Lifejacket Maintenance

Keeping your inflatable lifejacket in good condition

Lifejackets are subjected to the heat of the sun and the harshness of salt. Such conditions can result in quite a bit of damage if the jacket isn’t properly looked after.

As a boater you should always check your lifejacket before putting it on and heading out on the water. Inflatable lifejackets clearly aren’t effective if they don’t inflate. All it takes is something like a fish hook to pierce the bladder and prevent them from inflating.

It's a good idea to keep a safety equipment log for your vessel. This can help you record when your equipment needs to be replaced or serviced.

Visual inspection - before each use:

Check for any damage by visually inspecting the buckle, cover and straps for signs of wear and tear. Ensure there are no frayed straps and that the zips and buckle are in working order.

If there are signs of damage, contact for advice.


  • Lifejackets should be stored in a dry, well-ventilated space.
  • Automatic lifejackets that are damp or wet should have their automatic firing capsule removed while the jacket is drying to prevent inflation.
  • It is recommended that a lifejacket should be left to dry on a coat hanger.


  • Prior to cleaning, remove the automatic firing capsule to avoid inflation.
  • To clean your lifejacket, periodically wash your lifejacket in fresh water, especially if it has been exposed to salt water.
  • Oil and similar stains can be removed by using warm soapy water.
  • Never put your lifejacket in the washing machine, spin or tumble dryer.

Wear it. Inspect it. Service it.

Here are five steps to self-check your inflatable lifejacket.

Step 1

Check for visible signs of wear or damage. Ensure all fastenings and buckles are in good working order.

Step 2

Following manufacturer’s instructions, reveal the inflation system and oral inflation tube. Inflate the bladder using the oral tube and leave overnight in a room with a constant temperature. If the bladder loses pressure, immediately take the lifejacket to an accredited service agent for further tests. Do not attempt to repair your lifejacket yourself.

Step 3

Use the cap attached to the oral inflation tube to deflate the bladder. Invert cap and press down on the valve at the top of the oral tube. Do not insert other objects into the top of the tube as they may damage the valve. Roll or press the lifejacket to deflate fully.

Step 4

Remove the CO2 cylinder and inspect. The cylinder should be intact with no rust or corrosion. Weigh the cylinder on kitchen or letter scales, ensure weight corresponds to the minimum gross weight engraved on cylinder +/- 2g. If the cylinder is rusted, corroded, has been pierced or is not the correct weight it should be replaced immediately. On auto-inflating lifejackets, ensure all auto components are armed and in date. Refit cylinder to the inflation system, tightening it by hand until firm. Do not over-tighten.

Step 5

Repack the lifejacket as per manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure the manual inflation toggle is accessible and unlikely to be caught when being worn.

Manufacturer’s servicing

You’ll find that some lifejacket manufacturers ask that you get your lifejacket serviced by them or an authorised agent. This ensures your lifejacket is maintained properly and kept in good working order.

When your lifejacket is being serviced, thorough checks will be carried out to ensure the bladder, reflective tapes, buckles and straps are all up to standard. The servicer will also make sure both the inflation system and oral inflation tube are operating correctly. If you’d like to know more, contact the manufacturer or the place of purchase.

Self servicing

Some manufacturers allow you to service the lifejacket yourself. However, servicing isn’t simply a routine check and clean. It’s far more involved and requires a higher level of inspection and care.

If you are thinking about self servicing, you should make sure you have the necessary ability, knowledge and skill before attempting this. Otherwise we recommend you get it serviced professionally.

If you are self servicing a lifejacket, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and make sure the recharge kit matches your lifejacket.

If a service record is available on the inside of the jacket, sign and date the service record with a permanent marker. If not, you might like to make a paper record of your own and keep a copy handy on board the vessel in case you need to show it to a Boating Safety Officer.

The self servicing of a lifejacket is only valid if the manufacturer allows it and if you keep all servicing receipts and certificates of servicing as documentary evidence of the service occurring. Failure to do so makes verifying servicing impossible, which means you may be in breach of safety requirements and be placing yourself, your family or friends at risk.

If you are using inflatable lifejackets, remember to keep them clean and dry in between each time you use them. This is particularly important with auto inflating models because these can sometimes self inflate when they’re left damp, for example inside a wet vessel.


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