How Do You Set Up Scuba Diving Equipment?
Assembling your dive equipment for the first time can be nerve-racking, that is why we learn it early on. It requires special attention and care to prevent any problems from occurring during your dive – remember your scuba diving equipment is your life support underwater!
Setting up scuba diving equipment is something every diver should have done during their open water training. If you have been out of the water for a while, it can be easy to forget the steps to setting up your equipment, and not every dive centre will do it for you.
But do not fear! We have put together a quick guide on how you can set up your scuba diving equipment.
Scuba equipment assembly is an essential skill that requires different steps:
- Tank inspection
- Attaching the BCD
- Attaching the regulator to the tank
- Attaching the regulator to the BCD
- Streamlining your equipment
- Opening the tank & doing a full dive equipment check
Below we have explained each step in detail with videos, so you do not miss a thing!
The Tank Inspection
A tank inspection is the first and most important thing you should do, whether you are hiring tanks or have been given one for your dive from the dive centre.
- Do a visual inspection of the tank – check that the visual and hydrostatic tests are within date.
- Check the O-Ring for any corrosion or damage.
- Open the tank valve slightly to give a little burst of air to clean the valve.
Attaching The BCD
Once everything looks good with the tank, you can attach your BCD. I find it best to position it between my legs with the O-Ring facing away from me.
- Grab your BCD and put it over the cylinder, ensuring the O-Ring is facing forwards and the safety strap is around the neck of the cylinder.
- Use 4 fingers to measure from the top of the cylinder to the BCD band and attach the BCD to the tank.
- Ensure everything is attached securely – I usually grab the top of my BCD and give it a little shake. If it moves, the BCD band is not tight enough.
Attaching The Regulator To The Tank
Next, you need to attach your regulator – otherwise, how will you be able to breathe underwater?
Almost all scuba tanks nowadays come with a standard “K” valve. These are what you have most likely always seen – with a simple on/off valve.
Some dive centres may use “J” valves. These have a lever that cuts off the airflow at ~300 psi when the lever is raised. When lowered, you have access to that ‘reserve’. These are less common as regulators now have an SPG (submersible pressure gauge) to indicate the amount of air in your tank during your dive.
As you travel from country to country, you are likely to come across different 1st stages: YOKE & DIN
These are most commonly used in all dive centres.
- Unscrew the safety cap and check that there is no dirt inside the 1st stage.
- Place the 1st stage over the tank valve and screw it into place. The 1st stage should be touching the O-Ring with your 2nd stage on the same side as the valve knob. You do not want to screw it super tight, but finger tight – a good way to check this is to see if there is some movement when you rotate it. When the tank is turned on, the pressure will tighten it.
Some people prefer to use DIN regulators as they are less bulky. The O-Ring is inside the 1st stage so you screw the 1st stage straight into the cylinder valve.
- Unscrew the safety cap and check that there is no dirt inside the 1st stage, and the O-Ring is still intact.
- You may need to take out the O-Ring inside the tank with an Allen key if they have prepared it for a YOKE-valve regulator. Some dive centres will have an Allen key handy, however, don’t expect all dive centres to, so it is best to bring one in your kit bag!
- Place the 1st stage over the tank valve and screw it into place. The 1st stage should be touching the inside of the tank valve with your 2nd stage on the same side as the valve knob.
You do not want to screw it super tight, but finger tight – a good way to check this is to see if there is some movement when you rotate it. When the tank is turned on, the pressure will tighten it.
Attaching The Regulator To The BCD
Once your regulator is attached to the tank, you need to connect it to the BCD otherwise you will not be able to inflate it once in the water.
- Attach the inflator hose to the BCD by pulling back the metal clamp on the end.
- Push it into the inflator outlet on the BCD – you should hear a click.
- Give it a gentle pull to make sure it is attached correctly.
Once everything is attached and connected to the tank, next is streamlining all the ‘dangling’ bits.
- I start with the alternate air source/octopus (usually yellow). Remember you will need it in an accessible place, easy to find if your dive buddy were to run out of air underwater.
Most BCDs have an open pocket on the right shoulder that I fold the hose into. Some people prefer to have it attached to a clip on the right side of the BCD.
- Next, I grab the SPG and attach it to the clip on the left-hand side of the BCD. Some BCDs have pockets with a hole in each end. You can weave the SPC into the back of the pocket and through to the front.
Once you have geared up, you will tuck it into your waistband.
- Finally, take the primary air source (usually black). I usually put it on a clip to keep it out of the way for loading the boat, some people prefer to put it in-between the shoulder straps. As long as it is not dangling around and causes a tripping hazard, it doesn’t matter which one you choose to do.
Opening The Tank
A full dive equipment check is extremely important! This way, if something is not working properly, you can identify what is wrong and hopefully fix it. To do so, firstly you will need to open the tank.
- Pick up the SPG and point it towards the ground, away from you and others. This prevents an injury if there is an air leak inside the gauge, which can cause the end to pop off and go flying – I have seen this happen before!
- Next, gently turn the tank on counter-clockwise all the way, using the valve knob.
A lot of recreational divers will turn the cylinder valve fully open and then back a one-quarter turn. There have been many diving accidents due to this mistake. By doing this, some divers mistakenly begin the dive with the valve only partially open.
- Once you have turned the tank on, you can put the SPG back into place.
Doing A Full Dive Equipment Check
In my opinion, this is one of the most important parts of setting up scuba diving equipment! Doing a dive check ensures that everything is working properly, therefore hopefully preventing any problems from happening underwater.
- Firstly, make sure you have the tank valve turned on.
- Listen closely for any leaking sounds around the 1st stage. A hissing sound is a sign of a damaged O-Ring – any damaged O-Rings should be replaced before the dive.
- Grab the SPG and ensure the gauge is reading that the air is full.
- With the SPG still in your hand, take the primary stage with the other and breathe in and out of the mouthpiece while looking at the SPG dial. You are looking for any needle-shifting. If the needle shifts, your tank valve is either not fully on (air restriction), or you have a faulty SPG.
- Repeat step 4 with your octopus. Also, take this time to assess the taste of the air.
- With the octopus still in your hand, press down the purge button at the front and take a quick whiff (smell) of the air coming out.
- If you feel a strange taste or odour is coming from the tank, replace it with a new one and let the dive shop know so they can check it for contamination.
- Next is to check your BCD. Fully inflate the BCD using the inflator hose button until you hear air being vented from the over-pressure relief valves (dump valves). A fully functioning BCD should be able to hold air.
- Next, deflate your BCD fully. Lift the inflator hose and press down on the deflation button – air should escape the BCD.
- Now, get your lungs ready, as you orally inflate your BCD. Pressing down on the deflate button, lock those lips around the hole where your bubbles come out from during deflation underwater.
Take a big breath in and blow into the hole until your BCD is fully inflated. Between each breath, you will need to release the deflation button otherwise the air will escape.
- Once your BCD is fully orally inflated, it is time to check the air releases. I always check the deflation button first. Lift the inflator hose and press down on the deflation button – air should escape the BCD.
- Next check the dump valves. Firstly, locate them – some BCDs like to move them around, but you should have one on the front near your shoulder, and one on the back near the bottom. Pull down on the toggle to check if the air is expelled.
- Now you want to make sure your equipment is securely stowed. If you are on land, gently lie down the tank with your equipment attached so that it doesn’t fall over.
If you are lucky enough to be on a beach, be careful of sand getting into the regulators – I like to put my towel down under my equipment.
If you are on the boat, most dive boats have holes to put the tanks in or clamps on the side of the boat that holds the tank in place. This prevents anything from getting damaged, including your dive buddies’ toes!
And that’s it, you are done!
Disassembling Your Scuba Diving Equipment
After your dive, you will need to disassemble your scuba unit. This is pretty simple, as it is the opposite of how you assembled your dive gear.
- Turn the tank valve clockwise all the way to shut the air off.
- Press down on the 2nd stage’s purge button (either primary or octopus is fine) to release excess air pressure from the hoses.
- Remove the inflator hose from the power inflator on the BCD – if it is too difficult, there may still be air in the hoses – repeat step 2 if so.
- Next, remove the 1st stage from the tank valve. This should be done very carefully as you do not want to get any water drops inside. Dry the dust cap with either a dry towel or by giving it a short burst of air from the tank valve (do not do this close to someone’s ears, it is very high pitched!).
- Put the dust cap into position and slowly screw the cap into the 1st stage.
- Remove the BCD from the tank.
Once everything is disassembled, you will want to rinse everything off with fresh water. Any saltwater left inside your BCD or regulator in addition to bacteria and humidity can cause fungus to grow inside.
The salt crystals from the saltwater can also damage the bladder lining – so always rinse inside the BCD by pouring fresh water in the manual inflator hole while pressing down the power deflate button.
Don’t forget to remove the water from inside the BCD – I usually pull down on the dump wolves or turn the BCD upside down whilst pressing the deflate button.
Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!
Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.
Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:
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Thank you to my good friend Bethany and Gili Divers for supplying the videos in this article.
By now you should feel confident about how to set up scuba diving equipment and how to disassemble it after your awesome dive.
It will become an easy routine like any other skill you have mastered. The more you do it, the faster and more efficient you will get!
If you are worried you will forget on your next dive trip, you could always print this off, laminate it, and stick it in your kit bag – it may even come in handy to other divers that are a little rusty.
Thanks for reading, we hope to see you again soon!
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