Carabiners are incredibly strong. They can easily last 10, 15, 20 years or even a lifetime when properly maintained. Manufacturers don’t actually give a retirement age or recommended lifespan for their carabiners because there is no natural deterioration for metals – unlike for slings and ropes where there is a 10 year retirement recommendation.

8 Reasons to Retire Your Carabiner

If your carabiner has any of these problems, retire it.

1: If the gate does not function correctly after cleaning and lubrication.

“Not functioning” means if the gate or locking mechanism is “sticky” or if it does not open/shut consistently as expected after cleaning.

Worth noting: A sticky/imperfect gate action can easily happen if dirt, sand, or other debris finds their way into the rivet area – so it’s worth trying to clean your carabiner (soapy water) before you officially retire it.

Also, if your carabiner has had minimal use (say less than a year old) and has a faulty gate action, it’d be worth contacting the manufacturer directly. They might replace your carabiner in exchange for you sending it to them so they can inspect and test it.

RetireCarabiner-22 1
The gate spring on this carabiner has weakened and popped out, now it cannot stay closed on its own, so it has been retired

2: If there is significant wearing like deep grooves, sharp edges, burrs, very thin material.

This problem is either from a lot of rope wear (a sandy rope can do a lot of damage) or contact with other metals (like bolts). This is how it usually occurs/shows up:

  • Most often wear can be seen as wide grooves on your rappel carabiner or anchor carabiners that you use to lower a climber.
  • It is also often seen with gear that is left in place on sections of hard climbs where falling and lowering is common.
  • Or, a sharp thin groove might happen after a really large fall when a soft aluminum carabiner is suddenly loaded and ground against the harder steel bolt.

Burrs and sharp grooves can be catastrophic for your rope, particularly when the rope is weighted and under tension like when you’re catching a fall or even lowering. This is also why many climbers dedicate their quickdraws to have a “bolt side” and “rope side” to keep potential nicks and gouges from having a chance to contact the rope.

Rope cut by carabiner that needed retired
Image courtesy of

For the most part, the bigger risk in sharp or grooved wearing is that the carabiner will cut the rope, versus the carabiner breaking (though the carabiner is still weakened). You can read more about grooved carabiner testing in is Black Diamond QC Lab post.

Note: This does not include color (anodization) wearing off the carabiner. Worn off color is 100% still good to climb on and has no impact to the strength.

Worn anodization on a carabiner
Though the wear on this carabiner might seem severe, only the extremely thin layer of colored anodization is worn away. It still has many years of life left in it.

3. If the carabiner body, gate, or nose is deformed, bent, or elongated.

Most often this is the result of cross-loading or misuse. This elongation means that the gate may not close properly and/or that the body is weakened as its no longer in the original structurally intended shape.

4. If there are cracks or cracking on the body or gate.

This does not include light scratches, which are quite natural as the carabiner slides across rocky surfaces. You can see examples below showcasing the type of cracking that can occur. It is not common for a carabiner to crack and is usually only found in older (10+ years) carabiners.

cracked carabiner examples

5. If the rivets are loose, deformed, or missing.

Rivets (coincidentally pictured above) are where the gate is connected to the carabiner body. If they aren’t working correctly the gate may not close or could even fall off (if the rivet was broken/missing). Problematic rivets are uncommon in this current age, but if you are using hand-me-down gear of an unknown age, it is something to keep an eye on.

The following photos are from a 2016 Black Diamond recall for carabiners where the rivets were not finished properly. These missed rivets could look the same as a broken rivet.

Black Diamond Carabiner Rivets Recall 2
Here are clues showing where to check for rivets and what a bad rivet could look like.

6. If the carabiner has survived a fire.

The heat of a fire can structurally change the carabiner in unexpected and unknown ways. It’s not worth the risk to climb on carabiners that have survived a fire / intense heat. Hopefully, you have insurance to cover the replacement.

7. If the carabiner has constant sea-water exposure.

Climbing at a seawater cliff and having the carabiner splashed with the waves and mist is OK. Leaving carabiners and quickdraws on a route for them to be constantly splashed, or carabiners that are submerged in sea-water for any prolonged period can cause corrosion and degrade the metal.

8. If the carabiner is exposed to battery acid, fuel, or other corrosive chemicals.

If the chemical is known to cause corrosion or eat away at metals, and it gets in contact with your carabiner, retire it. Corrosion usually occurs first where the steel pins/rivets come in contact with the aluminum carabiner body, but clean pins don’t ensure there isn’t damage elsewhere.

Spilling fuel on your carabiner and quickly wiping it off is not an issue. The issue is if your carabiner is stored in an area with direct contact to the chemical or chemical fumes.

This is also why you should never store your gear on the floor of your garage or the back of your car. Who knows what was spilled there before and is still around. Rule of thumb: don’t put your gear in the same places you transport a car battery, lawn mower, refill tank of gas, etc.

Here is an example of what happens storing mixed metals + damp conditions in a sealed container (these hard goods spent 1.5 years together):

Is my carabiner too old to use and climb on?

No. Metals, like aluminum, do not degrade like textiles do, so there is no lifespan or retirement age of a carabiner. Using old carabiners will mostly affect things like weight (modern gear is much lighter), and how easy they are to clip and unclip (keylock noses have gotten better and better over the years)

If you have gear from 40 years ago, it’s very possible the craftsmanship did not have a high level quality control, or the materials were not pure, so definitely check for cracking and ensure the rivets are still in great shape, aka: Check for all the above reasons of when to retire a carabiner.

Should I retire a dropped carabiner?

A dropped aluminum carabiner should be perfectly fine, even if it drops over 20 or even 100 feet, as long as the gate still functions correctly, the steel pin/rivet didn’t get smashed, there is no other obvious damage (like a blatantly cracked nose), or deformation.

There are rumors about retiring your carabiner if it’s been dropped because of potentially invisible “micro fissures” or “micro cracks.” We have seen no evidence that this is true for aluminum carabiners. Steel is a much harder metal and is more prone to cracking and may be where the rumors originally started (when steel was a more common carabiner material).

Should I retire a carabiner if I take a huge fall on it?

Even if you fall repeatedly on the same carabiner, from a high distance, the strength does not diminish (assuming the carabiner was in the proper up/down orientation to catch the fall). Other than checking for burrs and sharp edges that could damage your rope, you’re good to go.

If you’re using “a huge fall” as a euphemism for towing a car with your truck, then no manufacturer (or safety conscious human) would recommend using it for climbing afterwards. At minimum you should look for any elongation / structural changes.

Summary – When to Retire your Carabiner

It’s up to your keen inspection to tell if the carabiner should be retired. The above guide serves as a rule of thumb and does not discuss every possible scenario. If a carabiner (or any other gear) makes you nervous to climb with, replacing it with a new one is worth the peace of mind. It is 100% more fun to concentrate on the climb instead of the distraction of worrying about your gear (and life).

To Find The Best Carabiner

We recommend trying out the carabiners your climbing partners and visiting as many gear shops and handling as many carabiners as possible. Often, you will know ‘the one’ after you test it, it’ll either fit in your hand really well, or somehow just make life easier.

Want to See All The Carabiners (over 1000)?

At WeighMyRack, we list every carabiner and give you filters for shape, gate type, gate opening, price, weight, brand, and features like visual warning, keylock, available in a rack pack, or if it has a belay keeper. You can also filter by on sale carabiners with discounts >20%.

Alison Dennis

Alison Dennis

Alison (she/her) runs WeighMyRack from her 17' travel trailer. She is currently touring the US and would love if you contacted her to meet up to talk about climbing, climbing gear, or if you have any fun and/or ridiculous adventure in mind.

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