Inflatable life jackets are convenient for many reasons. Their lightweight design and large range of motion make them comfortable for fishing, sailing, boating and paddling, as they are less likely to get in your way. Bluestorm’s personal flotation devices (PFDs) are U.S. Coast Guard Approved and designed to exceed safety standards. In order to get the best use out of your PFD, it is crucial to know how to take care of it and maintain its safety abilities by understanding when you should replace the CO2 cylinder.

When Should You Replace the CO2 Cylinder in a PFD?

After your life jacket has inflated automatically while submerged in water (or after you have manually inflated it by pulling the cord), you will need to re-arm it before the next use. Before you begin the process of recharging your life jacket, make sure you know how to recognize the warning signs of a nonfunctioning PFD and understand how often your PFD needs a CO2 replacement. How Often Should You Replace a PFD's CO2 Cartridge?

The Automatic Service Indicator

One of the easiest ways to know if it is time to replace the life jacket’s CO2 cartridge is the automatic service indicator located below the CO2 cylinder. If the indicator is green, the life jacket will automatically inflate within seconds after being submerged in water. When the service indicator goes red, you’ll need to purchase a new rearming kit and begin the recharging process. Although the vest will still inflate manually via the cord when the indicator is red, it will not inflate when it comes in contact with the water.

Before you begin the process of recharging your life jacket, here are some of the other steps to cover identifying a nonfunctioning PFD. When you’ve learned how to run through this list, you’ll know when you should replace the CO2 cylinder:

  • Inspect the bobbin for any cracks or holes.
  • Check that the bobbin is not expired. If the bobbin is expired or degraded it may not perform properly.
  • The visual inspection window is the primary way to inspect if your device is armed and ready for wear. Green means GO, red means NO.
  • A spent CO2 cylinder will have a small hole on the bottom indicating that the cylinder has been used.

When preparing for an outing, ask yourself:

  • Have I checked the status of the inflator and made sure that the CO2 cylinder is not punctured?
  • Have I checked my inflatable PFD for leaks in the last two months?
  • Do I have the right PFD for this activity?
  • How does my PFD work in the water?
  • Have I tested it this season?
  • Do I have the right size PFD for each person (according to the label) and do they fit snugly?
  • Have I checked my other inflatable PFDs in the same manner in which I checked my own?

How to Re-Arm a CO2 Cartridge for an Inflatable Life Jacket

Now that you know the basics of how often you should replace the CO2 cartridge in a PFD, you can begin the process of replacement. 

Step 01: Remove all air from chamber.

The first step to recharging your inflatable life jacket is removing all the air from the air chamber. Locate the red oral inflation tube on the device, where you would manually inflate it. Before you begin to apply pressure, remove the black cap and invert it into the oral tube and hold. Squeeze or roll the inflated chamber (do not wring) until all the air is expelled. Once air has been expelled through the oral tube, replace the cap to its original position and proceed to re-arm.

Step 02: Discard of old cap, cylinder & bobbin.

The next step in knowing how to re-arm a Bluestorm inflatable life jacket is locating the housing for the bobbin and cylinder. The grey housing is on the bottom left of the PFD when you are wearing it.

Once you have located the house, discard the old cap, cylinder and bobbin in the trash. Bobbins that have been exposed to high levels of humidity, heat or vibration need to be inspected, disposed of and replaced more often.

Step 03: Get a new bobbin.

The shelf life for bobbins is three years, but it is essential to inspect your bobbin between each use for any cracks, breaks or deteriorations that might stop the PFD from inflating. In order to know how to re-arm the CO2 cartridge and complete the process, you will need a fresh bobbin, which comes included in Bluestorm’s rearming kits.

Step 04: Install new bobbin and cap.

After you have disposed of the old bobbin, install the new bobbin from the re-arming kit into the grey housing. Before installing, make sure the white material in the new bobbin is not cracked or damaged. Also, be sure to check the expiration date and ensure that the bobbin is not three years past its expiration. With the white facing up, drop the new bobbin into its housing after aligning it properly with the grooves.

Once the bobbin is dropped in the housing, re-install the cap and turn it clockwise until it meets the housing. There should be no gap between the housing and the cap.

Step 05: Make sure the new cylinder has not been punctured.

After the cap and bobbin are securely installed, take the new CO2 cylinder and make sure it is not punctured.

Step 06: Install the new cylinder.

If your cylinder is not punctured and in good condition, you can begin the installation process of the CO2 cartridge. To install it into its housing, turn it clockwise until tight (hand-tighten only). If the cylinder is properly installed, the service indicator will show green.

Once the service indicator shows green, you can repack the air chamber. Fold both sides of the air chamber into the outer shell. As you fold the air chamber, make sure not to twist it. To close the air chamber securely, press the hook and loop together on the outside edge of the shell. Once all of the bladder is in the shell, recheck that the green service indicator is shown through the indicator window on the shell.

You have completed the recharging process! Before you go out on the water, make sure your PFD is armed and ready to go.

Make the Most Out of Your Inflatable PFD

If you take good care of your inflatable life jacket and complete regular maintenance, it can last you years. To prepare for any emergency, practice wearing and adjusting your inflatable PFD in the water before heading out.

Bluestorm wants to make the most of your recreational activities by keeping you safe on land and in the water. Now that you know how to re-arm your inflatable life jacket from Bluestorm, check out our inflatable PFDs and rearming kits for additional security on the water, or contact Bluestorm with additional questions you may have.