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November 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 37, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Nobody Wants a Bursting Scuba Hose

questions arise about Miflexís high-pressure hoses

from the November, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Miflex, based in the U.K., produces double-braided polyester-high pressure hoses, claiming they are more flexible, durable, stronger and, very important to traveling divers these days, weigh less than other high pressure hoses, shaving ounces off packed dive gear. But there now is a question about how safe its hoses are.

We got our first comments about Miflex's high-pressure (HP) hoses from reader Mike Cavanaugh (Bellaire, TX), who had two of them break within 24 hours during a dive trip to Sipadan-Mabul Resort. "While checking subsequent tanks with my personal regulator after dinner, a Miflex HP hose broke at the gauge console. The resort manager arranged a golf cart to carry us to the dive shop, which promptly changed the hose out. But then another Miflex HP hose also bust at the console the following day on the boat. These Miflex hosess are only two years old, and I am quite anal about taking care of my gear, so the hoses were not abused. I have quit using Miflex for HP hoses."

Cavanaugh's not alone. In our October e-newsletter, we asked subscribers if they too had had problems with HP hoses. A few said they had. One is Tony Anschutz, owner of the ScubaTony dive shop in Cozumel, who had bought the Miflex HP hose four months ago and used it on approximately 100 dives. After surfacing from one, he was changing tanks and opening the valve on a fresh one, when the HP hose blew out in. "Not at either end but right in the middle. I contacted the U.S. distributor, and a replacement hose was sent out quickly, so customer service is great. I use Miflex hoses for my regulator but I would be hesitant to recommend the HP hose, due to catastrophic failure."

Richard Burr (Dover, DE) was one reader who had not had any problems, but he was still concerned. "I've been using the Miflex HP hoses on my rebreather and bailout regulators for three years now and never had any issues. But I'm an active member of dive forums and I see way too many reports of the HP hoses failing. Most are at the crimp points, but there are a fair number at in the middle of the hoses. Hard to say if the hoses were abused in one way or another, but there are almost no complaints of standard HP hoses bursting. In my mind, no one should be using these hoses until some real improvements are made, and I'm not talking about the silly hose protector MiFlex put on to "address" the issue.

The notable issue around Miflex HP hose bursts is that the first generation of hoses produced had a swaged metal ferrule at the ends. The burst problem occurred there, at the end of the metal ferrule, either from unequal stresses or the hose getting bent hard against the end of the ferrule. Miflex's newer version now has a rubber-like stress protector over the metal ferrule, relieving that stress point. But there's still concern, as Burr points out above, whether that addition does the trick. (We e-mailed Miflex three times and called theur U.S. distributor, XS Scuba, to ask about their hose fixers and to address their concerns, but they didn't reply by press time).

Dive shop owners are also split on whether to sell Miflex HP hoses. Mark Derrick, owner of Dive Gear Express in Pompano Beach, FL, notes on his website that Miflex had problems with the hose failing at the fitting, but the problems have been resolved, and he can't find difference in quality between Miflex's hose and that of its competitor, Phantom. "We've sold 900 of these hoses since 2009 and have had roughly 20 returns but the main reason is because customers were very nervous about how thin the hose was, and so they had thought they were weaker," Derrick told Undercurrent. "But the failure rate is in line with ordinary HP hoses." He thinks Miflex's stress-protection solution does the trick. "It also makes the hose work in standard boots and fills because it increases the HP hose's diameter to that of a standard hose."

Derrick thinks the concern about the hoses is overblown. "Once something starts on the Internet, the focus increases, but that doesn't make it true. There's a lot of chatter about the problem, but there's actually not a lot of problems."

Joel Silverstein, vice-president of Tech Diving Limited in Lake Havasu, AZ, disagrees. "We've seen enough field reports about Miflex hoses leaking in the ferrules, that we as a retailer chose to no longer sell them. Even after Miflex's fix, I still hear complaints about them leaking." He says his shop doesn't sell hose protectors "because they don't protect hoses, they're never installed properly and they typically weaken the fill area when the hose is pulled and stretched into its protector."

He recommends divers go for the Phantom HP hose, which is thicker than a Miflex hose . "We've had zero of their hoses come back, I have them on my personal gear and have seen no bubbling whatsoever, unlike on our internal evaluations of Miflex hoses."

No matter what type or brand of hose you buy, remember that they're just like car tires - they won't last forever, so they need to be replaced regularly. Silverstein says the average lifespan of a hose is five to 10 years, based on your number of dives. "Most divers are under the misconception that a hose should last forever," says Silverstein. "It's a consumable item, just like wetsuits or drysuit seals. Any rubber product put under stress should be replaced on a regular basis."

- - Vanessa Richardson

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