When’s the last time you tested your inflatable PFD? (Hopefully the answer isn’t “never.”) Just like inherently buoyant lifejackets and PFDs, inflatable versions need inspection and regular testing.
Look for rips, holes, and tears and inspect the seams, straps, and all buckles and hardware.
Inspect the inflation mechanism, including the pull cord and CO2 cylinder, for wear or corrosion. For auto-inflate PFDs, inspect the bobbin.
Check the indicator status (most inflatables have one); it should be green. If it’s red, “the CO2 cylinder has been discharged and the unit will not function properly,” says Ian Gilson of the Canadian Safe Boating Council. You’ll need to replace it.
Test the PFD’s bladder. Inflate it by breathing into the air tube, then let it sit for 24 hours. Inspect. If there are any leaks, “the bladder will have deflated somewhat or completely.” Don’t try to patch a leak, says Gilson. “It may not hold under pressure.”
Check the PFD’s expiry date. If it’s passed, it means the inflation mechanism needs to be replaced.