Do you know if your life jacket expired, or what the expiration date is?
If you’re like most boaters, chances are you have no idea when your safety gear will expire. That can put you at serious risk if you have an incident on the water. There’s nothing worse than needing to use your life jacket, only to find it doesn’t work!
Inflation Canister Expiration Dates
Perhaps the most common cause of like jacket problems when using otherwise certified and guaranteed vests, is the expiration of the inflation canister.
All automatic inflatable life jackets use some form of pressurized canister, usually a CO2 compression, to inflate.
Unfortunately, these canisters lose their pressure over time, and will always be marked with a clear expiration date. Sometimes, this expiration date is as short as a year, while with others it might be several years.
The canisters are inexpensive to rearm or replace; the question is simply: do you know when you have to do it?
Fabric Issues and Light Exposure
Another common cause of life jacket malfunction is due to fabric issues. Over time, many life jacket fabrics, especially those fabrics used in the less expensive models, are subject to decay.
Most often, you can prevent this by properly storing your life jacket and not exposing it to unnecessary light (which will wear the fabric out faster), but you still need to be vigilant about keeping your equipment up to date.
How To Find Fix Expired Life Jackets
The best way to find and fix expired life jackets is simply to know what issues are likely to arise, and when you need to think about replacing parts of your equipment.
It is good boating practice to do a complete survey of your boat, including all life vests and other flotation devices on board, at least once a year.
During this survey, be sure to inspect the quality and condition of your life jackets, and note when and if any parts of them are expired.
Many times, higher end life jackets are manufacturer guaranteed, and its easy to replace expiring parts for little or no costs.