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January 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 25, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Good Technicians Are Going Extinct at Dive Shops

from the January, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Servicing can be hit or miss, as many divers find out when their newly serviced regulators free-flow or don’t perform on their first dive. Some Undercurrent readers noted on our online forum that the most dangerous moments they had with their regulators happened just after they were serviced at the dive shop.

Joel S. (Sacramento, CA) said, “Once I had a free-flow problem after the annual servicing. Another time, the hose from the second stage wasn’t tightly secured to the first stage.” Ken Katz (Livingston, NJ) tested his Mares regulator on a tank just after servicing and found it wouldn’t breathe. “The seal was installed backwards. Very embarrassing to the technician.”

A qualified, certified technician is hard to come by. “That’s why it takes two weeks for your regulator to get serviced,” says Al Pendergrass, senior technician at regulator servicer AirTech in Raleigh, NC. “Many dive shops don’t have qualified technicians, so they send the regulators to us.”

How does one get certified? Each regulator manufacturer offers a number of technical training seminars every year. Training is held at big dive shows like DEMA and Under the Sea but manufacturers also have regional training sessions and even send trainers to big dive shops. The more seminars one attends, the more experience one gleans. There are specific regulator-servicing schools; LeisurePro’s repair department head went to one for a week, spending up to eight hours a day doing servicing and earning an official certification. But the standard method is just attending as many seminars as possible. LeisurePro repair technician Brett Holmes says, “I didn’t go to a specific school but I came here after working in the service departments for two dive gear manufacturers. I attend each manufacturer’s service course, and each one recommends two to three courses a year. Each course is a half-day of cases about general servicing, plus specific requirements for that brand.” But for dive shops with a thin profit margin, the costs to travel to DEMA and other places for training can be too much.”

Low salaries mean technicians come and go quickly, says Roy Gresham, a dive gear technician in Seattle with 18 years of experience. “Besides me, there’s only one other guy in the Puget Sound area who can be considered a professional. Most technicians are making $10 to $15 an hour, some earn less, darn few of us earn more.” He knows poor service is a problem because people bring in their regulators to him right after servicing them elsewhere. “Many facilities don’t have the necessary items to run a service shop. But I wonder if the boss is pushing his technician to get stuff out the door rapidly, or the guy’s just not qualified?”

What’s a diver to do? Before you turn over your regulator to a dive shop for a tune-up or a repair, ask who will do it and what his training is.

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