What Should You Do With A Torn Life Jacket?

While the best thing to do is discard your torn life jacket and replace it, this isn’t always possible. You may need to save up or wait for the trip to end before you can get a new one. Whichever dilemma pertains to your situation, it is always good to have a plan B.

Any boat enthusiast has had to deal with a torn life jacket at some time or another. It might seem like a minor problem; however, experts know that it’s not long before a tear can eliminate the life jacket’s buoyancy if you keep using it in a torn condition.

Whether you are on your way to a boat trip or already sailing the vastness of the ocean, discovering you have a torn life jacket could evoke anxiety in the calmest of us.

What Are You Supposed To Do With A Torn Life Jacket?

If you find a tear in your life jacket, the best step is to replace it. Life jackets are designed to save lives, not endanger them further. A torn jacket could mean the difference between life and death. This is not to frighten you, but it is always good to pray for the best and plan for the worst.

A seemingly innocent tear in your life jacket will become your worst nightmare if a fishing trip turns into a turbulent sea storm survival ordeal. If you were to go overboard, you would instantly regret not attending to that tear in your life jacket as you slowly lose buoyancy.

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How Do You “Fix” A Torn Life Jacket Temporarily?

Luckily, in today’s life of DIYs and endless information on how to fix anything, anywhere, anytime, you will be glad to know that there are legitimate temporary fixes you can apply to a torn life jacket.

⚠️ Important: These methods will provide a temporary fix until you find a permanent solution.

If you have a torn life jacket, this article will discuss how you can keep things at bay with easy temporary quick fixes to repair the tear until you can replace it. When it comes to boats and water, it is always safety first!

There are a few temporary fixes you may attempt if you don’t have a new life jacket handy to replace the torn one. Both of these solutions are viable options for short-term fixes.

Use a Fabric Patch Repair Kit To Patch The Torn Part

Using a cloth patch kit is a terrific option for a quick, effective remedy of the outer fabric. It will help you until you can get a new life jacket.

Use Duct Tape To Cover The Torn Area

You can use duct tape to repair the tear temporarily. It’s not the best “quick repair,” but it might hold you over until you can purchase a new life jacket.

How Often Should You Service A Life Jacket?

If you are comfortable with your skills, you could service your own lifejacket. If the maintenance instructions are not printed on the life jacket, it’s likely the manufacturer has them posted on their website.

Corrosion or damage can severely reduce a life jacket’s efficacy. It’s safe to say that a foam life jacket won’t last much more than ten years.

Commercially produced life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) recommended replacement interval is more frequent.

Expiration dates are typically printed on the side of the CO2 cartridge used in inflatable life jackets. How long a single cartridge lasts can fluctuate, but most should last between one and three years out of a single purchase.

Professional maintenance on an inflated life jacket is recommended once a year at the very minimum. Maintenance ensures the CO2 cylinder, inflating mechanism, Hydrostatic Release Unit (HRU), and bladder are all functioning correctly to ensure 100% safety.

A life jacket that hasn’t been maintained in a while should be serviced as soon as possible, and the owner should preserve the service certificate and receipt as proof of service.

Frequently Asked

How Often Should You Replace A Life Jacket?

Replacing a life jacket depends on its quality and condition. Some life jackets can last for 10+ years even if used regularly. However, if you notice the following, it is probably best to replace your life jacket;

The Life Jacket Is Moldy: If life vests are kept in a damp area without ventilation, mold can grow on them. While mold on a life jacket won’t stop it from floating, it isn’t good for your health, so take precautions. Buying a new PFD can be necessary if you find it impossible to clean the old one.

Excessive Sunlight Exposure Has Scorched The Life Jacket: Too much time in the sun can burn the outer fabric of life jackets. Most life vests are made with synthetic shells that break down in the sun.

Straps, buckles, and fabric deteriorate under the intense UV rays of direct sunlight. After a jacket has dried, hang it in a well-ventilated closet or boathouse as soon as possible. If the material starts tearing, replacing it would be best.

The Life Jacket Is Torn: Patching or taping a tear will only get you so far, and as mentioned before, when a life jacket is torn, the best solution is to replace it.

How Long Will A Torn Life Jacket Keep You Afloat?

Often things happen that are entirely out of our control. Realizing your life jacket is torn when you’re already onboard and out on the water is an example of such a situation.

If you notice you are wearing a torn life jacket, how long will it keep your head above water?

The answer depends on the severity of the tear and the overall condition of the life jacket. If the inner material has been in the water too long, your life jacket will lose buoyancy. A torn life jacket is estimated to keep a wearer afloat for at least 24 hours.

Do Life Jackets Expire?

Not necessarily. Even if life jackets don’t have a definitive end-of-life date printed on their labels, it doesn’t imply you may use them indefinitely.

An unkempt life jacket won’t have the same lifespan as one serviced and maintained following the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Many people take the purpose of a life jacket for granted until it is too late. Therefore, always read the care instructions and try your best to follow them.

What To Do With Old Life Jackets?

Apart from discarding them once you’ve replaced your old, torn personal flotation device, there are a few innovative ways to repurpose your old life vest. These include;

  • Use them as seats in your dinghy or any other boat.
  • Use them for target practice.
  • Remove the inside material and use it as a dog or cat bed filling.
  • Hang it in your ocean-themed bar.

After you have disposed of the old life jacket, check out these best sailing life jackets on the market today.

Closing Remarks

It doesn’t matter whether you are out for a quick fishing trip or a longer sea excursion; you should never get onto a boat, yacht, canoe, kayak, or any other vessel wearing a torn life jacket.

Ensure that you check all life-saving appliances and take all the necessary safety precautions before sailing from solid ground. If you discover a tear in your life jacket, place duct tape over it or patch the tear until you can immediately replace it when you get to shore.

Ensure that you have your life jackets serviced annually, and when not in use, hang them in a boathouse or closet that receives sufficient airflow.

Please don’t leave a life jacket out in direct sunlight or store it in a box or container without ventilation, especially if it is still damp. That’s a sure way to get rotten material.

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Sailing Savvy. I spent a decade working as a professional mariner and currently, I mix those experiences with digital publishing. Welcome, and I hope that we can be the hub you need for safe passage.