The short answer is no. PFDs, life vests and Life Jackets do not have official expiry dates.
However frequent use, wear and tear, and prolonged exposure to the elements eventually make life jackets unfit for use. In traditional life jackets, the foam progressively loses its buoyancy and ability to effectively keep the head above water. Inflatable life jackets have carbon dioxide (CO2) tanks responsible for inflation that expire according to manufacturer recommendations.
How do I know if my life jacket has expired?
While life jackets don’t have expiry dates, there are several factors to consider when deciding if a PFD has reached the end of its lifespan. Firstly, how long has it been since you bought it and how frequently have you used it? A life jacket that has been used every weekend for two years probably needs replacing. If you are unsure, check out the testing criteria below.
At-Home Life Jacket Expiry Test
The easiest way to test whether a foam life jacket has expired is to conduct an in-water test.
Step 1: Check for visible signs of wear or damage.
Before going near the water, examine your life jacket for tears, mould, the integrity of the stitching, and significant discoloration. If there are visible signs of damage, get your life jacket replaced before you need it next.
Step 2: Place the life jacket over your body and secure it firmly. Find some waist-deep water.
If the life jacket looks okay from the outside, seek out a pool or a calm beach. These serve as controlled and low-risk life jacket testing environments.
Step 3: Slowly submerge yourself in the water to check flotation ability.
Lift your feet from the sand or pool floor and determine how easy it is to float. If you have to tread water to keep yourself afloat or support your head to breathe, the life jacket is no longer functional. It is likely that the foam inside of your life jacket has degraded and is no longer safe to use.
How often should life jackets be replaced?
The answer to this question depends mainly on usage. For dinghy sailors or kayakers who rely on the effectiveness of a PFD every weekend over the summer and winter training periods, lifejackets should be replaced after approximately 12-24 months or when they show signs of significant wear.
Investing in a specifically designed lifejacket for your watersport offers the best value in safety, longevity, and cost-effectiveness. The Vaikobi PFD Lifejacket collection has a range of purpose-specific and durable life jackets designed to keep up with even the most active paddlers and sailors.
For dinghy sailors, the VX Race PFD Life Jacket has a minimal, stylish profile made from highly durable material for maximum comfort and performance. Its neoprene shoulder and side panels will provide a lasting firm fit.
For paddle sports, the V3 Ocean Racing PFD Life Jacket has a super lightweight and breathable design with padded shoulders, form-fitting foam, and a hydration compartment located on the back. All Vaikobi lifejackets are ISO 12402-5 certified (50N buoyancy).
Life jackets stored or used less frequently on yachts and larger vessels don’t need replacing as often. Annual servicing of inflatable PFDs to check that the bladder, Co2 cylinder, reflective tapes, buckles, and straps are in working order is the best way to decide if a replacement is necessary.
So the bottom-line answer to “do life jackets have an expiry date?” is no, but it doesn’t mean that they will last forever. Keep yourself, your friends, and your family safe on the water by regularly checking and replacing buoyancy aids.
Check out the Vaikobi PFDs and life jacket collection page to read more about our products.