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PFD auto inflating

ambler

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Dec 7, 2013
45
catalina 22 Watauga Lake, TN
Four years ago I got 2 West Marine inshore autoinflator PFDs. Since then on 2 occasions I have found a jacket had auto inflated while in the boat cabin. There were no leaks in the cabin so water didn't set it off. The cellulose crystal in the bobbin was present but the spring loaded plunger had spread the central opening enough to allow it to pass and puncture the CO2 cartridge. The bobbins were within 3 years of the manufacture date.

So is this a result of heat/humidity (I'm in Tennessee) or do I have a spring that's a little too powerfull?

Any thoughts?
 
May 17, 2004
3,420
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
Humidity has been said to cause those kinds of problems. This is one of the advantages of the more expensive hydrostatic PFD’s that should require actual immersion to inflate.

Scarier to me is the other documented possibility of the tablet slowly dissolving and allowing the pin to just slightly puncture the cartridge. That leaves the cartridge empty in a less noticably unready state.
 
Feb 21, 2013
3,595
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
Sounds like a faulty plunger OR could be heat. West Marine might replace it for free......worth a try. The only events that caused our WM inflatable to life vests to inflate were when my wife flipped over a kayak and went into the water and it operated as intended AND when one was left in the hot sun in the cockpit.
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,721
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Scarier to me is the other documented possibility of the tablet slowly dissolving and allowing the pin to just slightly puncture the cartridge. That leaves the cartridge empty in a less noticably unready state.
I had this happen with an early version of SOSuspenders. The pill had dissolved and the cannister slowly discharged.

Hi levels of moisture will also dissolve the pill and cause the PFD to inflate. Caught my attention when the PFD inflated in the front seat of my truck while heading down the road at 70 mph.

The hydrostatic inflaters are immune to this problem and the newer dissolvable pills are less prone to this problem. The take away lesson is to inspect the PFD and check the condition of the pill at the beginning of the season if not more often.

When the inflators reach their expiration date put on the PFD and jump into the water. It is a buoyant experience and does instill some confidence in these devices. Also try swimming and moving with the inflated PFD, an enlightening experience.
 
Nov 12, 2009
170
J/ 32 NCYC, Western Lake Erie
We've had two unexpected inflations. Once after sailing in a light rain we put what we thought were dry PFDs in the hanging lockers. Hours later one inflated with enough force to almost blow the door off the hinges!
The second time we were unloading the boat at the end of the season. It was a particularly hot October day and one PFD self-inflicted in the backseat of the car. Fortunately we weren't driving at the time.

My last experience with inflatables was preparing for a race to Cuba. I decided to manually inflate the vest just to make sure it worked and was packed right. I was a little surprised, and disappointed, to find that it didn't hold air. But not nearly as disappointed as I would have been it I had needed it in the Gulf Stream.

I have since replaced the inflatable with a comfortable foam vest with pockets.
 
Feb 21, 2013
3,595
Hunter 46 Point Richmond, CA
.............I was a little surprised, and disappointed, to find that it didn't hold air. But not nearly as disappointed as I would have been it I had needed it in the Gulf Stream........
You got my attention!! Will make that test on my 10 inflatables PFD's.
 
Jul 19, 2013
309
Pearson 31-2 Boston
We've had two unexpected inflations. Once after sailing in a light rain we put what we thought were dry PFDs in the hanging lockers. Hours later one inflated with enough force to almost blow the door off the hinges!
The second time we were unloading the boat at the end of the season. It was a particularly hot October day and one PFD self-inflicted in the backseat of the car. Fortunately we weren't driving at the time.

My last experience with inflatables was preparing for a race to Cuba. I decided to manually inflate the vest just to make sure it worked and was packed right. I was a little surprised, and disappointed, to find that it didn't hold air. But not nearly as disappointed as I would have been it I had needed it in the Gulf Stream.

I have since replaced the inflatable with a comfortable foam vest with pockets.
One of a boat owners Spring fitting out schedule should be to inspect any inflatables, plus manually inflate them to see that they hold air over 24 hours. Replace the tab every three years.
 
Oct 26, 2008
4,988
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
I've had 2 Deckvest Lite inflatables self-inflate. One was in the boat during the winter. The other was also during the winter but in my house. On both occasions, the bladder had deflated by the time I noticed it. I didn't bother to investigate before replacing the cartridges. I think one was in the 2nd year and the other was in the 3rd year. I think there was not any reason for them to discharge. For the one in the boat, there were 2 others that didn't discharge. I inflated the bladders manually because I was curious why I didn't find them inflated. On both occasions, there were no discernable air leaks.
 
Nov 12, 2009
170
J/ 32 NCYC, Western Lake Erie
One of a boat owners Spring fitting out schedule should be to inspect any inflatables, plus manually inflate them to see that they hold air over 24 hours. Replace the tab every three years.
Since the race was in February I considered it an early spring gear check.
 
Jan 18, 2016
661
Catalina 387 Dana Point
One of a boat owners Spring fitting out schedule should be to inspect any inflatables, plus manually inflate them to see that they hold air over 24 hours. Replace the tab every three years.
This - a 4 y/o jacket was expired anyway. Rearm when they need to be rearmed (every 3) iirc there's a date on the cartridge, can't remember 'cause I rearmed all mine last fall. (Which also means to check the "new" arming kit to make sure it's "new")

And yes, put an expired one on and jump in. I was unexpecting that it would be rather violent, but man did I pop back to the surface fast. Was tough to swim in. Swimming backwards was easier.
 
Apr 11, 2010
854
Hunter 38 Whitehall MI
I did the jump in to test the old cartridge before rearming it. Had my wife time my surfacing. To me it seemed like I was down for a very long time before it popped. When I surfaced and asked her how long she said it was 5 seconds. Was a good trial experience