Lifejacket Care


Lifejackets are one of the most essential pieces of kit whether you’re out at sea or enjoying some of our many and varied inland waterways, lochs and rivers.

Lifejackets need to be checked and maintained on a regular basis to ensure they perform properly. Taking a few simple steps to look after your lifejacket could therefore help save a life as well as prolonging the life of this invaluable piece of sea safety equipment:

1.         Protect the ‘salt bobbin’

The trigger mechanism for most automatic lifejackets is a dissolvable ‘salt bobbin’. These will react if stored in an area which is humid, damp or if the lifejacket is not wiped down and aired after use. A lifejacket should therefore never be put away damp. After each use, you should:

·       Wipe the lifejacket down to remove salt

·       Remove the ‘salt bobbin’ if using water to wipe down and clean the lifejacket

·       Allow the lifejacket to air dry, remembering to replace the ‘salt bobbin’ once dry

·       Store the lifejacket in a dry area on a non-metal coat-hanger

Lifejackets should not be stored in hot engine rooms, on engine blocks, or kept under tarpaulins in open areas. This essentially creates a Greenhouse Effect and could damage or weaken the operation of the lifejacket.

2.         Service the lifejacket at least once a year

Manufacturers of our Gael Force Cruise and Fastnet Lifejackets recommend having your lifejacket serviced at least once a year by a registered servicing centre. If this is not performed, the chance of a lifejacket accidentaly firing is greatly increased.

3.         Consider getting a free RNLI safety check   

The RNLI perform safety checks on lifejackets free of charge andwill give advice on the current effectiveness of your jacket, or whether servicing is needed. This can be arranged by contacting the RNLI on 0800 3280600.

4.         Follow these more detailed guidelines from the RNLI

The following information from the RNLI provides a guide to maintaining your lifejacket to ensure it always works and does not accidentally misfire:

·       Storage: Never put your Lifejacket away damp. Open it out, rinse off any salt in fresh water (If it isan auto-inflating lifejacket, make sure you remove the auto-bobbin first).Allow the jacket to air dry, then re-fit the bobbin and repack it. Out of season, the lifejacket should be partially inflated to remove any creases in the material, and stored on a non-metal coat-hanger.

·       Check the Gas Cylinder: The screws in Co2 cylinders in lifejackets can work themselves loose and should be checked for tightness every month. Check manufacturer’s expiry dates on cylinders and bobbins and replace as recommended (NB: Gael Force lifejackets use the Halkey Roberts firing system – The HR bobbin has the manufacture date printed upon it– estimated shelf life is four years from this date). Always carry a re-arming kit for every jacket you have on board.  If a lifejacket is then inflated for any reason, you will be able to get it ready for use again straight away.

·       Check for corrosion: Check the Co2 bottle for corrosion every three months. Rusty cylinders should be replaced and not used. Also check any areas of material that were in contact with the rusty cylinder as the fabric may have been damaged.

·       Check the webbing: The webbing should be checked every three months and also the stitching that holds the webbing together. Also check zips, buckles and other fastenings.

·       Check for leaks: Every six months inflate the lifejacket manually with a hand pump using the oral inflation (top-up) tube. Using a hand pump rather than your mouth will avoid moisture build-up inside the lifejacket. Leave it inflated for 24 hours to ensure there are no leaks or damage. Re-pack the lifejacket according to the manufacturer’s folding instructions.