Are you planning a scuba diving trip but unsure if it’s safe to leave your scuba tanks in the car? You’re not alone. Many divers wonder if their equipment especially the gas filled tank will be okay in the car while they run errands or grab a bite to eat.
To be honest, leaving your filled scuba tank inside the car is not a good idea especially on a warm day. The heat can excite the gas molecules in your tank leading to tank explosions.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Can’t Scuba Tanks Handle Heat?
- 2 How Long Can You Leave Your Scuba Tanks in The Car on A Hot Day?
- 3 Legal Considerations: What Does the Law Say?
- 4 6 Effective Ways to Transport Scuba Tanks In Your Car On a Hot Day
- 5 In Conclusion
Why Can’t Scuba Tanks Handle Heat?
Scuba tanks contain the air that you breathe in the form of gas mixtures and the gases inside follow universal gas laws. The Ideal Gas Law states that the pressure, volume, and temperature of a gas are all related. When the temperature of a gas increases, its pressure also increases, assuming the volume remains constant. Similarly, when the temperature of a gas decreases, its pressure also decreases.
Scuba tanks are designed to handle a certain amount of pressure. The air inside is compressed, and the tank is sealed to keep the air in. When the tank is exposed to heat, the air inside gets hotter and expands following the ideal gas law. If the expanding gas pressure gets too high inside the enclosed scuba tank of fixed volume, it will simply explode to free up the highly pressurized gas inside.
So it is never a good idea to expose your scuba tanks to heat in any form.
How Long Can You Leave Your Scuba Tanks in The Car on A Hot Day?
It’s important to note that the length of time you can leave your scuba tanks in the car will depend on a variety of factors, including the outside temperature, the temperature inside your car, and the size and type of your tanks.
Research shows, that cars parked in the shade on a hot day still reach scorching temperatures. After an hour of exposure, the average interior temperature of the car becomes as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The dashboard, steering wheel, and seats reach high temperatures, averaging 118 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius), 107 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius), and 105 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius), respectively.
Even on moderately sunny days temperature inside an enclosed car can rise through the roof in a matter of minutes and turn your car into an enclosed oven. The extreme heat inside a car will cause the air pressure inside the tank to increase rapidly, potentially leading to an explosion or damage to the tank.
I would absolutely not recommend leaving your scuba tanks in the car on a hot day for even an hour without tuning down its working pressure to at least 300 psi.
Legal Considerations: What Does the Law Say?
When it comes to transporting scuba tanks in a car, there are also legal considerations that should be taken into account. These laws can vary depending on the country and state or province, so it’s important to research the regulations in your specific location to ensure that you are in compliance.
In the United States, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has established regulations that apply to the transportation of hazardous materials, including filled scuba tanks. These regulations specify the requirements for labeling, packaging, and securing hazardous materials during transport to ensure that they do not pose a danger to people or the environment.
For example, in the state of California, scuba tanks are required to be properly and timely inspected should be transported in a secured upright position, and must not be left unattended in a vehicle for extended periods of time. Violation of these regulations can result in fines or even criminal charges, depending on the severity of the offense.
The scenario is almost similar in the EU according to my diver friend from Italy. According to the ADR, a filled SCUBA tank is hazardous material and belongs to the dangerous goods class 2.2, non-flammable gas. European and neighboring states have acceded to the ADR and implemented it in their national legislation.
These regulations are in place to protect the safety of everyone involved, including the driver, passengers, and other individuals on the road. By following these guidelines and ensuring that your scuba tanks are properly labeled, packaged, and secured, you can help prevent accidents and avoid legal issues related to transportation.
6 Effective Ways to Transport Scuba Tanks In Your Car On a Hot Day
Always keep an eye on the weather conditions before transporting your scuba tanks. Avoid traveling with your tanks on hot days or days with extreme temperature fluctuations. The most effective way? If you find the weather too hot, just rent a tank from the dive center of your diving destination instead of bringing your own.
If you must travel with scuba tanks in your car on a hot day, there are some precautions you can take to minimize the risk:
1. Store Your Tank in a Cooler
One way to prevent your scuba tank from heating up in the car is to store it in a cooler. Fill the cooler with ice packs or frozen water bottles to keep it cool. Make sure the tank is wrapped in a towel or blanket to prevent it from getting damaged. This works well for short-term storage of your tanks on long journeys.
Keep the air conditioning running in your car to help regulate the temperature inside (not an optimal solution since running you have to keep your engine turned on even when you’re not using your car).
2. Consider Using a Tank Cover
Another effective way to prevent your scuba tank from heating up in the car is by using a tank cover. A tank cover is a specially designed accessory that fits over your scuba tank and provides an additional layer of insulation. Tank covers are typically made from materials like neoprene or nylon and are designed to protect your tank from external elements, such as sunlight and heat.
By using a tank cover, you can greatly reduce the amount of heat that your tank absorbs while it’s in the car. This is because the cover acts as a barrier between the tank and the hot environment outside. Additionally, tank covers can also help protect your tank from scratches and other forms of damage that can occur during transport.
3. Use Sun shades or Window Tinting
If you have to leave your scuba tank in the passenger compartment, consider using sunshades or window tinting to keep the interior of your car cooler. Sunshades can reflect the sun’s rays, while window tinting can block out some of the heat. Both options can help keep your tank from heating up.
Try to park in a shaded area or use a sunshade to block the sun’s rays. You can also keep the windows slightly open to allow for ventilation.
4. Bring Your Tanks With You
If possible, remove the tanks from your car when you’re not actively transporting them, and bring them along. I usually take my cylinders with me when leaving my car even for snack breaks on long dive trips. Better catch some judgemental eyes at Pizza Hut than let anything happen to my precious tank.
5. Keep Some Room Inside Your Tank
Another way to prevent your scuba tank from heating up in the car is to not completely fill it with air. When your scuba tank is full, the air inside is compressed and there is less room for expansion if the temperature increases. By only partially filling the tank, you leave more room for the air to expand without putting as much pressure on the tank.
However, it’s important to note that this method should only be used if it’s absolutely necessary to leave your tank in the car and that you should always ensure that the tank is properly filled before diving especially if you’re a beginner diver with no experience in proper air conservation during your dive.
6. Keep Your Tank in The Trunk
Another way to keep your scuba tank cool is to keep it in the trunk of your car. The trunk is typically cooler than the passenger compartment, especially if you have a sedan or SUV. However, make sure the tank is securely stored with harnesses or proper scuba tank racks so it doesn’t roll around or get damaged. Monitor the temperature inside your car and the pressure inside the tanks regularly, and adjust as necessary.
Leaving filled scuba tanks in your car on a hot day is never a good idea. Short-term storage of scuba tanks in a car can be done with proper precautions, such as parking in a shaded area, using tank covers, and leaving the windows slightly open for ventilation.
Renting a tank on hot days instead of carrying your tank is the most effective way if you ask me.
For long-term storage, it’s recommended you keep the tanks in a properly maintained storage space at home.