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November 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Equipment Issues from our Readers

are there Cobalt computer problems?

from the November, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Larry Molnar (Cleveland, OH) thought we were too dramatic when we wrote about the Zeagle recall in October, suggesting that if a BCD buoyancy cell split at the surface, the user might plunge to the depths. He suggests a properly weighted diver would stay comfortably at the surface.

This might be true at the end of a dive, but a properly weighted diver would carry enough weight to account for the loss of weight of the air used during the dive. This could be as much as eight pounds (3.5kg), depending on the tank. So if the BCD split at the surface at the beginning of a dive when the tank was full, down the diver would go.

In my days as a test diver, this happened to me twice with prototype BCDs, where the buoyancy cell had not been welded properly. I can assure you, it resulted in some hard finning upward!

Michael Lay wrote that two members of the group he went with to Bonaire needed to take their regulators to a dive shop for attention after the checkout dive, even though they had been serviced at home before the trip. The technician said he saw lots of similar incidents, and told them it was better to leave a three-year gap between servicing.

Michael says, "Given the high cost of servicing gear, this would make sense. For the cost of three service visits, I can usually replace the item for the same amount of money. I would love to hear from other readers on this."

It's common for a regulator appearing to need adjustment immediately after a service and the first dive. Any liveaboard dive guide will tell you how often they hear a gushing regulator on the aft deck, accompanied by the words, "I don't understand it. I've just had it serviced."

While there are regulators that only require servicing every three years (Atomic regulators come to mind), most need servicing more frequently. The problem arises in that the replacement valve (lowpressure) seat used within the mechanism usually needs to 'bed' against the metal or plastic orifice so that the regulator will almost certainly need readjusting after the first dive despite the best efforts of the servicing technician to set it up properly. There's a certain amount of engraving that takes place, too, and that takes place over time.

A good technician might take several hours to adjust a recently serviced regulator, returning to it time and time again. Since time is money, this is unlikely to happen. Regulators get serviced instead to 'manufacturer's standards.' So what do we learn from this?

It's best not to take a freshly serviced regulator on a dive trip without using it first, even if it means going to an inland site or even a sufficiently deep swimming pool. Use it and take it back for adjustment.

While praising Atomic regulators for their long service intervals, the same praise may not be due for the company's computers. Undercurrent subscriber Kent Roorda (Grand Lake, CO) wrote:

"I just read the article about bad depth sensors on Atomic Cobalt computers. Unfortunately, the article comes as no surprise to me and many other Cobalt owners. Atomic/Huish has replaced my Cobalt five times; three of which were due to bad pressure sensors. My wife's Cobalt has been replaced three times due to bad sensors. They have also had numerous other problems. My relationship with the computer is a love/hate relationship. I love it when it works, and hate it every time it fails. Never -- until I purchased an Atomic Cobalt computer -- did I feel the need to carry a backup computer. But, in my opinion, a backup computer should be included with each new Cobalt.

"We just got back from a liveaboard trip in Komodo, and on that trip, the two other people who had Cobalt computers experienced failures with their depth sensors. Honestly, it is amazing that, with such a high rate of failure, no recall has been made."

Apparently Atomic Aquatics is aware of the problem, but officially they are tight-lipped. Not a good practice, when divers' lives are at stake, so until this is resolved, divers in the market for a computer might be wise to avoid the Cobalt. And if you have one -- well, for sure carry a backup, a good idea anyhow.

- John Bantin

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