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How to gear up for servicing regulators? Choosing the tools or kit(s) that are right for you

Posted by Pia Limpiyasrisakul on

We often get asked the question “What are all the tools to I need to service model X from brand Y?”. The word “all” in the above mentioned question is a bit daunting as this makes us wonder where to start:

Does the technician still need basic hand tools such as hex keys, spanners?

  • Does the technician still needs set-up equipment and instrumentation as pressure gauge(s) and in-line adjustment tools?
  • Does the technician still need basic scuba service tools like O-ring picks, vise handle….?
  • Does the technician still need cleaning equipment like an ultrasonic cleaner?
  • Does the technician already have some speciality service tools for those regulators?

 Furthermore:

  • The choice of tool(s) is often dependent on personal preference of the technician. You could draw an analogy with choosing a car. Some will prefer brand X over brand Y and then within brand X some will prefer colour A over colour B.

A good place to start creating a list of tools required to service a specific regulator is to read the service manual of that specific regulator and compile your list as you read through the instructions.

At Scuba Clinic Tools we have had “service tool kits” for a while and with the above in mind, we have redesigned our kits and made them more modular. This will make them more versatile, easier to choose from and eliminate duplicates in the several kits (to the extend this is possible).  Our “turnkey” kits have been designed with dive centres and professional scuba repair centres in mind. They will get you going fast with a minimum amount of fuss. The correct tools for the job will make the overhaul more efficient and reduce the risk of damage to the regulator.

So how did we approach our kits and how can you as a technician or service centre choose the correct tools or tool kits to get the job done? Guide yourself by asking yourself the following 7 questions. If you opt to compile your own set of tools, use the content of our kits and the text below as a guideline.

1/ Do you need basic hand tools?

Regardless of brand, you will need some basic hand tools like spanners and hex keys. Our “hand tools kit” will provide you with the essentials. Some of the items the kit includes:

  • A basic range of metric and imperial spanners
  • Metric and imperial hex keys
  • A torque wrench: an imperative tool to work on any brand
  • Side cutters for removing zip-ties from mouthpieces
  • A basic 3/8 socket wrench and adaptors

For the occasional service job you likely get away without a vise. However in a professional environment, we recommend to have the workstation equipped with a vise so regulator bodies can be securely held in place whilst items are loosened or tightened in place. Often the use of soft jaws is recommended to avoid damage to delicate parts. We offer two models of soft jaws: magnetic soft jaws and magnetic soft jaws with a v-groove.

In your basic hand tool kit, a socket set both in metric as imperial sizes is recommended.

2/ Do you need basic service tools?

Irrespective of brand or regulator type there will be some regulator specific service tools – other than standard/basic hand tools - that are required. Our “basic service tools kit” and “thin wrench kit“ will provide you with the essentials. Some of the items the kit includes:

  • O-ring pick set
  • Vise handle for first stages: an imperative tool to work on any first stage
  • Slotted orifice driver and orifice extractor
  • Wiha tool set: basic screw drivers, ¼” and 5.5mm nut driver (essential for the locking nuts on many unbalanced second stages)
  • 6 mm long socket: used as an extension for our yoke nut sockets and useful for many DIN retainers on first stages
  • Internal circlip pliers
  • Air gun
  • A neoprene service mat
  • Plastic syringe for easy application of lubricants
  • High pressure seat extractor and universal bullet for piston first stages, the high pressure seat extractor is an essential tool to work on any unbalanced piston first stage
  • Schrader valve stem tool
  • Jewellers eyepiece
  • Haemostat forceps: hold tiny parts, install exhaust valve

3/ Do you need cleaning equipment?

After disassembly the regulator parts will require cleaning. The fastest and most efficient way to achieve this is by means of an ultrasonic cleaner.

4/ Do you need an air supply?

Cleaned parts require drying and once the regulator is re-assembled it will need to be set-up and tested. Those steps require the availability of an air supply. This either can be breathing air out of high pressure scuba cylinders or breathing air supplied by an air bank.

For those who want to be able to test and set up fist stages under a variety of supply pressures, we offer an "adjustable bench air supply".

5/ Do you need instrumentation?

Prior to disassembly it is recommended to check the “health” of the regulator. Also during the set-up procedures and final testing some parameters like the intermediate pressure and the cracking effort are to be evaluated.

In order to do so, required are an intermediate pressure gauge and a differential pressure gauge. We offer a "basic" , "digital basic", "analogue advanced" and a "digital advanced" set-up tool kit.

The advanced set-up tool kits are recommended for the professional repair facility. Alternatively you can purchase the gauges individually to suit your needs. A selection of panels is available for the gauges.

6/ Do you need an in-line adjustment tool?

The use of an in-line adjustment tool greatly improves the ease of setting up the lever height of second stage regulators. It’s our opinion that the professional repair facility cannot go without one. We even recommend the use of 2 in-line adjustment tools simultaneously so the set-up of the primary second stage and alternate air source can be done at the same time (again saving time).

Which type you choose is personal:

  • The "unbalanced" versions are “harder” to use: the air pressure pushes the adjuster away from the orifice so the adjuster has to be pushed against the air pressure any time and adjustment is to be made in order for the adjuster to contact the orifice.
  • The "balanced" version is “lighter” to use: the air pressure is working on both sides of the adjuster, hence once the adjuster is positioned it will stay in place.

Only our balanced model has a “dual drive” that with be suitable for both slotted and hex drive orifices. Be aware that current regulator models in some brands have a slotted orifice, whilst older models have a hex orifice (e.g. Aqualung) or might use both (e.g. Apeks).

Finally you might require some adapter for your inline adjustment tool. We offer the following:

Although some of our in-line adjustment tools feature a pressure gauge, we do not recommend using this gauge to set up the intermediate pressure. These gauges are simply too small and inaccurate for this purpose. In our opinion these gauges serve to indicate the moment the poppet and orifice separate by indicating a drop in the intermediate pressure, hence giving a visual clue for this critical adjustment point.

7/ Do you need speciality service tools?

Each brand and likely each model will have their own specific speciality tools. Examples are model specific cover tools, lever height setting tools, custom sockets... These speciality tools really facilitate the workflow, reduce the risk of damage and sometimes are just a necessary item one cannot do without. The latter really is applicable for lever height setting tools. For several brand we offer “speciality tools kits”. They come as:

  • Starter: speciality tools required for current entry level models (unbalanced) and BCD’s
  • Advanced: speciality tools required for current advanced level models (balanced)
  • Vintage: speciality tools for previous ranges and vintage models

 The kits are complementary which means that you will require as well tools from the “basic” kits for the service of regulators in the “advanced” kits. The same applies to the “vintage” kits which will require tools from both the “starter” and “advanced”.

Another option is to just acquire the individual speciality tools you require to get a specific job done. Our kits will not cover all models. For some models it might be required to purchase individual speciality tools. For other brands we do not offer a speciality tools kit and the speciality tools are to be purchased individually.

TIP:

How to store your tools? As you can imagine if you work on many different brands the range of tools will become extensive and very quickly you shop can turn into an unorganized chaos. What we found to work is to keep the basic hand tools and basic service tools readily available e.g. on a peg board in front of your working area. We keep our brand specific speciality tools in separate boxes. So if we have to work on brand X we pull box X out of the cupboard. You also could organize the brand specific tools in separate drawers…

IMPORTANT NOTE:

If I buy a tool specific tool kit, does that mean that I won’t need any other tools to service a regulator? The answer is NO.

The reason for this is that our kits are modular and allow you to purchase them as your needs grow, avoiding the purchase of many duplicate tools across the different brands.

If for instance you purchase an advanced kit, you still will need some items out of the basic tool kit of the same brand. You also will require some general hand tools, some items from our ‘basic service tools kit’, instrumentation and possibly an appropriate in-line adjustment tool.

If for instance you purchase a basic kit, you also will require some general hand tools, some items from our ‘basic service tools kit’, instrumentation and possibly an appropriate in-line adjustment tool.

Be aware that manufacturers sometimes change the service procedure that might warrant the use of new specialized tools not offered in the kit.

DISCLAIMER:

Nothing contained in these notes or shall be construed to over-ride or replace the relevant standards or manufacturer’s recommendations, manuals, data or product specific training. The contents are believed to be correct to the best of our knowledge and are offered in good faith. No warranty is expressed or implied. The author, Scuba Clinic Co., Ltd. accept no liability for any loss, damage or injury however caused resulting from information contained in these notes. It is the responsibility of the reader to verify the correct information, practises and procedures prior to commencing work.


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