FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions


What are Inflatable Life Jackets and how do they work?

Inflatable life jackets rely on inflatable chambers that provide buoyancy when inflated. Uninflated, inflatable life jackets are less bulky than inherently buoyant life jacket. All inflatables contain a backup oral inflation tube (and serves as a deflation tube)

Can I wear my inflatable life jacket (PFD) in cold water conditions?

We DO NOT recommend wearing inflatable life jackets in any open waters when the air temperatures are below 40°F (4°C).

Oral inflation may be required in addition to manual inflation if chamber is not firm due to cold temperatures at or below 40°F (4°C). Inflation time using CO2 will be longer at these temperatures.

Never use in below freezing temperatures unless worn partially inflated. At or below 40°F (4°C) inflation time with CO2 gas will be longer. Wearing a partially inflated PFD under these conditions will provide some initial buoyancy while the PFD fully inflates.

CAUTION: Do not fully inflate the PFD orally and then inflate with the CO2 cylinder. Repeated CO2 inflation after oral inflation will damage the PFD to the point that it will not hold air or float. Never inflate an inflatable PFD with a pump or air compressor.

Can I bring my Inflatable Life Jacket (IPFD) on a plane with me?

In regard to the CO2 cylinders for the inflatable life jackets, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) allows for the following: Small compressed gas cartridges (Up to 2 in life vests and 2 spares. The spares must accompany the life vests and presented as one unit). This includes both carry-on and checked baggage.

You should always check with your airline's policy before your flight. For more information regarding rules and regulations on flights, please visit the website for the Transportation Safety Administration. http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/prohibited-items

What is an Inflatable Device?

  • Traditionally, Personal Flotation Devices use inherently buoyant materials, such as foam, to stay afloat
  • Inflatable PFDs rely on inflatable chambers that provide buoyancy.
  • Un-inflated, inflatable PFDs are less bulky than inherently buoyant PFDs thus making them cooler on a hot day

Inflatable PFD Characteristics

  • Not recommended for weak swimmers or non-swimmers
  • Not for use for active watersports activities
    • Skiing, tubing, wakeboarding, white water or PWC
  • Requires regular user checks & maintenance
  • U.S. Coast Guard approved for 16 years of age and older

 Inflatable PFD Advantages

  • Comfortable for continuous wear in hot weather
  • Lightweight, compact design
  • Least bulky of all designs
  • Good buoyancy when inflated
    • For most adults, a PFD with just 15-1/2 lbs. of buoyancy will provide adequate lift and protection in calm water where fast rescue is likely
  • Available in one universal adult size

 Things to consider before choosing an Inflatable PFD

  • Will not float you without inflation
  • Needs proper rearming and maintenance to float you
  • Some users may need assistance to properly rearm inflator
  • Some, but not all, need to be worn to be in compliance with the United States Coast Guard
    • Read the label on the inside of the inflatable. It will indicate if it has to be worn or not to be legal.

I do not know how to swim. Should I use an Inflatable PFD?

  • A non-swimmer could panic in an unexpected fall into the water, and forget they may need to activate the inflator mechanism.
  • Non-swimmers would be advised to use an inherently buoyant or hybrid PFD that provides flotation without any action on their part

Is there an age requirement for inflatable PFDs?

  • Inflatables are only approved for use by people 16 years and older. People under the age of 16 must have inherently buoyant or hybrid device in their size range on board the boat to meet the carriage requirements.

Are Inflatable PFDs approved for all water activities?

  • Fully inflatable PFDs are not approved for high speed applications such as riding a PWC, waterskiing, or tubing.
  • Inflatables are not approved for white water activities
  • For these activities, the user needs buoyancy while in the water. It is not reasonable to expect that the wearer would stop, deflate the chamber, rearm the inflator, and repack the PFD after each water entry

Will any CO2 cylinder work?

  • It is important to use a rearm kit that includes a cylinder that is supplied by the maker of the vest. There are a variety of CO2 cylinders in stores for various uses.
  • The correct cylinder to use will be indicated on the PFD itself and in the Owner’s Manual or can be obtained by calling the PFD manufacturer.

Can I use my CO2 Cylinder more than once?

  • Once the cylinder has been punctured all the gas will escape into the chamber. Therefore you need to check to see if the cylinder is full before each outing.
  • If your device has a CYLINDER SEAL INDICATOR, it will show GREEN if the cylinder is full. If it shows RED, you must replace the cylinder.

How should I maintain my inflatable?

  • You need to unscrew the cylinder and examine the seal to be sure that it has not been broken or pierced.
  • Frequent inspections are important. Read your Owner’s Manual.

Can I wear my Inflatable Life Jacket under other clothing?

No, inflatable life jackets are designed to wear over your clothing (sweatshirt, jacket, shirt, etc.)  Do not wear these vests under any type of clothing.

What does it mean for an inflatable life jacket to be converted to Manual Only Inflation?

Some KENT Automatic/Manual inflatable life jackets can be converted to manual only inflation for those times when you are in marine working environments where there is a good chance you may get wet or could end up in the water.  If this happens, you just pull the inflation cord so the vest will inflate and keep you safely floating when you are immersed in water.

Where do I find the Yellow Cap to convert my Inflatable Life Jacket to “Manual Only”?

For the Kent Inflatable Life Jackets that allow for “manual only” conversion using the Yellow “manual only” conversion cap, please follow these steps to convert to Manual Only. 

  1. Locate yellow “Manual” cap. It is in the Velcro pocket on the back side of the life jacket panel
  2. Unscrew the CO2 cylinder from the inflation mechanism, then remove the clear cap and yellow bobbin
  3. Install the yellow “Manual” cap snugly onto the inflation mechanism (a Warning flag should remain exposed on the outside of the PFD).
  4. Inspect the CO2 cylinder to make sure it is not punctured or damaged, then install the cylinder by rotating it clockwise into the inflation mechanism until the CO2 is firmly installed. Do NOT over-tighten.
  5. Re-pack your Inflatable Life Jacket and make sure the manual inflation “Warning” label and Yellow “Jerk to Inflate” inflation tab are visible on the outside of your life jacket

How do I deflate my inflatable life jacket?

Locate the red oral inflation tube. Remove the black at top cap and invert it into the oral tube and hold. While holding the black cap down, squeeze the air out of the inflated chamber. All air must be out of the inflatable chamber before repacking.

Once air has been expelled through the oral tube, replace the black cap to its original position and proceed to re-arm (if necessary) and repack the device. (See our Rearming & Repacking videos on this Website)

Do CO2 cylinders expire?

CO2 cylinders are good for one (1) inflation only and cannot be recharged. CO2 cylinders are made with a protective coating that may wear off after a period of use or exposure to the environment. When

this coating is worn off, the CO2 cylinder may begin to show signs of rusting. If this occurs, replace the CO2 cylinder.

The CO2 cylinder contains the gas charge that will inflate your PFD when the inflation mechanism is fired. You must verify that the CO2 cylinder is of the correct size and has not been previously fired. See the

SPECIFICATIONS section on the front cover of your owner’s manual to determine the proper CO2 cylinder size.

How do I re-arm my Inflatable Life Jacket?

It is important to read the instruction manual that was included with your Kent Inflatable Life Jacket.  If you no longer have your instruction manual, please download it from our website, or watch our rearming and repacking video for the specific Kent inflatable life jacket you purchased. 

  • Remove all air from the inflation chamber
  • Remove the used CO2 cylinder from the inflation mechanism by rotating it counter clockwise and pulling the CO2 cylinder out. (discard the used CO2)
  • Remove the clear cap by turning counterclockwise and remove the yellow bobbin from the cap or housing unit. Discard the yellow bobbin.
  • Check that the device housing is dry and clean of debris.
  • IMPORTANT: Install the yellow bobbin in the housing, aligning the slots on the bobbin with the ridges inside the threaded housing. (The bobbin will slide in easily when installed correctly.)
  • Install the cap securely by screwing clockwise until it meets the housing shoulder
  • Confirm replacement CO2 cylinder is not pierced and install new cylinder by rotating clockwise into inflator until cylinder is secured firmly.
  • Service indicator window on front of inflator should be GREEN and ready for use. If RED, the device is not armed properly, and follow the steps again to properly arm the device, and GREEN ready to use shows.
  • Repack and ensure the yellow “inflation” tab is hanging freely outside the device.

How often do I need to inspect my inflatable life jacket?

The U.S. Coast Guard recommends you test the automatic inflation system in water at the beginning of each season. It is recommended you replace the yellow bobbin (water-sensing element) each year.

How often do I need to replace my Yellow bobbin?

Inspect the bobbin in your life jacket before each use to ensure the white powder/substance is intact and there is no deterioration. Bobbins that are exposed to high humidity, high heat, or vibration may need to be replaced more often.

Some of the KENT branded Inflatable Life Jackets will have a three-year shelf life, and others will have a five-year shelf life. A manufacture date code is stamped on all yellow bobbins. See the examples below to determine the manufacture date and when your bobbin should be replaced.

3-Year Bobbin Replacement example:

5-Year Bobbin Replacement example:

What is the Life Expectancy of a Life Jacket?

This will depend on the number of times your life jacket gets used and how it is maintained, and where it is stored.   Continued exposure to ultraviolet light (direct sunlight), high temperature and high humidity weakens synthetic materials and will shorten the lifespan of a life jacket. Proper cleaning and storage conditions will help to provide several years of use for your life jacket.

How often should I check my PFD/Life Jacket?

To ensure buoyancy is intact and wear hasn’t eroded the integrity of your life jacket, you should check your PFD annually at the start of the boating season.  Check all zippers, belts, buckles, foam, and fabric.        

What is the right life jacket / PFD for the right activity?

PFDs come in a variety of shapes, colors, and materials. No matter which PFD you choose, be sure to get one that is right for you and the water conditions and activity you expect to encounter. Choosing the right PFD (Personal Flotation Device) is an important decision.

Most adults only need an extra 7 - 12 pounds of buoyancy to keep their heads above water. A PFD can give you that "extra lift" and it is made to keep you floating until help comes. But a life jacket is a personal flotation device and it's important to get the right one for you. Your weight isn't the only factor in finding out how much "extra lift" you need in water. Body fat, lung size, clothing and whether the water is rough or calm, all play a part in staying on-top. In general, the more physically fit you are, the more "lift" you need.

Proper size and fit are important to the performance of a flotation device. Read the Label on your life jacket to be sure it's made for people your weight and size. Test it in shallow water or a pool. Then in an emergency, do not panic... Relax, put your head back and let your life jacket help you come out on top.

How do I properly care for my life jacket / PFD?

Fabric fading can indicate loss of strength. Store in a dry, cool, dark well-ventilated place and let it drip dry thoroughly before putting it away. Never dry your life jacket on a radiator, heater, or any other direct heat source. A weathered PFD could tear easily, resulting in loss of flotation material. If faded, check strength or discontinue use.

Check your life jacket often for rips, tears, and holes, and to make sure seams, fabric straps, and hardware are okay. Give your PFD belts and tie tapes a quick, hard pull to make sure they are secure. There should be no signs of waterlogging, mildew odor, or shrinkage of the flotation foam. Sunlight, chlorine, and weathering may cause colors to fade and/or bleed onto other surfaces.


Whether you choose an Inflatable PFD or an Inherently Buoyant PFD, choose to WEAR IT!

Your life depends on it!