Back to blog

How to Test an Inflatable Life Jacket

Testing your inflatable life jacket is one of the most important (and fun) things you should do before going out on the water. If you’ve never used one before, you’ll want to get a hang of how everything works. Likewise, the best way to check the buoyancy of your PFD is to confirm that it floats. 

Reasons to Test Your Inflatable Life Jacket

  1. Make sure it floats you comfortably and adequately for water conditions and optimum performance.
  2. Make sure it works to confirm product integrity. It should inflate quickly and easily without leakage. 
  3. Learn how it works by arming and activating the CO2 inflation system, re-arming, and using the oral inflator tube.

How to test an inflatable life jacket  How to test an inflatable life jacket

How to Test using the automatic inflator

To test your life jacket you will need your fully-armed life jacket and a replacement re-arming kit approved for your specific model.

  1. Don the life jacket and enter shallow water deep enough to stand with your head above the surface. The life jacket should automatically inflate within seconds of the inflator being submerged. 

  2. Attempt to float on your back or just slightly back of vertical. Your mouth should be above the water’s surface in a relaxed floating position. Note the effect of where you hold your arms and legs on how you float.

  3. Exit the water and remove the used CO2 cylinder and bobbin from the inflator.

  4. Deflate the life jacket using the oral inflator tube.

  5. Dry thoroughly, re-arm with the replacement re-arming kit you have on hand, and repack the life jacket.

HOW TO TEST USING THE MANUAL INFLATOR

To test your life jacket you will need your fully-armed life jacket and a replacement re-arming kit approved for your specific model.

  1. Don the life jacket and activate the inflation system by jerking firmly downward on the yellow manual pull cord.

  2. Enter shallow water deep enough to stand with your head above the surface.

  3. Attempt to float on your back or just slightly back of vertical. Your mouth should be above the water’s surface in a relaxed floating position. Note the effect of where you hold your arms and legs on how you float.

  4. Exit the water and remove the used CO2 cylinder.

  5. Deflate the life jacket using the oral inflator tube.

  6. Dry thoroughly, re-arm with the replacement re-arming kit you have on hand, and repack the life jacket.

How to test using the oral inflation tube

Testing your inflatable life jacket with the oral inflation tube will not require any spare parts or re-arming kits.

  1. Remove the CO2 cylinder to prevent inadvertent activation.

  2. Don the life jacket and enter shallow water deep enough to stand with your head above the surface. Weak swimmers should partially inflate the life jacket to support their ability to complete full inflation without touching the bottom. Note this level of inflation because it’s the minimum amount needed to safely use this device.

  3. Fully inflate the life jacket using the oral inflator.

  4. Attempt to float on your back or just slightly back of vertical. Your mouth should be above the water’s surface in a relaxed floating position. Note the effect of where you hold your arms and legs on how you float.

  5. Exit the water and deflate the life jacket using the oral inflator tube.

  6. Dry thoroughly, re-arm, and repack the life jacket.

Caution: If oral inflation is used, do NOT allow the chamber to be also automatically inflated. Remove the cylinder and bobbin to prevent inadvertent over-inflation which could result in damage to the life jacket.

How to Test your inflatable life jacket for air leaks 

Your device may be inflated and submerged in water to check for leaks. If bubbles appear by the oral inflation valve, invert the black cap and tap the green spring. If bubbles continue to appear anywhere throughout the vest chamber, the device should be removed from service and replaced.

Additional Resources

Check out Bluestorm™ inflatable PFDs, rearming kits, and maintenance checklists for additional security on the water. Contact us with any questions.

Shop Bluestorm PFDs