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. 

The Laws

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.

Scuba tanks can be carried in cars

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. 

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 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.