Scuba Diving Gauges FAQ

1. What are dive gauges?

Dive gauges are very important bits of kit.  They measure air tank pressure and have highly durably plastic casings to protect the inner workings (resistant to up to 3,000 psi of pressure).  Some dive gauges will also have a small compass integrated into the device as well.  Dive gauges are essential if you are using manual diving compression tables.  As you dive the needle will go down (as air tank pressure is reduced) and basically if it hits zero before you are on the surface then you are in serious trouble.  Dive gauges are essentially ‘life meters’ for divers.

2. How can I transport my gauges safely?

You can buy special padded bags for your gauges.  This will keep them safe when you are storing them or transporting them around on your dive trips.  It is a good idea to keep them separate from the rest of your kit so that they do not get accidentally knocked.  If you do not want to buy a special bag then you could just wrap them in bubble-wrap and put them in a regular small carry bag.

3. Why do I need a submersible pressure gauge?

If you do not have a dive computer then a submersible pressure gauge will tell you the pressure of your air tank as you are diving.  Depth can have a significant effect on our bodies and air tank supplies so pressure gauges are essential for safety.  Dive boats/divemasters will not let you dive without one (unless you have a dive computer).  Dive gauges can be used with compression tables to tell you when you need to surface.

4. How do you care for dive gauges?

Although dive gauges are very resistant to pressure they can get damaged if you crank open your tank valve and force 3,000 psi of pressure through them.  Also if you do this when they have a small crack or leak the gauge will explode and shower the vicinity with debris.  When you open you tank valve do this very slowly holding the gauge down and away from you.  This will let air slowly bleed into the gauge rather than battering it with a high pressure force.

5. How do you secure your gauges during a dive?

You do need to make sure you secure gauges when you are diving.  If you let them dangle from your air tank then they will bang against underwater obstacles such as reefs and wrecks.  This can cause them to get damaged more easily.  They will also be much harder for you to reach when you want to check your air pressure.  Most gauges come with a clip to secure them to the D-ring on your buoyancy compensator.  You should make sure you have a spare as well just in case the clip breaks when you are out on a diving trip.  You can also secure gauges with a standard metal clip and some zip ties which can be bought from any hardware shop.

6.  How long do diving gauges last for?

Dive gauges are robust and inexpensive items.  If you look after them they should last you for a few years.  Make sure you store and transport gauges safely in a padded bag.  Always check the gauge thoroughly for cracks or chips before you use it.  Perform another check when you have finished a dive as well to make sure no damage has occurred.  It is a good idea to have a spare gauge just in case you find your main one has been damaged.  Because gauges have to deal with high pressure from the air tank you cannot risk using a faulty or broken gauge as it could blow up when you open your air tank.

7.  Why do some divers prefer a dive gauge to a dive computer?

In the modern world of diving small handheld computers are available that will automatically work out air tank pressure and time for you.  However many experienced divers still prefer the manual way of doing this using decompression tables, diving watches and dive gauges.  This is because divers that have been exploring underwater environments for many years get a ‘feel’ for the dive.  This means that they can automatically judge their ascension rates and do not need to rely on a computer to tell them what to do.  Veteran divers often feel that relying on a diving computer interferes with their underwater experience and makes them feel less ‘in tune’ with their dive.

8.  Which are best diving gauges or diving computers?

Diving computers are very useful pieces of kit.  They can tell you a lot of information about your dive such as depth, gas pressure, time and water temperature.  Computers automatically calculate ascension rates to avoid problems such as decompression sickness.  In contrast dive gauges are very simple and can have either digital or analogue displays. Dive gauges will show information such as the current depth of the diver and the remaining air tank pressure.  Some digital gauges may also show the rate of ascension required.  When it comes to using dive computers or dive gauges this is a very personal choice.  Many new divers find computers much easier to use and it takes some of the guesswork out of diving for them.  More experienced divers who are able to mentally calculate ascension rates may find dive gauges more suitable than computers.  Also price is a consideration when it comes to choosing equipment.  Dive computers can be very expensive and many cost well over $500.  Dive gauges can be purchased for as little as $50 so many divers on a tight budget will choose this more affordable option.

9. Are dive gauges suitable for beginners?

Using a dive gauge to accurately judge ascension rates is a skill which anyone can learn with a bit of practise.  It can be tricky to get the hang of working out your own decompression tables in the beginning.  This is why many new divers prefer dive computers as ascension rate will be worked out automatically for you.  There is no reason why beginners shouldn’t use dive gauges effectively for underwater safety as long as they have been fully trained and are comfortable using this equipment.

10.  Should you buy second hand gauges?

It is best to buy new gauges.  They are not very expensive and come with warrantees.  If you buy a second hand gauge you can never be sure how they have been cared for. Some cracks can be invisible to the naked eye so you would not know they had been damaged until you tried to use them.