What Causes A PFD To Wear Out Over Time

Your personal floatation devices are probably the most essential piece of equipment on your boat.  Although, they become less and less useful over time. Unfortunately, some people don’t think about the maintenance of their PFDs, and it is this that helps them wear and also leaves these users in sticky situations.

With this wear on PFDs, you need to know when should you discard a ?pfd. You can find different types, and the wear and tear they suffer differs. In our guide, you can find out more about how to care for your PFD and when should a PFD be discarded and replaced.

By the end, you’ll know a bit more about the expected life of your PFD and how to be sure your life jackets are going to perform when you need them the most. (Read Where Is The Best Place To Put PFDs While You Are Out On Your Boat)

pfd wear out

What Causes a PFD To Wear Out Over Time?

Knowing what causes your personal flotation equipment to wear out over time is crucial if you own a boat.

This enables you to store and maintain them properly, extending their lifespan and maximizing your investment.

1. Ultraviolet Radiation

UV rays from the sun are the major why PFDs expire. This is because the synthetic material used to make most life jackets is degraded by the sun when you are afloat on your boat.

A personal floatation device’s color shows how long it has been exposed to the sun, as they fade the more sun they face.

Therefore, be sure your PFDs are stored out of the sun. In addition, keep any personal floatation devices you purchase for your kayak or boat out of the sun.

2. Moisture and Humidity

Not allowing your PFDs to dry before storing them is another factor that contributes to the gradual wear and tear of personal flotation devices.

The buoyant materials in your PFDs deteriorate if you frequently wear them wet, and the PFDs won’t float as well as a result.

The likelihood of the life jacket becoming moldy or covered with mildew increases the longer moisture and humidity may remain inside.

If you want your life jackets PFDs to survive as long as possible, ensure they are air-dried thoroughly before use and storage.

How To Care For PFDs?

There are several ways to ensure that you are effectively storing your personal floatation devices.

Make sure your personal floatation devices are dry.

Your life jacket should be kept in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. The foam inside might also deteriorate at high temps.

Don’t alter your PFDs if it doesn’t fit the body of someone on your boat. Doing so compromises the PFD’s integrity and renders them non-compliant with Coast Guard regulations.

Repeated use and exposure to the sun are the most common cause why a PFD wears out. This is because the sun’s ultraviolet radiation destroys the synthetic synthetics in PFD. (Read What Should You Do With A Torn PFD)

ultraviolet radiation

How to Test a PFD

All you need is a swimming pool or shallow water to safely and quickly evaluate a PFD’s buoyancy.

As a boat owner, make sure you check your PFD regularly.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Torn or ripped material
  • Straps or zips that are broken.
  • Check for illegible labels as these can be operating instructions.
  • Brittle or discolored material.
  • Check for any hard or lumpy buoyancy material or saturated oil in the fabric.
  • Check for mildew as this will affect the life of the material.

Don’t forget to replace any worn-out PFDs and throw them away.

Check that your inflatable life jackets have no leaks or won’t stay afloat.

Follow the owner’s manual to ensure maximum performance.

If you ask, when should you replace the co2 cylinder in an inflatable PFD? After an inflatable PFD has been inflated using a cylinder, replace the used cylinder and re-arm the inflatable life jacket.

Test your life jacket by prodding the foam of your PFD. Then, buy a new one if your finger goes through it.

The foam can also be compressed to half its original thickness. If it immediately assumes its previous shape, it is safe to use. If not, stay safe and get a new one.

Ensure you never use your PFDs as a kneeling pad, as this can wear the fabric and deform the foam inside.

Types of PFDs

There are five varieties to choose from, and each is designed for different boating activities and is specific to water conditions.

All PFDs have a max buoyancy rate, level of performance, and other limits.

Type 1: Inherent Buoyant Device

  • Excellent for cruising, lake fishing, and stormy weather.
  • Minimum buoyancy is 22 pounds or 11 pounds for children’s sizes.
  • Excellent for locations where rescuers will take some time to arrive.
  • The majority of unconscious wearers will go face up.

inflatable pfd

Type 1: Inflatable

  • The minimum buoyancy is 34 pounds.
  • Excellent for fishing, boat racing, and cruising.
  • Convenient to wear

An inflatable PFD that is US Coast Guard approved needs a cord to inflate or will be activated once it hits cold water.

You need to be aged 16 years or more to wear an inflatable PFD, and they shouldn’t be worn on personal watercraft or while water skiing.

Type 2: Near the Shore/ Inherent Buoyancy

  • Excellent for water-based cruising, racing, and fishing. Additionally, for solitary boating or bad weather.
  • To stay upright, you must tread water. Some users’ faces might be turned up.
  • Compared to Type 1, less buoyant but comfier.

Type 2: Inflatable

  • 34 lbs. minimum buoyancy
  • Excellent for dinghy use, inland cruising, and racing
  • Although cozy, it might not wake the unconscious user.

Type 3: Flotation Aid, Inherent Buoyancy

  • Excellent for fishing, water skiing, PWC operation, and regattas
  • 15 lbs. minimum buoyancy
  • Not intended to cause unconscious users to turn their faces up.

Type 3: Inflatable

  • 22.5 lbs. minimum buoyancy
  • Suitable for dinghy races, regattas, or canoeing
  • In case of unconsciousness, the wearer may not turn face up.

Type 4: Throw Device, Inherent Buoyancy

  • Toss overboard to help a victim float and add buoyancy to prevent drowning.
  • This cannot be worn.
  • Minimum buoyancy is 16.5 pounds for rings and 18 pounds for cushions.
  • While on your ship, they must be kept at arm’s length. For all Type 4 devices, this is true.

Type 5: Special Use Device

  • Commercial whitewater vests, deck suits, etc., are only permitted for the purpose they were designed.
  • For short periods only in choppy water.
  • Convenient to wear

Type 5: Hybrids

  • Ideal for activities when help is on the way and necessary when rescue efforts are in progress
  • When actuated, a CO2 cartridge is punctured, releasing gas to inflate the device.
  • It needs frequent maintenance.

Why Do You care For Your Personal Flotation Device?

Drownings that follow boating accidents account for the bulk of fatalities and happen more frequently than most people think.

These often occur because the person is not wearing a life jacket, or they wear a worn-out PFD, and the foam inside the personal flotation devices doesn’t keep them afloat. (Read What Is The Main Advantage Of A Type IV PFD)

It shows that PFDs wear out over time, and any boat owner needs to check and test the foam and outer materials of any life jacket used on their boats.

As a result, you cannot rely on personal flotation devices (PFDs) that come in one-size-fits.

They can adjust slightly to fit some people, yet a floating device won’t fit everybody. As a result, if you have a family or a larger boat, you’ll need a selection of different-sized personal flotation devices.

Check that you have an adequate number to accommodate everyone who will ride on your boat.

PFDs for kid’s

PFDs for women, toddlers, and teenagers should be scaled down to accommodate their smaller frames. You’ll need a bigger personal flotation device for larger adults.

It is prudent to check that everyone is outfitted with their own personal flotation device; in addition, ensure everyone on board is aware of the location of the PFDs so that they can quickly and easily grab them when needed.

  1. Once more, test whether the life jacket they are wearing is the correct size.
  2. A life jacket for children ought to have a close fit.
  3. After putting on the PFD, tighten the straps by grabbing the PFD’s shoulders and lifting them.
  4. Ears and chin should not be allowed to pass through.
  5. If they do, it is too large to wear on their small body, and you need to switch life jackets.

The more personal flotation device you have, the faster it appears they wear out over time.

As the boat owner, you must do everything you can to take care of and adequately protect every personal flotation device on your vessel.

Putting them into storage and repeatedly taking them out can be enough to wear a flotation device.

After all, you want these to last. They aren’t that expensive, but you don’t want to replace them too often, so use them for what they are specifically designed.

Look for faults in the material, such as lumps, mildew, or saturated oil. There cannot be any rips or tears in the cloth. Always leave the personal flotation device’s labels on.

Keep in mind to properly store your PFDs while not in use. Store them in a safe location to prevent crushing or tearing.

Personal flotation devices suffer damage every time they are used, just like any other water safety gear.

When PFDs are left outside between each use, they are exposed to the elements, including ultraviolet rays, rain, dirt, and other debris.

Experts advise indoor storage to ensure the PFDs last as long as possible.

Contrary to popular perception, the materials used to make PFDs—kapok, balsa wood, cork, and polyvinyl—will not survive indefinitely.

Regarding this, it is advised to store in cold, low-humidity, and light environments.

  • Never Store On Boat: Leaving your life jacket on the boat when not in use is one of the worst things you can do to it.
  • Avoid Sharp Objects: It’s essential to avoid your hands away from scissors, knives, fishing hooks, anchors, and other sharp objects.
  • Store in a safe location: Store your personal flotation device in a shed, garage, or basement to keep them safe and secure.
  • Allow any flotation device to Dry: Before storing, allow to air dry to avoid the growth of mildew and mold.
  • Remove stains to protect the fabric by washing them with warm water and mild soap as soon as possible.

Don’t be a statistic. Ensure your flotation devices are safe from being worn by storing them in cool, dry places and keeping them out of direct sunlight. (Read When Should You Discard A PFD)

Also, use a flotation device that is comfortable and durable for everyone. With all the above, you should know when should you discard a PFD?

For example, a personal floatation device or life jacket has no expiration date, but if it has been repaired or altered, it is no longer functional and needs to be replaced and disposed of for recycling.

What Causes A PFD To Wear Out Over Time (1)