Apparently there is now a requirement to have inspection documentation for inflatable jackets onboard during some races. For commercial use as I understand it they all require annual servicing, seems like a pretty good idea for the obvious reasons. For recreational use some brands demand that it be done yearly by an approved agent and some dont. I made enquiries and for one brand that was $30 plus parts plus GST, they had to have their trained technician inflate it for 24 hours, measure loss of pressure in the bladder, check expiry dates, weigh the cylinders for gas content, replace corroded cylinders, O rings etc. It all sounded pretty techo, then I called another well known NZ brand and they said for recreational use its self service yearly which means a once over of the dates, a visual check and blowing the bag up and leaving it overnight and making sure it was still pretty full i.e. use your common sense.
I had an auto inflate jacket that I purchased in 06 that was manufactured in 03, making it 14 years old, lives in the boat , not a super crusty environment but its been worn a lot, drenched with spray and rain many times, put away damp if not wet etc. I thought I'd do a test after the info about yearly recommendations that have never been done, did a visual and the cylinder which has a zinc plating had some surface discolouration otherwise fine, and on the spur of the moment threw $50 and caution in in the wind by chucking it in the tide. About 5 seconds later the bag popped open as designed. Good I'm now alive and sea lice bait.
I inspected the jacket that required professional service and it was immaculate as expected as its 2 years old, very well built and used the standard inflatable cylinder/valve/auto trigger assembly, I really could not see the point of spending yet another $150 to service four of them annually given their level of build quality, simplicity and use. In fact I would be extremely pissed off that a such a fundamental life saving device wouldnt last many years without service and in fact proved my point with the test of my much abused older jacket. This has definitely influenced my buying decision for future jackets
Checking the prices for the replacement cylinders etc which we should probably carry onboard, I get the feeling that we are yet again been asked to pay a premium in parts and servicing because we have "Marine Munter" tattooed on our foreheads.