SERVICING OF DIVING REGULATOR

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Many dive centres in Singapore has advertised their capabilities of servicing your regulator. However, how many of them are really capable of doing it? Or how many of these Singapore dive shops actually has the right inventory, tools or necessary training to assist you in servicing your scuba regulator?

We have many units of regulators from popular brands such as Apeks, Scubapro, Atomic Aquatic, Cressi, Mares and Aqualung, coming to to us after being attended by other “gone rogue technicians”. We often find many damages on the regulator caused by such rouge technicians.

Protect yourself today and learn what you should be looking out for when you engage a company to handle your scuba regulator servicing needs.

scuba diving equipment regulator dive computer servicing repair maintenanceSingapore Regulator Servicing

After spending so much money investing in your own personal equipment, it can be a rather daunting experience, finding a proper dive shop that can assist you in servicing and maintaining your scuba diving investments such as your scuba diving regulator or the very expensive scuba diving computer you have bought during the last Adex Singapore you participated.

In the last few years, we have noticed many errant technicians or novice has started to sprout all over the island. We have encountered a few regulators that came to us after it was serviced by such errant technicians that prompted us to re-write this article on how you can protect yourself against such errant technicians.

There are tell tale signs of whether you should trust the dive shop or signs that will prompt you to leave the facilities immediately and bring your scuba regulator and diving computer to another shop who can assist you in maintaining or servicing your investments.

authorized technicians vs authorized service centre

Is there a difference between this two? Well, there are some differences but we will try to put it in perspective for you. A trained technician by the various brands such as Atomic Aquatic, Aqualung, Apeks, Scubapro, Cressi, Mares, Suunto etc, are trained to perform their duties as a technician for various equipment. However, they should perform their duties ONLY at an Authorized Service Centre.

For instance, Scubapro technicians, were specifically informed that they are not supposed to do any form of servicing independently. Failure to adhere to this standard, the regulator that has been serviced by them will strip any warranty that came long with the regulator. So when a company advertise themselves as a trained technician but not a service centre, they would have clearly violated the terms and conditions of a servicing technician.

authorized service centre COMMITMENT

We saw a recent posting of a dive centre “showcasing” their service parts. And they were rather proud of the image on Facebook. An Authorized Servicing Centre should go far beyond of just having a few authorized service kits. These service kits, also known as maintenance kit, are meant for annual servicing. For some regulators that has been used for more than 10 years, there might be additional parts that needs to be replace. Such parts are not found in the maintenance kit.

If a service centre do not keep such parts, your regulator could be kept for them for a long period of time, till they are able to source for the respective parts. Or, they will DIY and try to fix it and hope the diver will not notice it. Yup, you read right, DIY. This is why when I was writing this article, I used the word ERRANT TECHNICIANS.

We understand that regulators, like any other mechanical hardware, goes through wear and tear, and most often than now, a simple annual servicing might not be enough to revert your diving equipment back to factory default settings.

CASE STUDY 1 : SCUBAPRO S600

A customer brought in his Scubapro Mk25 S600. Apparently it has been recently serviced by a trained technician but not an Authorized Servicing Centre. The minute it was pressurized (when the regulator is turned on), there was a mild leak coming up from his Scubapro S600. No matter how he adjusted the airflow knob, it was still leaking and he notice that each time he turned the knob, there was some resistance.

After some investigation, we notice that the spring inside his Scubapro S600 was manually stretched and it was already out of shape. The technician while servicing this particular regulator, would have noticed that the spring is no longer functioning as well as it should. But without an inventory to replace the part, he decided to DIY and stretch it.

Do not be embarrassed when you are sending your equipment for servicing. 

The Basic Requirement of a Service Centre – The Table Selection

no bad service regulator servicing tabletop workbench

This is the most fundamental and basic knowledge of any technicians and most dive centres with a “technician workbench” do not follow this basic rule. When selecting a proper table for servicing, the tabletop needs to be a solid table. Why solid? So the table is strong enough to hold onto a good vice and it gives the technician a stable top to work on, especially when there are difficult regulators.

If you ever see an IKEA table as a servicing table or workbench, please just walk away from such service centres. IKEA tables were constructed as work desk, something for you to place a few pieces of paper and laptop. It was never designed to be workbench. The flaw of such tables is the way the legs join to the table, with only a couple of screws and chipboard, the tabletop is too weak for any form of servicing.

Most inexperienced or paper chaser technicians would not realize this mistake and the importance of having a good workbench. Below are some other out-of-the-box workbench solutions. Personally, we give them 100% for creativity but 0% for trying to use such tables for servicing.

no bad service regulator servicing tabletop workbench

A good table-vice or clamp

regulator servicing vice table bench metal gripmasterA good table vice or bench vice allows the technician to work comfortably. A good bench vice is one that allows the technician to use a soft clamp attached so as to prevent damaging the regulators.

A good table or bench vice is bolted down to a good woodbench. This is another reason why a solid and sturdy workbench is recommended.

stupid cheap dive centre vices clampsWhen technicians start using cheap made-in-china table vice or bench vice that are not bolted to the table, very often, they can damage regulators when they are trying to open up client’s regulator.

We have seen many regulators that have been chipped because of inferior vices that has been used by technicians. There are times we need to use adjustable vices but this is only when we need an additional pair of hands to hold onto a part gently. Very rarely are such bench vices used by technicians. So this is another tell-tale sign that the dive centre actually do not have the right knowledge on equipment servicing.

Cleaning of regulators.

DO NOT BE FOOL INTO TECHNICIANS TELLING YOU TO USE VINEGAR OR OTHER CHEMICALS FOR CLEANING.

After taking apart the regulator and it is thorougly degreased, your regulator is send for cleaning. A good ultrasonic (that is one that has the ability to heat up) coupled with a food grade solution is important. Many dive centres without the budget to invest in a good ultrasonic cleaner have resorted to some of the “smartest” idea in the technician world.

bad ultrasonic cleanerUsing white vinegar. It is a house-hold product, we use it for cooking, it should be safe right? Google white vinegar removing rust or metal cleaning, you will come across millions of website advocating it. Vinegar is corrosive by nature and it attacks silicone and rubber compound. It is never recommended by anyone to use white vinegar for cleaning regulators.

Another “smart” idea that has been recently been spotted is to convince divers they do have a ultrasonic cleaner. So instead of investing in a proper ultrasonic cleaner, they bought themselves a jewellery ultrasonic cleaner on Qoo10.com for SGD$ 20.00

A proper ultrasonic cleaner should be deep and wide enough to hold the majority parts of your disassemble regulator so that the cleaner can do a proper job. A $20.00 ultrasonic cleaner will be able to do the job, and you probably can have a partial clean job or the technician will take probably a month:)

Tools, tools and more tools.

Having only a couple of tools will not allow you to service the entire spectrum of different models and brands of regulators.

This is the second most important and expensive investment of any technician. Most high end regulators require some form of special tools. Take Apeks Flight for instant, a technician require a total of 6 special tools to open the regulator up for cleaning. It is almost impossible to use substitute without the risk of damaging the regulator. A technician wall of tools is also his wall of pride. DO request a tour of the servicing area of your dive centre and see if they have the proper tools for servicing your regulator.

Inspection Equipment and Lighting.

table top magnifying lampA servicing area should be brightly lit. No technicians should be working under dim light or warm light conditions. Another light that a technician should have is known as black light. We often use black light after degreasing and cleaning to inspect for traces of carbon in the regulator. This is rather crucial for divers who often dive with enriched air or any form of air higher than 21% mix of oxygen.

A proper table top magnifying lamp is also required to inspect closeup for any faults and this is the most important part of regulator servicing that is often overlooked by technicians. A custom flexible inspection camera is sometimes used to inspect area that the naked eyes cannot reach.

Parts, Service Kits, Maintenance Kits… …

We guarantee a 3 days turn around servicing and the reason being we are one of the biggest stockist of service and maintenance kits of all major brands in Singapore.

Every model regardless of brand of regulators require their own specific maintenance kit. Most technicians are often using cheap o-rings from rubber manufacturer. However, there are some parts of a regulator that uses special o-rings that looks like a regular o-ring. When the wrong o-ring is used, it can cause the regulator not to function the way it was supposed to be.

Testing, Tuning and Water Testing

This is the final part of servicing your regulator. Once appropriate maintenance kits replace existing parts in your cleaned regulator, a technician needs to “cycle” the regulator and return the settings to factory default. This can only be done with very precise equipment, including a Poppet & Seat setter, Airflow Analyzer, HP Manager, IP Gauge and a Magnehelic Gauge. Only when the settings are returned to factory default, a water leak test is conducted to ensure there are no leaks and also that the second stage will not free flow during the dive.

Final Words

It is extremely costly to setup a proper service workbench and IT IS NOT SAFE to have your regulator or your clients’ regulator serviced in a bare environment. This is a life support system and it should not be taken lightly. There are only about 3 dive centres here in Singapore located centrally and maintains a proper servicing facilities that you can visit without making any prior arrangements and booking.

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Mark Mah
PADI Diving Instructor at Orpheus Dive
Mark Mah holds diving instructor rating from SSI, SDI and PADI. A giant in both size and heart, Mark is one of the most outstanding Instructor. Having worked in some of the most established diving centres here in Singapore, Mark has years of experience handling dive operations and the demands of divers.