TFTC #13 Maintaining Your Carabiners

Jul 25th 2019

This industry is great at many things, especially putting gear through its paces. Yes, some arborists take better care of their gear than others, but whether you baby your gear or abuse it, we all push the envelope. Who doesn't like the idea of prolonging the usability and function of a piece of gear? Proper inspection and maintenance of gear will help this.

We’re accustomed to maintaining and inspecting certain things in life on a regular basis, such as a vehicle or a home. Hopefully, most of you understand that the oil in your vehicle must be changed. What happens when a vehicle's oil level is left unchecked and is not changed at the required interval? The owner runs the risk of damaging the engine, which leads to multiple problems and scenarios, such as a total engine failure.

Vehicles and other high dollar items require our attention on a regular basis, but it may not occur to us that the gear we use every day on the job requires our attention, too.

After all, we put our lives and our crews lives on the line each time we clip into a carabiner or speed line a piece out of a tree.

When you purchase a carabiner, it should be accompanied by a user’s manual. These can also be found online as PDFs. Reading through and understanding this document is necessary to know for applications and limitations, proper use, warnings, inspection, and maintenance. Carabiners are common around the job site with everyone owning several, and we use them countless times throughout the day while working. Taking the time to read through the user manual is a good idea as it may contain information that users are unaware of.

One aspect often asked about regarding carbiners is their maintenance. Understanding proper carabiner maintenance will extend the useful life of the carabiner. Although most manufacturers’ manuals share similarities, it’s recommended to read the specific manual for the carabiners you own. There are some differences between manufacturers’ recommendations, so it’s useful to be aware of the specific recommendations by each manufacturer.

Below is a flow chart from DMM that lays it out in a simple and effective manner. This is very helpful for inspecting any type of carabiner. At the bottom, you’ll find their recommendations for cleaning and maintaining their carabiners.

DMM Inspection Flow Chart

Here, you can see recommendations from Rock Exotica:

Rock Exotica Technical Notice

Petzl provides great examples of carabiners that should be retired from service:

Just as we would follow the automobile manufacturer’s recommendation, we should also follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on inspection and maintenance of carabiners.

Inspection is critical to knowing the status of your carabiners and every piece of gear you use.

The manual provided by the manufacturer is the best place to start, as it provides the basis for what and how to inspect. Inspection should be done at minimum before each use, and it’s recommended to inspect it periodically while it is being used. It’s also a great idea to have someone else inspect your gear, as it’s less likely that they will justify the continued use of a carabiner that should be retired from use.

Be sure to check out the manufacturers’ links above for whatever carabiners you have in your gear. It’s a simple process to inspect and maintain your carabiners. It’s something that will not only extend the useable life of your carabiners, but greatly minimizes the possibility of a failure occurring while you are trusting your life with it.

Cut safe. Climb Safe.