What Causes a PFD to Wear Out Over Time? – When Should I Replace It?

For boat owners, the personal floatation device is one of the most vital bits of equipment that should be on your boat 24/7 as it might mean life or death for you. But in modern times, the use of PFD’s has diminished as they become less useful.

You should always ensure that the PFD fits you perfectly but also it’s important to maintain in a good condition as low-quality PFD’s will not perform well thus not keeping you safe. One thing that most boat owners fail to do is proper care and maintenance of their floatation device.

Just like every boat and accessories, the PFD’s tend to wear out with time, well if you have been wondering ‘What causes a PFD to wear out over time?’ Well, you have come to the right place. In this post, we are going to have a detailed and in-depth discussion on everything regarding PFD’s, we will also briefly talk about the best PFD currently on the market. Stay tuned it is going to be quite a ride!

The basic and fundamentals of PFD’s

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide.

According to studies and research carried out by the World Health Organization.

A lot of these accidents can be prevented as more than 90% of people who drown always admit to not having or putting on the floatation device. For those who wear high quality and good PFD, the chances of them drowning is zero.

Boat owners must ensure that the PFD’s on the boat are enough so that all the passengers out them on while out in the river or lake. Some of the most simple but vital rules to follow include:

  • Easy and Quick access of PFD’s: Each person on the boat should put on the floatation device as it’s the wise thing to do. Note that once in water, it might be a little bit difficult to put them on.   
  • Always ensure the jackets fit perfectly especially their chest and weight: For kids, you should always ensure that their floating device snug.

What are the main causes of wear and tear of PFD’s?

For boat owners, it’s usually important to know the factors that cause your PFD to wear out, by knowing the cause you’ll be in a better position to know how to care and store them which not only will enhance their lifespan but also improve their physical appeal.

Ultraviolet Radiation

One of the major causes of the wear and tear of the floatation device is the harmful UV rays from the sun, most of the PFD’s on the market are made of synthetic material and they are susceptible to being damaged by the sun rays.

You can easily tell that a faded PFD has been left exposed to the sun rays for a long time. If you are in the market for a floatation device, for your kayak or boat then you should always keep them away from direct sunlight.

Humidity and moisture

Another cause of wearing out of your floatation device is storing them in a wet or damp place. Placing your PFD on wet place will the buoyant materials to wear out quickly which will make your device not float very well?

The moisture and humidity on your jacket will make it to have mildew or mold, the floatation device must be air-dried constantly keeping them fresh and clean.

How to properly care for your PFD’s?

Proper storage 

There are multiple ways when it comes to storing your persona floating device, before putting your floating equipment in storage; you must ensure they are dry. The perfect place for storing a dry and cool place that is away from direct sunlight.

Storing your PFD’s on your garage or boxes in your box is the ideal place especially if you are using the floating devices for recreation or kayaking.

Inspecting the equipment before use

Before heading out on your boating adventure, it’s recommended to test your PFD’s to check on whether they are working properly. For those who are using inflatable equipment, examine them for air leakages before heading out.

Storing them in a dry and cool place will minimize mildew and mold formation.

Never tamper with your PFD

Tampering with your floating device affects its stability but also making it not Coast Guard Compliant. In case if you have a PFD that does not fit you or members of your entourage never try to force or alter their size, it’s better to purchase a new one that fits rather than trying to force it.


Never stand, knee, or exert pressure on your PFD as it changes the foam placement as well as putting additional wear and tear on the equipment which reduces its efficiency and the buoyancy design.

The main aim of proper handling is ensuring the PFD remains in its original shape and quality with the foam and feel remains the same just as new. Avoid folding or bending your PFD as it will significantly reduce its lifespan.


The persona floating device should always be worn when partaking in water activities or kayaking. Note that PFD should be worn on water but not outside it, there is no point in wearing them on cars or in the house as it’s not designed for that. But always remember to wear it on land before going on the boat.


Cleaning might not seem important, but it contributes a lot in keeping your PFD in great shape and look. One of the main reasons for cleaning is the maintenance of its serviceability, always use environmentally friendly cleaning agents such as mild soaps with cold water.

Wipe both the interior and exterior, scrub every part from the buckles, straps, and cracks then rinse them thoroughly with cold water and leave it to air-dry. Never hang it on direct sunlight or near heat sources as it will tamper with the buoyancy and integrity of your floating device.

Testing of the PFD

Testing of the buoyancy of the floating device is simple and easy, all that is required is a shallow water body or a swimming pool. Always check your PFD’s before any boating trip, check for the following when inspecting your floating device. 

  • Torn or ripped material
  • Straps or zippers that don’t properly function
  • Illegible labels
  • Weak or discolored material.
  • Always replace or throw away any defective PFD.

For those looking for an inflatable PFD, the same rules and regulations apply. Always check the status of your inflator, double-check that the Co2 cylinder wasn’t used to ensure there are no leaks.

Everything should be tightly screwed, remove the cylinder and blow the PFD orally. The floating device should be firm even after being in the water for hours.

You must inflate your PFD with a cylinder and re-arm the cylinder. Regular maintenance of all mechanical devices your PFD should be done to ensure all the working parts. For optimal performance, follow your manual properly.

Types of floating devices  

Concerning varieties or types of PFD’s, you will be surprised there is a wide range of these devices on the market. Well, according to BoatUS, there five main types, for every type they are tailor-done for a specific activity, they are also used in specific water conditions.

For each type, they have their performance levels, max buoyancy rates, and limits. The five varieties are as follows:

Type 1: Inherent Buoyant Device

  • Excellent during storms, fishing or cruising in lakes
  • Has a minimum buoyancy rate of 22 lbs. and 11 lbs. for kids
  • It’s suitable for places where it’s a bit inaccessible for emergency divers
  • Used for unconscious wearers who go face-up

Type 1: Inflatable

  • Comfortable to put on
  • Suitable for fishing, boat racing, and cruising
  • Has a minimum buoyancy of 34 lbs.

Type 2: Inherent buoyancy

  • It’s much more comfortable but has a minimum buoyancy in comparison to type one
  • Needs treading of the water to stay up, in some instances it may turn the user face-up
  • Great for fishing, racing, or cruising, it’s also perfect for stormy or solo rides.

Type 2: Inflatable

  • It’s comfy but it may not turn an unconscious user face-up
  • Perfect for racing, inland cruising, and dinghy use.
  • Has a minimum buoyancy of 15 lbs.

Type 3: Inflatable

  • It has a minimum buoyancy of 22.5 lbs.
  • Excellent for dinghy races, regatta, and canoeing
  • Sometimes it may not turn an unconscious person face-up

Type 4: Throw Device

  • Its normally thrown overboard to assist users with supplement buoyancy
  • It’s not wearable
  • For cushions, it has a minimum buoyancy rate of 18 lbs. while the ring is 16.5 lbs.
  • On the craft, it should be kept at an arm’s length, for all the 4 above devices it should be done that way.

Type 5: Special Use Device

  • It’s comfy to put on
  • Not suitable for extendable use in turbulent or rough waters
  • It’s only used for its intended purpose like deck suits, commercial whitewater vests just to mention a few.

Type 5: Hybrids

  • Requires frequent maintenance
  • Activation requires the piercing of CO2 cartridge before the gas is released to inflate the floating device.
  • Good for rescuing activities

Type 5: Auto Inflation Models

  • Uses a combination of in-built foam features and CO2
  • Has a buoyancy capacity of 15.5- 22 lbs.
  • In case of drowning, it will not turn the victim face-up
  • It used for specialized use

Choosing an original and best PFD

what causes a pfd to wear out over time

Choosing a life jacket is dependent on the boating activities that you do, you’ll be wearing it for a long period so just make sure you choose the one that fits you and it’s comfy.

Some of the best colors you can select from are yellow and neon which enhances visibility, in the event of drowning you’ll be spotted quickly. During purchase, unwrap it from the case to see if it will fit you and ease of adjustment.

If it’s not easily adjustable, learn how to do it or get a bigger size. After trying it on land, then it’s time to test it on water. Get into a swimming pool or calm river and lay still, ensure the PFD holds you afloat with no effort.

In case an accident happens, the PFD will enable you to float safely till help arrives.

Top PFD’s on the market 

For those in the market for a personal floating device may it be for recreation or fishing, we always recommend to our users to go for a high-quality device that comes with plenty of features offering you robust protection.

Our top pick is Astral V-Eight Life Jacket, the floatation devices were specifically created for safety as it was made with PE and EVA foam inserts. It also has a buoyancy rate of 16 lbs.

Astral, V-Eight Fisher Life Jacket PFD for Kayak Fishing, Recreation and...
  • BREATHABLE: Airescape patented system eliminates excessive heat and...
  • DURABLE & LIGHTWEIGHT: Made with 400 x 200 Denier Ripstop Nylon shell...
  • BUILT FOR FISHING GEAR: 2 large mesh pockets, an external pocket for a...
  • MADE FOR SAFETY: Features PE and EVA foam inserts with a buoyancy...

The jacket is fitted with an Airescape system that maintains a conducive temperature as well as reduces excessive heat enabling you to stay fresh and cool especially during hot days. It also has two huge zippered front pockets for storing all your fishing and personal accessories.

The device comes in three sizes and with a wide variety of colors giving you a large pool of options to select from. Other exciting features include the Pre-shaped foam both at the back and front making the jacket a comfortable fit for both women and men


  • It’s unisex
  • Fairly lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Durable


  • The padded zipper makes it’s a bit difficult when zipping up

What are the main signs of wear out of PFD?

There are plenty of ways that you can tell whether your PFD is wearing out, fist you’ll notice tears and rips on the fabric which will signal an issue with the inner materials as well as damage. The foam materials that provide buoyancy should be sturdy and firm if it’s soggy then it times for a replacement.

The main question our heads is ‘When should you discard a PFD?’ Well, if your PFD has any of the above signs then it’s time to get a new one.


Keeping a personal floating device on your vital is very vital as it can be a key determinant between life and death. Always ensure you store them in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight, during purchase always go for a comfortable and durable PFD. In this post, we have discussed the causes of wear and tear of your PFD and how to take care of them which will enable you to get the most out of your floating device. Cheers!

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