Tips for Regulator Care

Responsible for several vital tasks related to managing the supply and flow of air, your regulator is an indispensable part of your life support system--both underwater and on the surface. This, in combination with its intricacy and sensitivity (and the fact that it is difficult to see inside of it while it is assembled), makes the regulator a piece of equipment that requires a little extra attention, to make sure it is functioning as it should.

An appropriate service interval (a maximum of 12 months, although divers making more than 75 dives a year will have their regulator serviced more frequently), along with attention to the issues listed here will help maximize the lifetime (and your enjoyment) of your regulator.

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Sand and Sludge

Sand and sludge are everywhere, and it may seem as though your regulator has an uncanny ability to attract just about every particle suspended in the water and on the beach. Despite their abundance (and who doesn't like a white-sand beach?), sand and sludge should be dealt with after every dive. Their particles cause friction that will wear down the internal components of your regulator (o-rings, valves, etc.) and can obstruct moving parts, causing free flow.

To Avoid Issues Caused by Sand and Sludge:

Regulator First- and Second-Stages Resting on Top of a Diving Cylinder
  1. Be sure to rinse your regulator, in warm fresh water, after every dive.
  2. Do not allow your regulator to lie in or touch the sand (or dirt) when it is near the ground. Using a tarp to lay equipment out on helps a lot with this. Resting your demand valve near on the top of the tank (when your dive set is assembled--not letting it dangle) also helps with this.
  3. Secure your alternate air source (for example, to your BCD) so that it cannot drag the bottom while you are diving.

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Corrosion is the most-common problem with any equipment used in- or around water, and it is a special hazard for dive regulators. If water (especially salt water, or the chlorinated water in swimming pools) evaporates from the components of your regulator, it will leave the substances the water previously carried (salt, chlorine-solution, etc). This means that any recess in your demand valve, on your first-stage, or on the air hoses (more on air hoses below), if not cared for, is potentially susceptible to corrosion.

If your regulator needs all of its springs, valves, and levers in working order to function correctly, and if corrosion deforms (or even destroys) one or more of those parts, the regulator could behave unpredictably (resulting in free-flow or malfunction). For this reason, corrosion is a major issue for dive regulators, and care should be taken to make sure it is avoided.

To avoid Issues Caused by Corrosion:

  1. Again, rinse your gear thoroughly, in warm, fresh water, after every use.
  2. Replace the dust cap on the first stage whenever it is not attached to the cylinder. Make sure the cap is clear of water, dirt, and sand before replacing it.
  3. If using a hose to rinse your regulator, avoid using a high-pressure stream. Remember that your regulator is sensitive and fine-tuned; using lower-pressure stream will eventually get your regulator just as clean, keeping it safer in the process.
  4. Periodically inspect the regulator on the first stage. A dull pewter color on the filter means it is optimal. Green, red, and chalky coloration means that there could be an issue, and that you should have your regulator inspected right away.

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Diving Regulator Air Hose

Air Hoses

Over time, stress from hanging can weaken air hoses. The hoses can come loose at the ends, crack, or simply become weak. The purpose of an air hose in a scuba set is to handle pressurized air, so a fatigued- or cracked hose can cause serious issues.

To Minimize Wear to Air Hoses

  1. Use hose guards, which 'take the punches' for the hoses and will alleviate a great deal of fatigue. We carry them in our store, and they are a lot cheaper than replacing the hose itself.
  2. Avoid storing your regulator in such a way that put prolonged stress on the hoses.
  3. Also, make sure to rinse your hoses along with the rest of your regulator after every dive.

Be sure to visually inspect your air hoses periodically, along with the rest of your regulator, to watch for signs of fatigue or other damage.

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Diving Cylinders

Although they are not part of the regulator system, care should also be taken with diving cylinders, to ensure that they function correctly:

  1. Avoid situations where the cylinder could fall over, roll around, or collide with anything else. Secure cylinders when transporting them. Lie cylinders on their sides when not in-use at the dive site.
  2. Maintain contents at pressure of 200psi when storing a cylinder for prolonged intervals. This will keep the cylinder dry and prevent corrosion.
  3. When storing a cylinder, make sure to remove boots and other accessories from the exterior of the cylinder when storing it as well, to ensure that the outside is also dry.

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Other Tips

Divers Underwater

Photo Courtesy: Aggie Morgan

When diving in colder-water environments (like Isle Royale or Bonne Terre Mine), be sure your regulator's working pressure is adjusted to avoid free-flows.

Carry a spare parts kit with you when you pack for dive travel. It can come-in handy.

If you dive with enriched air ("Nitrox"), be sure that your regulator is compatible. Also, have your regulator serviced, to ensure that it will handle enriched air correctly.

For Deep Diving, your regulator will require service more-frequently. Deep diving tends to put more stress on the parts of a regulator (for example the tank o-ring), which increase the chances of air loss while underwater.

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Underwater Scene