Maintenance of Dive Equipment with Dennis Hocker

  • dive tanks

By Alan Throop

At our April General Meeting, our own Dennis Hocker presented a great program on maintaining our diving equipment.

Dennis Hocker, Eric Minowski, John Petrash at Moss Beach

l to r: Dennis Hocker, Eric Minowski, John Petrash

Dennis is a lifetime member of Aqua Tutus, was certified by Aqua Tutus in 1960, and became an instructor in 1963, so he speaks with a lot of knowledge and experience. He has been our Director of Training for many years.

This program was different from his program on field repairs that is another good tutorial on our website. During this prepared program, he answered a lot of good questions both from the audience at the meeting and some that were submitted earlier. His program had a lot of good practical information.

Aqua Seal/Shoe GooA submitted question was: “How do I repair my wetsuit?”. Dennis had two pieces of neoprene that he joined during the course of the program. First he cleaned and prepped the two surfaces to be joined with Toluene solvent, then applied neoprene cement to each surface separately. Throughout the program he came back to them now and then, letting them dry for about 30 minutes, then reapplied the cement, then let them dry again (about 30 minutes), and then pinched the surfaces together, demonstrating how strong the seal was. He mentioned that Aqua Seal or ShoeGoo (cheaper) can also be used to seal or provide a toughened surface to a wetsuit or drysuit.

Mask and CaseFirst, Dennis talked about masks. It’s a good idea to store and move your mask in a mask box. The strap is usually the weak point that breaks, so it’s a good idea to have a spare strap in your “Save-A-Dive” (SAD) kit. It’s important to scrub and clean the inside of a new mask lens with a mild abrasive to remove the silicone coating that can cause it to fog – toothpaste these days don’t have abrasive in them. Rinse the mask in fresh water after a dive and keep out of the sun. You can use a defogger (don’t rinse the mask too much after rubbing it on), but spit works well … and tells you if you’re staying hydrated … “if you can’t spit, you shouldn’t dive”.

Fins and StrapsTurning to fins, the weak point is again the straps and they should be inspected before each dive; metal spring straps are a good upgrade. There are many styles of fins, but they eventually take the same amount of energy to go a given distance. Wear your straps tighter than looser to avoid losing them in the surf and improving your kick.

Wax ZipperDennis had some good ideas about maintaining and hanging your wet and dry suits. He discussed how air cells within the neoprene will break down over time and pressure cycles, thereby losing its thermal efficiency and soaking up water. Thus they need to be replaced over time. Again, it’s also important to keep them out of the direct sunlight and to rinse them well after a day of diving. “Sink the Stink” or other cleaners will help keep your wetsuit more pleasant to don! A paraffin wax should be regularly used to lubricate the zipper. On dry suits, the thin latex wrist and neck seals will deteriorate faster than the suit bodies, so they should be inspected before every dive and replaced when any cracks or deterioration is seen. Field-replaceable seals are now available and worth considering. Dennis mentioned that it’s not a good idea to store your dry suits in the garage, where the automobile exhaust fumes can accelerate the deterioration.

Dennis showed some fun and useful tools to help with maintenance of wet and dry suits. Some were taken from Innovative Scuba and are shown in the photos; Dive Gear Express is another good source for this gear. One device is a rinse hanger for your wetsuit that both hangs and flushed the inside of the wetsuit. When hanging your wet or dry suit from the neck region, it’s important to use a hanger that is broad to avoid stressing the shoulder regions of the suit. There are also hangers that hang dry suits upside down from the booties. Dennis showed some multi-purpose hangers that hang the booties, gloves, and hood on one unit … even some that fold for travel.

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BCD HangingTurning to BDCs, Dennis spoke about the importance of flushing the bladder and adding cleaners occasionally (perhaps, regularly), since unpleasant stuff can grow over time in the water left after dives and salt water can corrode materials in the power inflator. To rinse: pour water through the inflator mouthpiece (push the deflator button), then pressurize the BDC, turn it over several times, and remove the water through both the inflator hose valve and the mouthpiece. Dennis even showed a new device to hook your BCD to your garden hose to flush … new high tech! After rinsing, it’s important to store your BCD with air in the bladder, particularly for long periods, so that it will not stick together.

BCD Inflator HoseAgain, it’s important to inspect your BCD hoses for cracks regularly. You should regularly pressurize your BDC and be sure that it holds pressure. If it doesn’t, use soapy water to look for any leaks around the (several) dump valves and overpressure valve – leaks could be at several locations around the dump valves.

BCD Flush HoseDennis said the power inflator is perhaps the most problematic piece of equipment we dive with, so not only is rinsing important, but having spare parts is important. While you can bring individual parts and tools, having a full inflator hose assembly for your BCD that you can simply remove & replace may be the fastest way to avoid losing a dive. He mentioned that about 20% of manufacturers have non-standard assemblies, so having one for your own BCD is important since you can’t count on your buddy’s to fit yours.

Finally, Dennis addressed the regulator system. First, notice the yellow regulator holder “plug” in the mouthpiece of the alternate second stage of the photo. A big part of regulator reliability is just keeping sand out of the second stage, and the plug-type holder helps that … along with keeping the alternate regulator clipped to your BCD and keeping your primary in your mouth during your entries and exits (you can still breathe around it if you don’t want to use up air).

Regulator System
Regulator Hose Cracks
Again, good maintenance is also key in reliability. When you finish a day of diving, be sure to rinse the system in fresh water (with the dust cap on and sealed). After rinsing and during storage, it’s best to leave the dustcap off or loose so that any moisture inside can evaporate. If you see a green color on the screen under the dustcap, then corrosion has set in and the screen should be replaced. Inspect the regulator system regularly for cracks in the hose rubber, particularly where the hoses meet the first stage; be sure to pull back any hose protectors to see the metal/rubber interface. The mouthpiece wears quickly, so look for missing bite tabs or cracks there; they are easily replaced and a new one can be bought that fits your mouth more comfortably than the original.

We thank Dennis for taking time to prepare and share his knowledge and years of diving experience with us.