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Long Range Fuel Tank’s for your 4WD; are they worth it?

A Long Range Fuel Tank is one of the more common 4x4 Accessories added to four wheel drives because they improve the distance you can travel without needing to fill up. Even four wheel drives that have virtually no other modifications often have a Long Range Fuel Tank fitted, because you use a lot of fuel over a big distance on the bitumen. This is particularly the case for those that tow caravans; the four wheel drive doesn’t need to have a big lift kit, but it does need to be able to pull the trailer and drive the distance in between fuel stops! Another very common accessory that people put in their 4x4 regardless of whether its just a tow vehicle or a full on four wheel drive is a UHF Radio. These are vital for communication

For most 4wd Vehicles you can buy tanks that are ‘on the shelf’ and they aren’t too hard to fit. Of course, if you drive an unusual vehicle, or you want something that is custom made then you will have to pay more to get one manufactured. The best shape Long Range Fuel Tank is one that hangs down as little as possible and that tucks nicely into the body work (if clearance is an issue that is – some people use their four wheel drives for towing on the bitumen only, and then clearance isn’t an issue!). A good quality Long Range Fuel Tank should increase the distance between fuel stops to 650 – 1500km, depending on how big you go and the engine in your vehicle.

A standard fuel tank for a four wheel drive is usually in between 60L – 90L. Of course, some vehicles come stock with 120L tanks (an auxiliary and standard tank) and some come with even more than that. Some of the Prado’s that came out were standard with 180L of fuel, which is enough to go a very long way without filling up! Generally the bigger the motor the bigger the fuel tank is.

Towing and Long Range Fuel Tanks

As mentioned above, a lot of people that tow a Camper Trailer, Caravan or Boat will often get a larger or additional fuel tank fitted. When you are towing something (especially a big boat, or caravan) your vehicle will use a lot more fuel. If you only had a standard tank you would find that the distance between stops will be very little, and you will have to fill up very regularly. Not only is that a hassle, but it means that you would have to check before leaving that you are going to have enough fuel even for short trips! Something to remember also is that when you are four wheel driving you will use more fuel. If you are driving in sand a petrol engine will use up to 60% more fuel, and a diesel up to 30% more fuel.

Auxiliary or Replacement Long Range Fuel Tank?

There are two types of Long Range Fuel Tanks that you can purchase. The first is known as an Auxiliary tank, which is basically just another tank for the vehicle. This is often mounted behind the main tank or on the other side of the vehicle. These are usually only around the 60L mark, but they still make a big difference to how far you can drive without filling up. The alternative is a Replacement Long Range Fuel Tank, which as the name suggests takes the place of the original fuel tank. Often these are mounted at the back of the vehicle, so that you don’t have a lot of weight on one side of the vehicle. Auxiliary tanks usually get pumped into the main tank when you want to use them. What you should purchase comes down to the costs of both set ups and the amount of fuel that you want to carry.

Benefits of using a Long Range Fuel Tank

The biggest benefit from using a Long Range Fuel Tank is that you don’t have to fill up very often. In most four wheel drives with a Long Range Tank, you will get around 1000km per tank. For most people, this means that you might only be filling up every 2 – 3 weeks around town. Of course, by carrying more fuel on board it means that your economy goes down, but when you go into the bush you end up saving a lot of money because you don’t have to fill up where it is expensive.

As an example, I did a trip from Perth through to Wilbinga, Lancelin, Hill River, Jurien Bay and Cervantes and then back to Perth in My Hilux. I made sure to fill up with gas where it was cheaper to run than petrol, and always ran it on gas until it ran out. On this particular trip I went with a Diesel Nissan Patrol with a Long Range Tank that allows the vehicle to travel around 1000km on a full tank. Around town My Hilux is considerably cheaper to drive than his Patrol because of the price of gas vs. diesel. However, when we did this particular trip he ended up spending the same amount as me, because he didn’t have to fill up at the expensive locations. He filled up before we left Perth and the put a bit more diesel in at a larger town up north to get back. I had to fill up at just about every town that we stopped at, and as a result had to pay for some very expensive fuel.

What this clearly showed me was that not only do you save money by not having to fill up at the small, expensive service stations, but you also save a lot of time in filling the vehicles up. I had to stop every 300km to fill up with gas, whereas he stopped once to fill up (and he didn’t have to work out whether it was cheaper to run on gas vs. petrol either!) By having a bigger fuel tank you are able to drive passed the expensive towns and choose a larger one to fill up at where the fuel is cheaper (thus saving you money). Even though it costs more to carry the extra weight, you save a lot more money by filling up at the cheaper towns!

On top of this, a Long Range Fuel Tank keeps your centre of gravity down low (more weight near the chassis will help stop your vehicle from tipping, as a pose to having Jerry Cans on the roof racks!) and they don’t take up any space that you would normally use up.

How much does a Long Range Fuel Tank Cost?

The price of a Long Range Fuel Tank varies quite a bit, depending on the size of it, where you purchase it, the materials used, guards that are fitted, who fits it and the shape of the tank. However, to purchase an average long range tank new you would be looking at around $500 - $1100 plus fitting. The newer the vehicle the more the tanks cost too. When you think about the cost of other modifications, that isn’t a massive amount considering the amount of fuel that you go through in a year!

Where can you get a Long Range Fuel Tank?

You can get these at most four wheel drive shops, and they can even fit them too. Alternatively, there are a number of places that specialize in making fuel tanks which can often be cheaper. I often recommend looking for a four wheel drive that has a number of modifications done to it already, before you purchase it. This ensures that you are saving money - a Cheap 4x4 doesn't have to be a badly looked after one, its just one that is good value. Alternatively, you can get them online from a number of places which will usually save you a bit of money (as long as you are close to where it is being sold!)

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Why not use Jerry Cans?

I am sure that you have seen four wheel drives that are carrying one or two (or more!) jerry cans on the roof racks, in the back of vehicles or trays or on a jerry can holder. Whilst these can be good as a backup, I think they are highly over rated as a primary source of fuel. There are a few reasons behind this, but don’t get me wrong either; they do have a few benefits. However, let’s start from the beginning. To start off with, you have to put them somewhere, which is always a pain. People recommend keeping them out of your vehicle, which means either the jerry can holder or the roof racks (and the jerry can holder can only hold one!). By putting them on the roof racks you increase wind resistance and also increase your centre of gravity, which isn’t a good thing to do. Worse still, is the time that it takes to fill them up at a service station. If you are carrying 6 x 20L jerry cans you have to untie them, get them out, open them up, fill them up individually and then lift each one back (at 20 odd kg each) into place and then tie them down again. When you are trying to lift a 20kg Jerry Can onto the roof racks it’s quite a task for most people! Then, when it comes time to use the jerry can you have to untie it, lift them back out again and then empty them. I would say for the average 20L jerry can to empty into your tank it takes in between 5 and 10 minutes. That’s a long time to pour a few jerry cans into your car, and you have to stand there and support the tanks the whole time you do it. Do this regularly and you will soon regret not spending the money on a Long Range Fuel Tank To top it off, these have a nasty habit of leaking if you don’t buy good quality ones, you have a greater risk of fuel contamination and it means you have to find a good, safe location to store them. Most people say that you shouldn’t keep them inside a vehicle which limits your options. The best thing about a Long Range Fuel Tank is that they make use of the space under your vehicle! In terms of benefits from using Jerry Cans, the only real one is that you have multiple tanks in case the tank gets a hole in it, but if you get a hole in your main fuel tank you are in trouble anyway!

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Long Range Fuel Tank Sizes

Depending on the type of fuel tank you purchase you will be able to carry a varying amount of fuel. Most auxiliary fuel tanks can carry in between 30 – 60 litres of fuel. If you replace the tank with a true long range one then you can usually carry in between 110 – 150 litres of fuel. I do know of a few larger four wheel drives that have the ability to carry up to 250 litres of fuel, but in most cases that is over kill. The more weight in your vehicle the more fuel it will use, the harder the engine will work and the worse it will drive off road.

The great thing about most modern engines is that they use very little fuel anyway. For example, many of the diesel dual cab utes today will get 10L/100km, meaning if you have a 150L tank of diesel you can travel around 1500km before filling up. Even in Australia, that is more than enough than what you need to do any long trip. Obviously, if you have modifications done to the vehicle (bigger tyres, lift kit, bar work that is heavy, etc) or you are driving in sand (or towing) then you will use more fuel and you need to allow for this. In general though, if you are able to travel over 800km without refuelling you should be fine for the most of Australia! Of course, this depends on what vehicle you drive, how you drive it and where you are going.

Much like when you install ARB Bumpers and the rest of the bar work that goes with it you need to get new suspension, consider what the extra weight of a Long Range Fuel Tank is going to do. Many people get all of the heavy items installed first before they get the suspension installed, so that the car sits level and functions properly. I would highly recommend doing this, and load your vehicle up as you would normally when you go on a trip before you get new suspension!

Fitting a Long Range Fuel Tank

The only real issue with a Long Range Fuel Tank is that they can hang down low, and as a result are often the first things to rub on the ground. There have been cases where punctures have occurred, and when you are a long way away from the nearest town the last thing you want to see is your fuel running out of a hole in the tank! Due to this, you want to ensure that your tank allows for maximum clearance. Ensure that when it is fitted that it is pushed up as far as it can go to the body, as this will increase clearance. A well designed tank should fit snugly in and not hang down too much. A lot of people will make their own guards (or get them made up) to give some protection to these tanks. In most cases it takes around 3 hours to fit a Long Range Tank and plumb it up, but it depends on the set up.

Long Range Fuel Tank for LPG

Generally speaking most people that travel remotely avoid LPG. This is because not very many remote service stations have a constant supply of it and because it doesn’t burn very efficiently. LPG is cheaper to run on than petrol, but 60 litres of gas will not get you anywhere near as far as 60 litres of petrol will. LPG is also pressurized, which means that the tanks have to be cylindrical (for extra strength). This means that a 60L gas tank is much bigger than a 60L fuel tank (because you can fit a lot more volume in a rectangular tank than a cylindrical one). In general if you want to travel long distances having the option of both Petrol and LPG is the way to go. If you want the best of both worlds, install a Long Range Petrol Tank too. For most vehicles though, to travel 1000km on LPG you would need to carry around about 170L of gas, which is quite hard to carry. The most common vehicles for travelling remotely are Diesels, but then Petrol’s are not uncommon either.

At the end of the day, there are a number of reasons why people purchase a Long Range Fuel Tank. I know that I would take one any day over using Jerry cans or even filling up a 70L fuel tank at every town! If you do the maths when travelling remotely you do save a significant amount of money by having a Long Range Fuel Tank, and you don’t need to worry about where the next service station is! Whatever you do though, make sure that you have enough fuel plus 20% for emergencies for wherever you are going and your trips will be safe and enjoyable!

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