I'm about to purchase my first belay device, and am wondering how long I might expect it to last. What signs should I be looking at to determine when a belay device eventually needs to be replaced?
Couple of red lines for me:
- As soon as there is anything resembling a sharp edge on any point of the equipment, this can cut your rope.
- If any part of it is broken, visibly cracked or obviously heavily worn
- If it's been dropped form a great height (though the whole micro cracks thing is a little contentious, better safe than sorry)
- If any kind of "groove" starts to form (wether that is where the rope attaches of where the belay device interacts with a carbiners)
Like Fred says, if your in doubt bin it. Why take the risk, they're typically cheap to replace.
The minute you have any doubt about it.
There really is no other way to answer this question. There are so many different devices with different levels of mechanical complexity and different use and wear patterns, that it's impossible to describe what to look for in each one.
Having said that, most recreational climbers would have a very hard time climbing enough to wear out a belay device in less than 5 years. Generally they are only replaced when dropped from height or something newer/better comes along.
The primary way belay devices get worn out is using them to rappel. Rappeling will wear a device much faster than belaying. The more mud, dirt and bad weather the device sees the sooner it will need replacing.