Do Climbing Carabiners Expire?

Cropped view of standing in harness on nature background, holding carabiner with training shoes in hands

You might be a new climber or someone who has a bit of climbing experience under your belt. Wherever you are in this process you know about the importance of carabiners while climbing. Because of their importance, you may be wondering: do carabiners expire?

Climbing carabiners do not expire because they are made out of metal. However, this does not mean that they will last forever. Climbing carabiners should be checked regularly for damage or deformation. Any carabiner that has visible damage, cracks, or doesn’t function properly should be replaced.

While it might seem a little complicated, maintaining your carabineers shouldn’t consume all of your time. Here are some guidelines and tips to keep in mind as you work with your climbing carabiners.

How Long Do Climbing Carabiners Last?

Climbing carabiners are made to last. When you are climbing up a cliff or a mountain you want the best security possible so you don’t fall down to the ground below. With this in mind, companies make carabiners that a specifically designed to hold up to the stress and workload of climbers.

These carabiners are different from those that you may have seen holding keys on a ring or attaching a dog’s collar to a leash. Climbing carabiners are meant to hold a high amount of weight, much more than a climber ever would weigh, and to keep you alive while climbing and when you slip.

Since they are used a lot and are put under a high amount of stress people may wonder in climbing carabiners can only be used for so long, an expiration date of sorts. The simple answer is no, carabiners won’t expire after being used for a certain amount of time.

Carabiners are made out of a metal, with modern ones being typically made with aluminum, but some older ones were made with steel. Since they are made out of metal, they won’t break down or decay over time like fabric or ropes will. Instead, as long as they are kept in good condition, a climbing carabiner could last for decades.

When purchasing a climbing carabiner, make sure to check the manufactures website. When rock climbing, you will want to purchase carabiners that are designed to be used by climbers. These carabiners typically will hold more weight and will last longer than carabiners that are meant to be used for climbing.

Some manufacturers may have a date that they recommend replacing carabiners after, but most don’t provide anything like this. Remember as long a carabiner is maintained and stays in good condition, it can be used for climbing years after you purchased it.

When Should I Replace a Carabiner?

photo of a broken heart shaped violet carabiner with lockpad

While your climbing carabiners aren’t going to expire and rot in your climbing bag, they aren’t made to last forever. While they are made to take punishment while climbing and are made to stay strong even when not being used, particularly with modern carabiners, eventually they will break.

The important thing as a climber is that you replace a carabiner before it breaks. The worst situation would be having a carabiner break on you while rock climbing. Here are some things to keep in mind as you care for your carabiners. Many of these are based on a list provided by Black Diamond, a top manufacturer of climbing gear.

The first thing that you should do is check the gate of your carabiner. The gate is the portion that folds into the interior of the carabiner. The gate should easily move inside when pressed and should seal closed when not engaged. Your primary focus should be on whether the gate closes all the way.

A carabiner that has a gate that is stuck open has less than half the strength of one that closes all the way. If the gate is having trouble closing you can wash and oil it to see if it regains its full motion, more on that below. If you cannot get the gate to function properly, the carabiner should be replaced.

Another thing to check is any wear on the carabiner. This is not paint flaking off or surface scratches on the metal. These are significant signs of use or damage to the carabiner’s makeup. If part of the carabiner is rough or sharp this can cause damage to your rope and the carabiner should be replaced. If the metal is bent or deformed, it should also be replaced. If you see anything that alters the shape or structure of the metal, including deep gouges and damage to the neck or gate area, you need a new climbing carabiner.

There are a couple of situations that aren’t related to the appearance of the carabiner, but to its environment that should be considered as well. Any carabiner that was exposed to extreme heat, such as a fire, should be replaced immediately.

This type of heat breaks down the structure of the carabiner and the carabiner is not safe to use. Any carabiner that is exposed to corrosive chemicals like battery acid or vehicle fuel should be disposed of. Exposure to these chemicals needs to be constant and occur over a long period of time. If these chemicals are cleaned from the carabiner immediately, the carabiner should still be safe to use.

You may hear that a carabiner that has been dropped should be replaced because of microcracks. There is no evidence to support this idea, and a dropped carabiner should be treated just like any other type of carabiner. As long as there are no visible cracks or other signs of damage like those found above you can continue to use a dropper carabiner.

How to Maintain a Carabiner

Red carbine with clutch. Equipment for climbing and mountaineering. Safety rope. Knot eight.

In order to keep your carabiners working as long as possible, you need to maintain them. To maintain them, you can take some simple steps to keep them working at a high level.

Carabiner gates should be cleaned with soap and water and then oiled to keep them moving freely. Your climbing rope should be kept as clean as possible. Sand or dirt trapped in the rope can scratch and wear down a carabiner. Your carabiner should not be kept in direct sunlight and should be kept out of areas where you store corrosive materials like a garage floor or storage cabinet.

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