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ARB Frontier Long Range Tank Review (is plastic any good?)

Some time ago we finally bit the bullet and went for an ARB Frontier Long Range Fuel Tank on our Isuzu Dmax, upgrading the factory 76L tank to a 140L tank. We’ve used it extensively over the last 7 months, and now its time to do a review.

As always, we like to be completely transparent and honest, and you should know that we paid full retail price for this tank from ARB in Canning Vale, and for the installation too.

If you want to know whether its worth fitting a Long Range Tank, we’ve done a comprehensive post on it here; Long Range Fuel tank.

Now though, onto the specifics of the Frontier Long Range Tank Review, and why we chose it.

ARB Frontier Tank

Our ARB Frontier Tank

Jerry cans suck

Prior to this, we’d been taking 3 jerry cans with us on every long trip as the fuel range when towing was simply not enough. We’d be lucky to get 400km out of a factory tank before it was woefully empty, and I’m not one to push the limits with fuel range, and young kids on board.

Jerry cans are not fun. In fact, if you are regularly using them you get over it real quick. They take up extra room, you have a much greater chance of fuel contamination, they are a pain to fill and empty, they can easily leak and you have to be stationary to put the fuel into your vehicle. 

When you have young kids, being able to choose when you stop is important, as they don’t handle any longer in the car than necessary. All in all, I was completely over using Jerry Cans, and was very keen on the idea of a long range tank.

We’d been using them every single trip for nearly 3 years, and you only have to deal with them in a bit of rain, or after dust, or when your kids are cranky and you soon want a better option!

Filling the Dmax with fuel

Jerry cans work, but you soon get sick of them

Weight considerations

The main reason for not getting a long range tank earlier was the weight concerns that I had; I knew we were already going to be pushing the limits, but after some changes to our canopy setup I decided it had to be done.

I removed a fridge slide and a fair chunk of plywood, whilst cutting down on some of our other gear and would have comfortably saved 50+kg of weight. This was primarily done by installing an upright fridge.

Upright Fridge

Our upright fridge saved a huge chunk of weight

I also realised the weight distribution was also not going to change too much anyway, as we were using one jerry can over the rear axle in the Dmax, and two in the front box of the Reconn R2 Hybrid, which was increasing its tow ball weight.

The long range tank goes in the factory position on the passenger side of the vehicle, just in front of the rear axle. This means that despite some extra rear axle weight, it applies a little to the front as well, which is good.

I must admit I was surprised at how far forward the tank sits when I picked it up too; ARB have pushed it as far forward as it could possibly go, which is only going to be a good thing in terms of trying to set a Ute up for decent weights. You wouldn’t believe how many 4WD’s are over their individual axle capacities.

ARB Long Range Tank

The ARB Long Range Tank is made to fit very well

The only other consideration I thought about was that we’d now have a lot of weight on one side of the vehicle. We have the starter battery, plus long range fuel tank, plus a 45kg deep cycle battery, our kitchen and the fridge.

I did my best to balance it out, and we got the whole setup weighed by a mobile weighing company before our 6 week trip up north, with the below results. I’ve also got a lithium battery coming to hugely reduce the battery weight, which will be brilliant.

If you are keen on seeing more about the Dmax and Hybrid Camper weighing in depth, check out Mobile Weighing.

Mobile weighing results

The results of our mobile weighing service

Getting the Long Range Tank fitted

I’m sure I could fit the tank myself, but these days my time is very limited, and I’d rather be able to take it back if anything goes wrong with no wiggle room for ‘you installed it and did it wrong’. ARB in Canning Vale got the job again as I’ve been very happy with their work in the past.

The only issue was that they were absolutely slammed (like every single good 4WD shop at the moment!). I emailed in March to get it done, and had it booked in for mid June, just a week prior to our departure date! Talk about cutting it fine.

Dmax and Reconn R2

The camping and 4WD industry is crazy at the moment

The travel/4WD and camping industry has exploded in Australia with everyone being unable to travel overseas, and the likes of ARB have done very well from it. 

I dropped the vehicle off one afternoon, and with a thorough hand over, they pulled it around the back for the tank to go in.

The following afternoon the vehicle was collected, with a significantly greater fuel range! Once again, ARB in Canning Vale impressed me with fantastic service, great communication and a good product.

Why the ARB Frontier tank?

There are lots of different long range tank companies around. Long Ranger, Ironman, Brown Davis, Strongarm, custom setups and of course the ARB Frontier. That’s before you even look into custom options, which are hugely popular too.

Long range fuel tank

ARB’s plastic frontier fuel tank

The Frontier tank is different to most in that it is made of plastic, not the traditional steel that long range tanks have previously come with.

If you’ve been around for a while, you will have seen the move from steel (stainless) water tanks to plastic in camper trailers and caravans over the years, and there’s a good reason for this.

Plastic is much lighter, will take a knock and pop out again (or stay happily deformed) and there are no seams that are likely to crack.

If you’ve had a traditional steel tank before you’d know the weakest point is always the welds, which have a habit of cracking over many thousands of kilometres of corrugations (or just next to the welds).

Some people associate plastic with being weak, but these tanks are seriously tough, and will take a lot of abuse before letting go. That includes gravel rash, puncture resistance from sticks and being walloped by a big rock when you slip out of the ruts and land on the tank.

For us though, by far and away the biggest reason was the reduced weight. The new tank weight was almost the same as the factory one that came out (which interestingly is also plastic), which is great for keeping us under our GVM and rear axle capacity.

Fitting a really heavy long range fuel tank would have made me re-consider getting it, as we have to be weight conscious.

Fuel Filler

The factory fuel filler was re-used

ARB Frontier Tank Price

The exact price you pay will be dependent on the model vehicle you have, and whether you get it installed. The ARB Price List shows our tank at $1215 plus $210 fitting, but I think we paid closer to $1550 total (which I wasn’t going to argue about given the demand at the moment).

Interestingly, the Long Ranger Fuel Tanks (made from steel) are marginally more expensive.

ARB Frontier Tank Problems and Downsides

No drain point

These don’t come with a drain plug. I honestly have no idea why, as you could easily tap one in (maybe it would crack?) or get it poly welded in.

Either way, if you get bad fuel (or put the wrong fuel in!) you don’t have the option of undoing a drain underneath and removing it that way. You either have to suck it out, or drop the tank.

Certainly not ideal, but I think the likelihood of it happening is slim enough to warrant the risk and the benefits certainly outweigh it.

No baffles

Steel tanks normally come with baffles, which stops the fuel from sloshing around as you drive. Plastic tanks often don’t have these, as they are moulded in one piece, as a pose to being welded together.

I’ve never noticed any noise, but I guess you would have some weight transfer as your vehicle moves around and the fuel sloshes back and forth. Given the weight is down really low, I don’t really care.

Clearance

If you compare the ARB Frontier tank on the Dmax’s against other brands, you’ll see that it hangs down more than the rest. This isn’t a good thing, especially when it hangs down about 40mm below the chassis.

However, if you get under the vehicle and have a good look, you’ll soon realise ARB are fairly clever in the way they design things. It’s no lower than the side of the rear differential (the highest part of the diff) and no lower than the transfer case, or cross members further in front.

Obviously you could land on a rock in this position, but I reckon in many cases you’d be hitting or dragging another part of your vehicle over it first.

I will adjust my driving and lines to accommodate for the tank being there, but know that they will take a huge amount of punishment if something does go wrong. We do our best to look after the vehicle and avoid huge underbody hits anyway, and its not used for extreme 4WDing that is likely to do damage.

ARB Frontier clearance

You can see the tank hangs below the chassis rails

Fuel range

I spent quite a bit of time trying to set the Ultragauge up to read the fuel level and calculate the distance to empty. I’ve yet to succeed, and have yet to put more than about 110L of fuel in, and that’s with the fuel light being on for some time while driving around Exmouth.

I’m not exactly sure how much is really usable, and not too keen on finding out either, but that is a little annoying as you are more conservative than you probably need to be, which partly defeats the purpose of the tank.

The factory fuel gauge is still used, which stays on full for about 400km when towing, and then drops down fairly normally. I suspect that when the fuel light comes on there is still around 30 – 40L of fuel left in the tank though!

With 140L (lets say 130 usable) around town the Dmax will do about 1200km on the tank, and when towing our Reconn R2 about 800 – 900km.

In my opinion that’s a perfect fuel range for travelling Australia, and gives you huge opportunity to get quality fuel in more commonly used fuel stations and to avoid the super expensive and more suspect fuel stations.

Can you get a larger fuel tank?

When these came out they were a slightly different design, and were capped at around 120L, which wasn’t a huge increase. Without going full custom, I believe the bigger tanks are only 143 and 145L, which is negligible, and if you are cutting your fuel reserves down to that level you are pretty game!

ARB Frontier Tank Review

We’ve had no problems with our ARB Frontier tank, and nor do I expect to in the future. Single piece plastic tanks are hugely common across all industries for good reason, and ARB always make a decent product.

I like the way its been slotted in, its mounted well and expect it to perform over the next 10+ years like every other ARB product I’ve bought. 

I have to say I was far more appreciative of the long range tank on our 6 week trip up north than I thought I would be, to the point that its probably one of the first modifications I’d do to a new vehicle for touring Australia.

I also love the fact that its freed up even more space for us. I’ve removed the two jerry can holders from the front of our camper trailer, which allows us to fill it up with fishing gear, and other items that can get a bit dusty and dirty.

There’s no more risk of spilling 20L of diesel in the canopy, and its just far more convenient.

Would we get another ARB Frontier Tank?

Yep, in a heartbeat. I assume that other manufacturers will start to bring out plastic diesel fuel tanks for 4WD’s and expect them to explode in popularity over the next few years. Obviously you have to be aware of the shortcomings, but for the weight and strength differences I’m very happy to have one.

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