Scuba Diving: Setting Up And Testing Your Tanks

Instructions on how to properly set up and test your scuba tanks, including safety tips.

Scuba cylinders, sometimes referred to as tanks or bottles, are the heart of the system that allows divers to remain underwater and explore the ocean realm. These devices come in a variety of styles, sizes, colors and material. From steel, to aluminum, to fiber reinforced, the variations in design lend the individual cylinder to specific requirements set forth by the manufacturer. As with any life-support equipment, it is always best to follow the manufacturer guidelines and have a professional, certified, technician service the device. What follows here is the basic information needed to set up and test a scuba tank/cylinder and is in no way designed to be a short-cut or replacement for professional service.

Proper handling of a scuba cylinder is important for the longevity of the cylinder itself and for the safety of the diver. Avoiding scratches, dents, or sudden impacts to the cylinder is necessary to ensure a long service life. External damage can weaken the cylinder, unseat the valve or cause the cylinder to not properly connect with other equipment, namely the first-stage of the regulator harness.

When setting up at a dive site, it is a good idea never to leave a tank standing unattended. Most divers prefer to lay their tanks on the ground/sand to avoid any damage to the tank or injury that could occur by the tank suddenly falling over. Tanks should only be kept upright if they are secured, such as on a dive boat or a dock equipped with cylinder restraints. Keep in mind that while resting the tank on its side is best, it is important to make sure the valve area is not covered with dirt or sand. A good accessory is a valve cover that can be kept in place until it is time to attach the first stage to the tank valve.

When attaching the first stage of the regulator harness to the tank valve, be sure to make sure the connection is free of debris and water. Stand the tank upright and support it with your body or have it braced against something (by this time, most divers will already have the tank attached to their BCD or buoyancy compensating device). Loosen the yoke screw and slip the "A-clamp" over the tank valve. Make sure the first stage seats correctly against the o-ring on the tank valve. Tighten the yoke screw "hand-tight" only. Slowly turn the air valve on the tank to its open position, being prepared to turn it back off if any problems arise. If no problems are noticed, open the air valve all the way and then turn it back one-half turn. At this point most divers will draw a few test breaths from their regulator to make sure everything is connected properly and no unusual resistance is noticed.

Once the first stage is connected to the tank/cylinder, and the tank secured to a buoyancy compensating device, again place the entire system on its side or have it secured in restraints. With the added pieces of the scuba system, the tank will become even more susceptible to falling over. Proceed with helping others set up their scuba systems and then prepare for a day full of diving and exploring the ocean realm.

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