Many people fly to dive destinations, and don’t need to leave equipment in any vehicle for very long. However, there are also many of us who can drive to dive destinations, as well. This means we’ll be carrying and storing our gear in the car. This may includes pressurized scuba tanks.

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. Proper tank maintenance improves their safety when stored.

Let’s take a deeper dive into scuba tank storage.

The Laws

There are legal regulations applicable to keeping a scuba tank in your car. In the US, you don’t need any storage or transportation documentation for standard air tanks. Specialty gases may have regulations and requirements, and those will vary from state to state.

For standard air tanks, put them in a safe position in the trunk or even the floor of the car. 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. And for flying, all tanks of any type must be depressurized.

Regulations are different for dive businesses, as well. These also vary from state to state and country to country. Potential or current business owners should familiarize themselves with all applicable laws, as this article is focused on what divers can do

According to the ADR regulation, a single diver is not a hazardous goods transporter but and is 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. 

What is most important is to secure the tanks in the trunk to have proper ventilation. Make sure that all of the tanks are pressure tested and that the neck of the cylinder is stamped.

Scuba tanks can be carried in cars

Within the Vehicle: Long-term 

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 pressure 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

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 way, divers know their point of reference when putting the tank in position in their trunk or anywhere else in their car.

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. However, a scuba tank is definitely not something you want to strap at the outside of your car. It can fall and become a flying projectile, and it would be very dangerous to do so in the midst of traffic or highway roads. 

Yellow scuba tank drawing horizontally stored for transport
Transport on side or brace upright

4 Ways to Position Your Tanks

The first method we have is to place the tank in the trunk of car with valve 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. 

The second method is to put the tank in rear seats or cargo areas inside the car. Again, place the tank valve so it 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. 

Finally, you can place the tank sideways in the trunk or cargo compartment, and use luggage and extra materials wedged around 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.

To Sum Up

You can safely and legally transport and store scuba tanks in your car, truck or SUV in the United States. No licenses or documents are required if you are not a business or commercial dive operator.