3-Ring System Maintenance
How should I maintain my 3-ring system and cutaway cables?
Manufacturers make risers from nylon webbing, which can stiffen over time. Because of this stiffening, there have been cases in which risers remained attached to the harness after the jumpers pulled their cutaway handles during malfunctions. While some parts of your harness and container don’t need much attention to remain functional, your 3-ring system and cutaway cables need a little TLC every now and then to help the cutaway system work correctly.
Section 5 of the United Parachute Technologies Micron owner’s manual states the following:
“When nylon stays in the same position for a long time, it begins to conform to that position. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘set.’ If the 3-ring-release system stays assembled for too long, the nylon can become so stiff that the low drag from a malfunction (such as a streamer) may not release the system.
“The 3-ring-release system must be disassembled, flexed and inspected every three months. Procedures for this are listed in the care and maintenance chapter of the manual.”
The riser issue is pretty universal for all 3-ring systems, although manufacturers have varied recommendations for the time interval between maintenance. Be sure to check with your rig manufacturing company to see what schedule it suggests for your gear. Aside from schedule, the maintenance procedure itself is consistent regardless of the manufacturer:
- Pull the cutaway handle and cables completely free of the container.
- Disassemble the risers and carefully check for wear, especially on the riser webbing and the white locking loop.
- Take each riser and vigorously twist and flex the webbing near where it passes through each ring.
- Check the condition of the Velcro on the cutaway handle and harness webbing, and make sure both cable ends are smooth and free of any rough edges that could hang up on the locking loop.
- Check the cable housings to ensure they are in good condition.
- Clean and lubricate the cutaway cables per manufacturer instructions.
- Reassemble the risers and cutaway handle.
Dirty cables can cause excessive pull forces during a cutaway, so cleaning and lubricating these cables before reassembly is a good idea to help ensure that the pull forces are within the correct limits. Most manufacturers recommend placing a small amount of silicone on a rag or paper towel and wiping the cables clean. There should be just a light coating of silicone remaining on the cables when you reinstall them.
However, procedures can vary. Jump Shack, maker of the Racer container, recommends lubricating yellow Lolon-coated cables weekly, but the company switched from those to red Teflon-coated cutaway cables many years ago and doesn’t recommend using any lubricating oil on those.
Cutaway-system maintenance takes just a few minutes to complete, and you may learn more about your gear in the process, which is always a good thing. Keep in mind that according to Federal Aviation Regulation Part 65-111, you must be under the supervision of a rigger when performing any maintenance on a parachute system. So, grab your favorite rigger to look over your shoulder and get to work!
—Jim Crouch | D-16979
USPA Director of Safety & Training