The leak - Worn hose.


Where - Anywhere on any hose, but usually near the first-stage end fitting. 

Looks like - A tiny bubble, or chain of tiny bubbles on the surface of the hose. Or a steady stream of bubbles. 

Sounds like - Maybe nothing, maybe the fizz of ginger ale. 

The problem - The inner, woven layer of the hose has developed a weak area, usually through constant flexing. Air leaks to the outer, scuff-protecting layer of the hose, which has a chain of tiny relief holes along its length. That's where the bubbles come out. 

The fix - Replace the hose. High-pressure and low-pressure hoses are not interchangeable, nor are low-pressure regulator and inflator hoses, though the industry is moving in that direction. 

Abort the dive? - As with hose O-rings: The high-pressure hose is a judgment call, depending on how serious the leak is. Surface to replace a low-pressure hose. 


The leak - Second stage, due to excess intermediate pressure.


Where - From second stage exhaust. 

Looks like - Anything from a bubble every few seconds to a constant stream. 

Sounds like - Anything from a slow "glub, glub, glub," to a pot at full boil. 

The problem - Several possibilities, same symptoms: (1) first stage out of adjustment and delivering too much pressure; (2) second stage "cracking pressure" too low. 

The fix - Dial back the second stage adjustment (if you have one) for more breathing resistance until the leak goes away. If you have to dial it back again and again as the dive continues, this is a sign of first-stage problems. By the way, flipping the minimum/maximum or venturi switch will have no effect. Have your reg serviced at the first opportunity. 

Abort the dive? - if you can keep the leaking under control by adjusting the second stage. But if the problem is getting worse, head for the surface. 


The leak - Second stage, leaking valve seat.

Where - From second stage exhaust. 

Looks like - Same as excess pressure leak, above. 

Sounds like - Same as excess pressure leak, above. 

The problem - Sand, grit or corrosion under the second stage valve seat prevents it from sealing. 

The fix - Swirl the second stage through the water while working the purge (tank pressure must be on). The sand or grit may be washed out. Back on the boat, you may be able to remove the purge cover for better cleaning. Just be absolutely sure to put all parts back in the same order. If it's a corroded seat, only a technician can make the repair. 

Abort the dive? - Swirling may reduce the leak to manageable proportions. Otherwise, make a calm, normal ascent; air is not disappearing as fast as it sounds (though watch your SPG). 


The leak - SPG spool.


Where - Between the swivel fitting and the body of the submersible pressure gauge.

Looks like - Anything from a steady stream of bubbles to a constant fizz. 

Sounds like - Anything from a boiling tea kettle to a roaring jet engine. 

The problem - The spool is the hollow stud on which the swivel mechanism mounts. Banging and dragging the SPG can bend or break the spool, or distort its O-rings. 

The fix - Requires some technical knowledge, but take heart: many dive boat captains, resort operators and dive shop folks can do it. 

Abort the dive? - As with all high-pressure hose leaks, it looks and sounds worse than it is because the pressure is high but the volume is low. As long as the SPG is reading correctly it is a judgment call.

 

Chris White // June 26, 2014

Water Up Your Nose

By Shelley Collett

Everyone hates it, right?  It’s why you see so many people holding their noses before they jump into the water.   One of the biggest problem skills I’ve seen as an instructor is breathing without a mask underwater. Some people handle it fine, but others have extreme, nearly insurmountable difficulty with it.   After a couple of difficult sessions with some student divers, I decided to try to learn how to teach the skill better.  I needed a better way to impart knowledge instead of just saying, “Just don’t let the water in!” without really knowing how to tell them not to let the water in. I really didn’t understand why or how I was keeping the water out myself. I just did it! I always have. I was never a nose-holder.

After some research,  I thought I’d share here. I realize there are a lot of experienced divers here, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anyone who has issues with this. And, I’m sure we also have some newer divers reading who perhaps barely made it through that skill in the hopes that they would never, ever have to do it again.  I’m sorry to say to those individuals... you probably will have to deal with it again.  Masks flood, they get knocked off. It happens and you should be prepared for it and be confident that you’ll be okay with it.

While I’m sure you’ve noticed people jumping in while holding their noses, have you noticed all the people not doing it?  What do they know that you don’t? Some double top secret dolphin technique?   Nah,they just know how to control their body to keep the water from entering too far into their nose. There’s no way to prevent water from getting into your nose proper, but you can stop it from ending up down your throat and choking you.  (But if you do know a double top secret dolphin technique, please let me know!)

There are a couple of things that help you keep from inhaling water through your nose in the situation we’re talking about: Soft palate control and Epiglottis control.  The two things work in tandem, so it can be difficult to distinguish which is which. I’m hoping the exercises below will help with that.

Exercises:

Testing soft palate control

Put on your mask without the strap around your head and suck in through your nose to try to keep the mask on.  If your mask fits correctly, this shouldn’t be a problem. (This is how most folks “try on” masks before buying them anyway)  While you’ve got the mask ‘stuck’ to your face, start breathing normally through your mouth and keep the mask on your face. Tilt your head down a bit so that you know the mask isn’t  just balancing on your face.

If you can do this for a bit, then you have what it takes to breath without a mask on; you have soft palate control.  You just need to get over the psychological aspect of breathing with water on your nose.

If the mask immediately drops off of your face, then you don’t have very good soft palate control at all and you should learn and practice it.

Epiglottis and soft palate control

Now a new test.  While exhaling through your mouth, cover your mouth with your hand to prevent air from escaping.  Did your cheeks puff up?  They should have! And, you should not be exhaling through your nose.   That’s soft palate control.

While still trying to exhale, move your hand away. If you immediately exhale through your mouth, you used soft palate control. If you paused before exhaling through your mouth, that was your epiglottis. Either is okay, we’re just trying to get you to understand your own body at this point and how things work and feel.

Now we’re going to try alternating a bit. Take a breath, exhale through your mouth, then cover your mouth and switch to exhale through your nose.  Did you feel a little nudge or jolt above and at the back of your tongue? That was your soft palate opening to let the air out of your nose.

Maybe you felt a little jolt closer to your lower neck or chest. If so, that’s your epiglottis.

Alternate now between exhaling through your nose and trying to exhale through your covered mouth.  Do you feel that control? Remember it. That’s how you keep water out too!

Practice makes perfect if you’re having difficulty with this. I don’t think I can stress enough how important it is as a diver to be comfortable with water on your nose. Comfortable to the point that you’re not going to panic and bolt to the surface, at least.  Practice in a tub, pool, hot tub, even the shower. (you could flood your mask in the shower, stand with it flooded and just breathe through your mouth) Practice it a little every time you dive until you are comfortable with it. It will make you a more confident diver and a safer diver.



Chris White // June 19, 2014

Guidelines For Post-Dive Equipment Care

Guidelines For Post-Dive Equipment Care

By Jessica Vyvyan-Robinson

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If you own scuba equipment, knowing how to properly take care of it after a dive is crucial. Not only does good post-dive maintenance increase the lifespan of expensive equipment, but it also minimizes the risk of gear-related issues the next time you dive. Our equipment is our lifeline underwater, so keeping it in working order is of paramount importance. Basic rules apply to the post-dive maintenance of all scuba gear, including rinsing items thoroughly with fresh water after a dive, and allowing them to dry completely before being packed away. Dive gear should never be left in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time, as sunlight can degrade, crack or fade materials, including neoprene and rubber. Specific considerations relate to particular pieces of equipment, most of which are listed below.

Regulator

Like the rest of your scuba equipment, your regulator needs to be rinsed in fresh water at the end of the day’s diving. Make sure that no water enters the regulator’s first stage, as it’s internal components are susceptible to damage when exposed to moisture —allowing them to get wet will most likely result in an expensive trip to an equipment technician. Before rinsing, replace and securely fasten your regulator’s dust cap, first ensuring that the dust cap itself is dry. You can do this by using compressed air from your cylinder to blast excess water from the dust cap before fastening it in place, but that method’s not without detractors.

Instead of leaving your first stage to soak in fresh water, rinse it thoroughly under the tap; this will safeguard against water seeping past the dust cap. Alternatively, you can fully submerge your regulator if the first stage is still attached to a pressurized cylinder, which will prevent any water from entering the system. Do not press the purge button on either your primary second stage or your octopus while you are washing your regulator, as this will also allow water to enter the first stage. If you have hose protectors, make sure that you rinse underneath them during the cleaning process; similarly, move your low-pressure inflator connector back and forth to remove any salt, grit or sand. This way, even the least visible parts of your regulator will be kept corrosion free, and will continue to perform as they should. Once you have finished rinsing your regulator, hang it up and allow it to dry completely before packing it away.

BCD

When it comes to washing your BCD, it’s hugely important to remember the inside after having thoroughly rinsed the exterior. During a dive, salt water leaks into the BCD through the dump valves and the low-pressure inflator, and must be drained out during your post-dive maintenance routine. To do this, use a hose to flush fresh water into the BCD’s bladder via the low-pressure inflator, making sure to hold down the deflate button as you do so. Allow the water to flow into the BCD until it is approximately one quarter full, and then orally inflate it. This will allow the water to easily circulate around the inside of the BCD. Then, shake it to make sure that the water reaches every part of the jacket before allowing the water to drain through the dump valves, simultaneously rinsing them too. You can repeat this process several times before inflating the BCD partially and storing it. Ideally, you should keep your BCD hung up in a cool, dry place; the partial inflation will prevent the insides of the BCD from sticking together.

Wetsuit, booties, hoods and gloves

All of these items should be washed both on the inside and on the outside. It’s a good idea to use soap or disinfectant to eliminate any odors, but make sure that you buy one that’s appropriate for use on neoprene. Wetsuit soap is readily available at most dive centers or equipment stores; rinse it off with more fresh water once used. After cleaning your wetsuit and other neoprene items, hang them up to dry completely before packing them away. If you don’t, mildew and other bacteria will develop, degrading the quality of your equipment and causing it to smell. The best way to store a wetsuit is to hang it up, preferably on a purpose-built wetsuit hanger. Do not use wire hangers, as they will crease and mark your suit — the wider the hanger, the better. For transporting your suit or for storing it for short periods of time roll it rather than folding it. Folds can cause creases in the neoprene that may not come out, and make the suit uncomfortable to wear. It is also a good idea to lubricate the zips on your wetsuit or booties, ideally with zipper wax specifically made for this purpose.

Cylinder

Many divers overlook their cylinders when it comes to post-dive care, but they also need to be rinsed with fresh water. This prevents salt buildup and consequent corrosion, and also displaces grit and sand from around the tank valve; if left, these particles can make it difficult to turn your air on and off. You should never put a cylinder into storage either emptied or filled completely. When empty, the absence of pressure can make it easy for contaminants to enter the cylinder; if stored too full they can eventually crack over time. They should be stored lying horizontally, or in a secured upright position to prevent them from falling and becoming damaged.

Mask, fins and snorkel

Your soft gear is easily maintained; like everything else, it must be rinsed in fresh water, dried and put away carefully. Your mask should be packed in a hard case to protect the lenses from scratches and the mask itself from possible impact. Make sure that any other items that you store with your mask (e.g. dive computer, compass) do not bend, squish or deform the silicone; otherwise, your mask’s shape could be altered causing it to leak or become uncomfortable. Similarly, save the plastic inserts that come with your fins when you buy them, and replace during storage to retain the shape of your fins’ foot pockets. Do not store your fins by balancing them on their tips, as this can also cause distortion and diminished performance. Instead, keep them lying flat, or hung by the strap on a wide peg.

Accessories

Each of your dive accessories has unique care requirements. Underwater cameras, for example, have a lengthy post-dive care regime. They must be left to soak for as long as possible in fresh water, to allow all salt to dissolve from the housing. You should gently work all of the housing’s moving parts to dislodge any salt, grit or sand stuck beneath them. Once you are satisfied that the housing is salt-free, you must dry it completely before opening it to remove your camera. You should remove your batteries and memory card from the camera, and make sure to wipe clean and lubricate all O-rings. Do not store your housing with the main body O-ring in place, as the constant pressure will eventually change the shape of the O-ring and reduce its ability to create a sufficient seal. Instead, remove the O-ring carefully, clean it and store it with the rest of your equipment in a sealed plastic bag. Strobes and underwater torches should be treated similarly — wash, dry, remove batteries, then clean and lubricate all O-ring.

When washing your dive computer, make sure to depress all the buttons while holding the computer underwater in order to flush salt deposits from beneath them. Rinsed and dry dive knives thoroughly, then apply a thin coating of silicone grease to the blade before storage to prevent rusting. All other diving equipment, including signal marker buoys, compasses, whistles and octopus attachments should be rinsed at the same time as the rest of your gear, and stored appropriately.

No matter how diligently you take care of your equipment, make sure to fully check and test your gear before use to ensure that it’s in full working order. Above all, remember that by properly looking after your dive equipment, you are allowing it to continue looking after you.

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