Looking after your lifejacket

Lifejackets need care and maintenance. Inflatable models must be serviced regularly to ensure they work when needed. Here’s what you need to know.

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Cleaning and storing lifejackets

Lifejackets are exposed to heat, sun and salt, which means they damage easily. Look after your lifejackets by:

  • rinsing off salt with fresh water and checking for damage after use
  • storing lifejackets in a dry, well-ventilated area out of sunlight
  • not using your lifejackets as cushions or fenders (bumpers)
  • keeping lifejackets away from oil and fuel
  • removing new lifejackets from their plastic wrapping before storing.

Checking and cleaning inflatable lifejackets

Inflatable lifejackets need extra care. An inflatable lifejacket can only help you if it's in working order. If it's not, you or one of your passengers could drown. Check your lifejacket before wearing and service it regularly.

Check before wearing

First, check there are no visible signs of general wear and tear. Next, check that the CO2 cylinder is not pierced and is screwed in firmly (hand tight).

If you have an auto-inflating lifejacket, check the auto-inflation cartridge is hand tight and that it's still in date. Cartridges must be replaced by the expiry date shown.

Finally, check the pull cord is free and ready to use.

Cleaning after use

After use, remove the cartridge and rinse the lifejacket with fresh water. Dry the lifejacket and reconnect the cartridge before storing.

Servicing inflatable lifejackets

A regular service makes sure the bladder, inflation mechanism and CO2 cylinder are in good working order. In NSW, you must service inflatable lifejackets once a year, or in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

If you cannot remember when your lifejacket was last serviced, we recommend you get it serviced straight away. Keep receipts and certificates as evidence of servicing. You must also keep a record of the date your lifejacket was serviced on the inside of your lifejacket.

You must show the service record on the inside of your lifejacket if asked by a Transport for NSW (Maritime) authorised officer or police.

How to self-service inflatable lifejackets

Sometimes, you can self-service a lifejacket by following the manufacturer's instructions. The instructions are either supplied with the new lifejacket, printed on the lifejacket itself, or available on the manufacturer's website.

Transport for NSW (Maritime) also runs inflatable lifejacket self-service clinics and provides an online video tutorial.

Step 1 - Check for visible signs of wear and damage

Make sure all fastenings and buckles are in good working order.

Lifejacket user checking fastenings are working
Check all fastenings are working

Step 2 - Inflate the bladder and check for pressure loss

Following the manufacturer’s instructions, reveal the inflation system and oral inflation tube. Inflate the bladder using the oral inflation tube and leave overnight. If the bladder loses pressure overnight, take the lifejacket to an accredited service agent. Do not repair it yourself.

Lifejacket user inflating lifejacket
Inflate the bladder with air to check it does not lose pressure

Step 3 - Deflate the bladder

Deflate the bladder by inverting the cap on the oral inflation tube and pressing down on the valve inside the tube. Do not insert anything into the top of the tube as it may damage the valve. Roll or press the lifejacket to deflate it fully.

Lifejacket user checking the bladder
After you’ve checked the bladder, deflate it using the cap on the tube

Step 4 - Remove and inspect the CO2 cylinder

It should not be rusted or corroded. 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.

If the cylinder is rusted, corroded, has been pierced or is not the correct weight, it should be replaced.

On auto-inflating lifejackets, make sure all auto components are armed (ready for use) and not expired. Refit the cylinder to the inflation system and tighten it by hand until just firm.

Lifejacket user checking the cylinder of a lifejacket
Remove the cylinder to check its weight and condition

Step 5 - Repack the lifejacket

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.

Lifejacket user repacking lifejacket with pull cord free
When you repack the lifejacket, make sure the pull cord is accessible

Step 6 - Record the date

Record the date when your lifejacket was serviced on the inside of your lifejacket.

If your lifejacket has been inflated

When your lifejacket inflates, the CO2 cylinder is pierced and cannot be used again.

Auto-inflating lifejackets may also need the auto-inflating components replaced.

Try to always have spare components on your vessel. You can get CO2 cylinders and other spare parts from the manufacturer or your local retailer.

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