Inflatable PFDs: 4 Steps to Prep Them for Fall

Is Your Inflatable Lifejacket Ready for the Fall Season?

The autumn boating season has arrived, and with it comes cooler water temperatures and concerns for safety. A fall overboard can get serious quickly, and wearing lifejackets or PFDs could give you extra time to survive. 

While many boaters have traditional floatation-filled lifejackets, an increasing number have switched to more modern inflatable ones, which require a little preparation each year. If you haven’t inspected your inflatable lifejacket and it’s gone through a summer’s worth of hard boating, now is a good time to take a close look at it.

Here’s a quick four-step prep for your inflatable lifejacket from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water:

  1. Open it up and look. Gently open the lifejacket, usually by pulling apart any hook-and-loop tape covers or flaps and then unfolding. Pay close attention because repacking it is essentially the reverse of this process. Inside you will find a thin-walled bladder, which is what keeps your head above water when inflated, so take your time looking for any tears or abrasions. Are the waist strap and all buckles in working condition?
  2. Remove the cartridge. Unscrew the CO2 cartridge and ensure it hasn’t been discharged, sometimes indicated by a small puncture in the center of the threaded end. Some inflators will have a green ready-to-go indicator. Check the cartridge and inflation mechanism for corrosion. Some inflator mechanisms have a little “pill” or “bobbin” that dissolves in water allowing for automatic inflation. It should be in good shape. If not, purchase a rearming kit.
  3. Test for leaks. Using your mouth, blow up the lifejacket using the manual-inflation tube found on the upper left front of the lifejacket. This tube may also be used as a back up to fill the jacket with air in an emergency, so familiarize yourself with how it works. Leave the fully inflated lifejacket alone for 24 hours to test for leaks.
  4. Repack. If, after the time is up and the lifejacket still holds air, deflate it and repack according to the instructions, which usually can be found on an inside flap. Now you’re ready for fall boating season!

For more information on the care of lifejackets, click here

About the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water

The BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is a national leader promoting safe, clean and responsible boating. Funded primarily by donations from the more than half-million members of Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS), the nonprofit provides innovative educational outreach directly to boaters and anglers with the aim of reducing accidents and fatalities, increasing stewardship of America's waterways and keeping boating safe for all. A range of boating safety courses, including 36 free state courses, can be found at