My experience with a self-inflating PDF

Started by tjspiel, May 22, 2023, 10:01 PM

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I was on a sailing trip last week (which I will post about later) and brought along my self-inflating PFD.

Getting the CO2 cartridges through the airport security checkpoints was a hassle and I was stopped each time. The people working the line knew what they were but had to check with a supervisor before allowing me to move along. Not a big deal but don't try to cut too things close time-wise if you're flying with one of these.

Still I was glad I had it. Took up much less space than a traditional PFD and not as bulky and dorky as the orange things the charter company provides.

Mine is 3 years old which meant the original "bobbin" was about to expire so I along with someone else on the trip decided to test the PFDs on the last day by jumping in the water with them.

Not sure exactly what I was expecting but inflation was not instant, it took a few seconds. And it also wasn't complete. The velcro on one side of the PFD didn't release completely, - which was a little worrisome. It was not hard to open it the rest of the way myself but I was surprised I had to do it.

I've done a little research and apparently the manufacturers consider this "normal". Here's what I found on this site:

QuoteI emailed them. Here is my inquiry:


I have an A-24 that is now 3 years old. I decided to test the jacket in the water because I was planning on installing a new rearming kit. The jacket inflated but one side stayed shut. This jacket has never been inflated since I purchased it so this is how it was shipped.

I have video of this if interested.

Is there anything that can be done to avoid this situation when I repack and install the the rearming kit?

Is it possible something is defective?

This seems potentially dangerous if it doesn't inflate properly when I need it.

Matt Wodziak

Their response:

Hi Matt,
Thank you for testing out your inflatable life jacket. We understand your concern, but please be reassured that your vest did perform properly. The vest in equipped with only 1 chamber in its bladder. In order to meet USCG approval, we need to use a very strong Velcro, which becomes less "sticky" with each use and so we need it to start out strong to last the life of the vest. When the vest has not inflated while wearing under water, the hook and loop may need help to fully open up upon the first inflation. Once you repack it, we do not foresee this happening again. If you were in a situation that you needed the vest and a bit of the Velcro did not give way completely, you would simply 'help' it along by sliding your finger to open the rest of it up. The water pressure also helps give the force needed to fully open up the hook and loop.

Please advise if you have further questions or concerns.


Anyway he's a pic of me floating with it fully inflated:

You cannot view this attachment.

Brian N.

Although I've never tested mine, I did have questions about the Velcro closure being too stiff. Good to know it is normal and not a problem. My jacket is about 5 years old, so I guess I'll do the same (jump in to the water) before replacing the CO2 cartridge.
Fair winds
Brian N.

Dave Scobie

I manually inflate my automatic PFD yearly.  It sits overnight and should not lose pressure.  I've also done a few inflation tests using the CO cartridge and always had full chamber inflation.  Yes it isn't 'boom' like a car airbag, takes a several seconds.  PFD is a Mustang Survival brand.

I encourage everyone to check and follow their PDF manuals for the yearly and monthly service recommendations.

Another recommendation is to get a crotch strap for your PFDs.  Without they are likely to ride up and for some even interfere with breathing or even come off!


I had an inadvertent test once, was out with my young niece and nephew, and at the end of the day- I'd even forgotten my PFD was on- someone carelessly threw a line over the transom and it got caught in the prop- so I cut the motor and dove in trying to quickly untangle, but the Mustang inflated immediately, sort of trapping me for a moment. It was more a shock than a danger, but a good demonstration of how the device worked when submerged.


What wasn't clear to me during the test was how much or how little of a problem it was that one side didn't completely open. The Adriatic isn't as salty as the Mediterranean, but's still pretty salty compared to most places and I was wearing a wetsuit top, - so I was already plenty buoyant.

I'll try another test in 3 years, this time in a lake to see if the manufacturer was correct in that once it opens the first time it will open easier after that. Or if it doesn't completely open, how well it keep my face out of the water.


Interesting Tom. The last time my Kent A|33 Insight was due for a bobbin replacement, I didn't jump in the water with it on, but I threw it in a bathtub full of water. With a startlingly loud bang, it fully inflated in about 2-3 seconds. I think next time I will jump into the water, and see if actually being worn while inflating has a different effect on whether the velcro fully separates?

Can't wait to hear about your trip!
1985 Rebel Spindrift 22 - Rum Line
1985 Achilles RIB - Achilles Last Stand