Can You Leave Scuba Tanks in the Car? [Spoiler: It Depends]
As an avid diver, being able to transport my gear is of utmost importance. I do not live near a bay, and so, like many of us, I have to drive out to huge bodies of the ocean. One of my biggest concerns is if I could leave my scuba tanks in the car, as that is the only plausible way I can transport them and myself efficiently to the scuba site.
You can leave your tanks in the car as long as it not too hot. Store the tanks out of direct sunlight or cover them. Try not to store fully pressurized tanks for very long in a hot car.
In this article, I try to alleviate some of those concerns by going over the things that you can do for yourself and the tanks to keep it safe and in good condition.
Like with many things in our lives, there are legal complications to bringing in a scuba tank in your car. A lot of divers may use their car when they go into diving sites, bringing along their scuba tanks. However, they can also bring with them compressed air, an emergency oxygen bottle, and Argon for the drysuit.
Private individuals who bring all of these do not need to carry any documents with them if they choose to transport these items in their vehicles. Simply, they must only put the tank in a safe position in the trunk or even the floor of the car. However, do not put it on its bottom. Instead, wedge it into a place with luggage or in between objects to prevent it from rolling around.
In Europe, the laws for this are quite different. According to the ADR, a filled tank is considered hazardous material and is categorized as a dangerous good.
However, if you are a dive business, there are laws and rules that apply. There is an exemption to limit the amount of volume of air, nitrox, or oxygen, to 1000 Liters. There needs to be a transport document with you in order to carry this much air around. In a country like Austria, they have very strict safety controls and punishes those without documentation with hefty fines.
According to the ADR regulation, a single diver is not a hazardous goods transporter but an individual exempt from the regulations. However, it is mandatory to pack and wrap the tanks in a correct manner, store them safely, and take necessary precautions to avoid leakage. It is not required to put on a sticker on the tank. Yet, if you do fear an issue might take place, you can do so.
What is most important is to secure the tanks in the trunk to have proper ventilation. Further, carry with you a fire extinguisher just in case. Make sure that all of the tanks are pressure tested and that the neck of the cylinder is stamped.
Within the Vehicle: Long-term
Undeniably, scuba cylinders are one of the most important parts of diving. A mistreated cylinder within the transportation of your vehicle can cause huge issues. The first rule is to never store the cylinder empty or laying on its side.
For long-term storage, do not lay the cylinder on its side. If the ride is short, it is good practice to leave them on their side. However, if you are leaving them in your car for a long time, the tanks should be kept in a vertical position. The reason for this is that if there is an unknown amount of water inside of the cylinder it will cause the least damage if stored upright. If it is on the side, the water would be spread to a larger area. Further, make sure that the tanks cannot be knocked over.
Do not store in the heat. As summer comes along, the garage is most likely the worst place to store the cylinder. If the tank is exposed to excessive-high temperatures, it can cause the internal temperature to rise and burst. The same principle applies when storing in your car. Diving season is usually when it is warmer out, so make sure that you do not leave the tanks in there for too long during your trip.
Finally, never store the cylinder empty. It should always have, at the very minimum, 200 PSI. if the tank has no pressure, it can allow all sorts of unwanted molecules in it.
The Positioning of the Tank
As with any other material that can be brought into your car that can be as sensitive as a scuba tank, it is imperative to know how to position the tank for safety purposes. There are multiple ways of doing this, and not one is particularly deemed as the best way.
You can try out a multitude of these methods to see how the tank fits in, and if that would be the best way to store it. A lot of experienced divers have their own methodology, but that comes with more experience in diving trips.
All of these methods use the tank valve as a common placeholder for the position. This is because, when these scuba tanks are produced, the tank valve is always in the same regulated position. This way, divers know their point of reference when putting the tank in position in their trunk or anywhere else in their car.
Like many other beginner divers, a lot of them are worried about storing the tank in their car. Likewise, this common point of reference is crucial to common scuba tank safety during travel.
Under any circumstance, do not put your scuba tank overhead. A lot of people usually put camping material, even bikes, strapped to the outside of their car. Although these are items that are large and heavy, a scuba tank is definitely not something you want to strap at the outside of your car. It can fall and rupture, and it would be very dangerous to do so in the midst of traffic or highway roads.
Transport on side or brace upright
4 Ways to Position Your Tanks
The first method we have is to place the tank where the valve is facing the front of the vehicle. Its bottom should be wedged against the rear wall of the trunk. This is meant to limit mobility while not being used. Finally, use additional luggage between the valves and the seats. In travel, you do not want your tank to keep moving. This is a means to prevent leakage and even deterioration of the tank. You want to keep the tank alive as long as it can.
The second method we have is that the tank valve is facing the front of the vehicle. It should be as far forward as possible against the seats or whatever surface you have on it. Again, like the first step, stuff additional material, like luggage between them, to prevent mobility.
The third method we have is the most common, where the tank valve faces the rear of the vehicle. It should be as far as the rear as possible. Further, the valve should be wedged against the rear wall of the trunk. Finally, place additional luggage between them for mobility limitation.
The fourth method we have is when the valve is facing the rear of the vehicle. Its bottom should be as far as possible against the seats.
Finally, place the tank sideways in the vehicle and use luggage and extra materials wedged between them to prevent movement within the car.
Although scuba tanks don’t really explode in the traditional sense, having a valve break or experiencing a sudden tank puncture can result in rapid release of pressurized air. This can result in sudden tank movement that can cause damage and serious injury.
Can You Fill Scuba Tanks with an Air Compressor?
Recreational divers don’t necessarily need to fill their air tanks because most of them just rent their diving equipment. However, professional divers might want to have their own scuba tanks and refill them themselves.
However, can you fill scuba tanks with an air compressor? The short answer is yes. But you can only use a scuba air compressor as a regular air compressor doesn’t have the same pressure.
If you’re wondering about the same thing, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about filling your scuba table with an air compressor, including its types. Let’s dive in!
Why Shouldn’t You Use a Regular Air Compressor to Fill Your Scuba Air Tank?
A scuba tank is an essential piece of equipment for divers. So, using a scuba air compressor to fill it up with clean and breathable air is a lot more desirable than a regular air compressor. Here’s why:
You Need High Pressure
Typically, you need a high pressure of about 3,000 pounds per square inch of PSI to fill your scuba tank, especially if you’re diving in greater depths.
This way, you’ll have more air that goes to the tank. Unlike a scuba air compressor, a regular compressor only ranges between 70–90 PSI.
Good Filtration Is a Must
Unlike a regular compressor, a scuba air compressor comes with a series of filters that you can use to get rid of hydrocarbons. It’s also equipped with moisture separators that eliminate moisture and gas contaminants.
Overall, a scuba air compressor ensures that the air supply is clean and breathable for divers to breathe in.
What Are the Types of Scuba Air Compressors?
A scuba air compressor plays a big role when it comes to having a safe diving experience. It’s categorized via their power sources. Here are the types of scuba air compressors:
1. Electric Compressor
The most popular type of scuba air compressor is an electric compressor. It runs quieter compared to other types. So, if you’re bothered by the noise compressors make, an electric compressor is your best bet.
This compressor usually needs single-phase electricity with 220 to 240 volts. Large models will require three-phase electricity.
2. Diesel Compressor
As the name suggests, this type of compressor is powered by diesel. It doesn’t need an electric power source. But, it might be hard to carry around because a diesel compressor tends to be bulkier and heavier.
These components make it more durable than other compressors. But, if the diesel compressor does need a repair, a small motor shop might not have these components, making them more difficult to repair.
A diesel compressor also costs more than a gas compressor. So, if you live in a country where diesel is readily available and money is no issue, this type of compressor is for you.
3. Gas Compressor
Although a gas compressor is louder than an electric compressor, it makes less noise than a diesel compressor. Also, since it doesn’t run on electricity, it’s easily portable.
It has a built-in motor inside its unit, so it’s great for when you’re opting for off-the-grid power. Aside from that, a gas compressor is more affordable than a diesel compressor. It can also be repaired easily due to its widespread availability of components.
Keep in mind that a gas compressor needs regular maintenance and additional fuel additives to keep it in good shape.
Another major disadvantage is the carbon monoxide the gas motor can produce.
To keep the carbon monoxide emissions from getting into the air intake of the compressor, you should keep the exhaust engine downwind of the compressor’s air intake tube.
How Do You Fill Your Air Tank With a Scuba Air Compressor?
If you’ve already chosen which type of scuba air compressor is for you, you have to ensure that you’re refilling your air tank correctly. Here’s how you can safely fill your tank with a scuba air compressor:
Inspect Your Tank
Before starting the refilling process, inspect your tank to see if there’s damage. A visual inspection might not be enough if you want to be thorough. So, you should also check if the tank is completely dry.
Your tank shouldn’t have debris or water inside. To check, shake the tank gently. If you hear any sound of liquid movement, then it’s not safe to refill your tank. There’s a higher chance that the tiny damage can crack further when exposed to increased underwater pressure.
Drain Air From Your Tank
After a thorough inspection, you need to make sure that your tank doesn’t have extra air left inside, as it can over-pressurize the tank and cause damage. Yet, releasing air too quickly might accumulate moisture inside and cause the tank to rust.
Therefore, you should slowly open the air valve and let the air out until the tank’s pressure becomes lower than 10 pounds. You can check it on your pressure gauge.
Turn on Your Scuba Air Compressor
Connect your compressor’s filter and moisture separator and turn it on. You must let the compressor filter the air to make it safe for breathing. Set it up to the correct pressure and size settings.
For instance, the majority of air tanks require an average of 3,000 psi.
Connect Your Air Compressor To The Tank
A hose, called a yoke, should fit securely into the hole of the tank. Ensure that you purchased the right one, as yokes can have specific compatibility with the types and sizes of the tanks.
Once you’ve turned on the air compressor, make sure that you fill it slowly to maintain a steady flow of air into the tank.
So, can you fill scuba tanks with an air compressor? With the right scuba air compressor, yes, you can!
You just have to choose which type of scuba air compressor suits you best. Yet, remember that you can’t use a regular air compressor that you find in a hardware store as it doesn’t have enough pressure to fill the tank properly.
Keep in mind that you need to check for damage, debris, or liquid inside the tank before filling it up.
NEW SCUBA DIVER GUIDE: What is a “two tank dive?”
So, you’re new to scuba diving and have begun planning for a “two tank dive.” What does this mean?
This can sound intimidating, I know. But it’s not! You do not need to carry two tanks on you, which is definitely what I worried about when I first heard this term.
A “two tank dive” is actually two separate tank dives. You will gear up (with just one tank), and scuba dive for as long as possible. This will likely be until when you or your buddy runs low on air, or you are tired. You will surface, exit the water, take off your gear, and rest. After a bit of time, an instructor will switch out your tank. At this point, you will go on a second dive with your brand new tank.
Is a two tank dive standard?
Short answer? Yes.
Long answer? It’s totally up to you. Every person is different and feels comfortable with different diving capacities. Especially for someones first ever scuba dive, it is common for one dive to be enough.
Your dive instructors will plan for a two tank dive. In other words, they will have two tanks for you to use if that is what you choose to do. The sport of scuba diving, however, is so personal that it is hard to specify an exact standard. This is one reason why it is so important to dive with people or a company you trust.
What else do I need to know as a new scuba diver?
Honestly, there is not much to it. You will be guided by knowledgeable and experienced instructors. There will be a dive brief before entering the water to explain to you information about the area and the dive itself. Most of the information you need to know, you will learn on site.
Aside from your tank(s), your gear will include:
- BCD – This is the vest that attaches to your tank.
- Regulator set – These are the tubes that come out of the tank. One tube connects the oxygen to your BCD, and two others connect to mouth pieces for you to breathe from.
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