Do You Need a Long Range Fuel Tank?
There are a lot of accessories out there these days and everyone likes to spruik the benefits of whatever they have installed on their car, including these long range fuel tanks.
So do you need a long range tank?
This really depends on the type of driving you do, your budget, where you see the car going in the future and a few other factors that I will touch on in this post.
For most people the answer is probably no, including for myself, yet I installed one anyway.
So in this post I’ll cover a few things besides whether or not you need a long range fuel tank, such as:
- My experiences with the install.
- Why I got one.
- Poly tanks vs steel tanks.
- Different brands and products on the market.
- Clearance changes.
- Weight increases.
- Costs and more.
The example tanks that I talk about in this post will be for Ford Rangers and Mazda BT-50s, but the same tanks are available for all different models of cars.
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When do you need a long range fuel tank?
Before we get into the long range fuel tank install, clearance changes, pros and cons etc let’s run through some instances when you do need a long range fuel tank.
Now when I say need what I really mean is that it would be recommended, or very beneficial to have a long range fuel tank. Nobody really needs a long range fuel tank if they can carry jerry cans.
If you tow a caravan or even a camper trailer, I’d recommend you get a long range fuel tank (eventually).
Don’t put off getting a caravan or camper trailer because you can’t afford a long range fuel tank though, but one day look to save up and get one.
The reason for this is because your fuel economy will plummet when you start towing, the heavier and more wind resistant the thing your towing is, the more it will be affected.
Having to fill up every 400-500kms will get annoying and if you can extend that to 700-900kms it will make a massive difference.
Do you need a long range fuel tank to do remote tracks and locations? Yes you do.
Possibly you will still need to take jerry cans with you as well, but get the long range tank as a minimum!
People doing this sort of stuff already know this though but for those planning to do that at some stage just know that it is an extra cost you will need to consider.
A good example of this is those who want to visit Dirk Hartog island, you need to be self sufficient and there’s no fuel stops even close to where the ferry leaves from.
When you don’t need a long range fuel tank
Aside from the two instances listed above, nobody needs a long range fuel tank.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth getting though, because there are other benefits to be had from getting one and if you have the money to spend then it might just make your life easier.
Pros of getting a long range tank
So you’ve asked yourself whether you need a long range fuel tank and have found out that you don’t, but you still want one. There are a few other reasons you might still get one anyway.
Convenience and fuel selection
By having a long range fuel tank you can fill up when and where you want when travelling, skipping more expensive fill up points to fill up in cheaper locations.
You can ditch the need for jerry cans completely unless you’re travelling really far, getting rid of the need for getting dirty and smelling of diesel.
You can also select busier fuel stations to fill up at to reduce the likelihood of getting a bad dose of diesel.
Security and peace of mind
With jerry cans on the car there is always the risk of theft, because some people are pathetic. When it is in the tank there is no visual indicator that triggers people to take it.
If you don’t need a long range fuel tank but are going to travel with jerry cans for peace of mind then it might be worth getting one anyway, you get the same peace of mind knowing you can go further than you had originally planned.
It can be the difference between turning around and exploring for another day (food and water being the other main ones).
The diesel will be secure, the weight of it down low, it can’t be stolen from the back or the roof of the car and it’s easier to fill when needed.
Cons to getting a long range fuel tank
Getting a long range fuel tank isn’t always the best choice. The following things are worth mentioning as potential downsides to have a long range fuel tank.
These things cost more than $1,000 and are normally closer to the $1,300-1,500 for the long range fuel tank, it will cost an extra $250-350 for fitting.
So do you need a long range fuel tank? Really think about it hard because they’re not cheap.
Weight and clearance
Not only are long range fuel tanks heavier than the factory tanks, you’re also adding in anywhere from 40-80 litres of extra diesel to the car (or petrol) which will add 50kgs or more.
This weight actually means you’ll be using a little bit more fuel driving around if you often have the tank full.
Most varieties of long range tanks will also slightly reduce ground clearance (not all, more on this later).
So reduced ground clearance and a heavier vehicle, do you still want it? It might not be the best choice for those just wanting to drive 4WD tracks where added weight and reduced clearance will create issues.
Steel vs Poly Long Range Fuel Tanks
There are two different design materials for long range fuel tanks, poly and steel. People swear by both for a variety of different reasons. I am not here to say one is better than the other.
In this section I just want to point out the different advantages and disadvantages as well as link to some of the different brands available so you can go through their websites for more information.
A brand selling poly will say it’s better, a brand selling steel will tell you that’s better. It’s your choice depending on which of the advantages mean the most to you.
Do you need a long range fuel tank made from poly?
Here are a few reasons you might answer ‘yes’ to that question.
The largest selling point here is the fact that a poly tank will weigh on average half of what the equivalent capacity steel tank weighs. That’s important.
We’re already adding a lot of weight to the car with the extra fuel so by going for poly you can limit the damage, this is big for people who might be approaching GVM or just like to be as light as possible anyway.
Due to the manufacturing design of this style of tank the entire thing is one piece, there are no welds at all which are common fail points of steel tanks.
It is normally the welds that fail, not the steel that gets punctured. With the poly tank this isn’t an issue at all.
The poly tank can move and slightly twist itself in its mount as the chassis flexes over different obstacles, it is not rigid.
It is also able to deform itself over obstacles and then pop back into shape, so it does not fight against an obstacle and puncture, like a deflated tyre over a rock it can deform and then find its original shape.
This makes these tanks very strong, I have not heard of anyone puncturing a poly tank from what I have read in forums.
Do you need a long range fuel tank made from steel?
Here are some of the key benefits of getting the steel tank.
The biggest benefit to getting a steel tank in my opinion is the drain plugs that they come with. The poly tanks do not have drain plugs.
If you get a bad batch of fuel or somehow put petrol into your diesel for example, you simply drain it out and start again. This is a much harder process with a poly tank.
Baffles are walls inside the fuel tank that stop the fuel from sloshing around and upsetting the balance of the car.
Because the tank is metal, these baffles are welded in, this can’t be done with the poly tanks at this stage. They do claim that this helps keep fuel at the pick up on steep inclines or declines but I don’t believe this is an issue with poly tanks.
It will help with the fuel sloshing around though as the tank starts to empty, keeping the car more balanced.
As we will see just below, there are more options when choosing a steel tank then there are with poly tanks at the moment.
There are different varieties of long range fuel tanks that offer higher clearance options and higher capacity options for example, whereas the poly tanks maximise capacity and not the clearance (have not viewed all tanks mind you).
Long range fuel tank options
I will just briefly run through the options available for long range fuel tanks, these are the most common brands on the market and should be available throughout Australia.
I won’t be indicating prices, capacities or weights as it all changes depending on your car but check out the respective websites for more details.
My research was done on a Mazda BT-50 / Ford Ranger, clicking the brand title will take you to the fuel tank for this car where applicable to give a good comparison but obviously you can search for your own car from there.
Poly tank options
There are only two available in this range.
For my car this is a 140 litre capacity, up from the OEM 80 litre capacity. Readily available at ARB stores.
For the BT-50 this was a 145 litre capacity tank, Brown Davis have less stores around but these are sold through third party stores as well so should be easy to find.
Steel tank options
There are more choices here for steel tanks.
150 litre capacity tank with 140 litres usable, same price as their poly tank.
This tank is 140 litres but interestingly claims to maintain the factory ground clearance.
This is a 140 litre steel tank, distributed by ARB so found easily across the country.
The same brand as above but 122 litre capacity high clearance model for off-roading.
This tank is 140 litres and is cheaper than the others by about $300 but I do NOT recommend getting this tank (see below).
All of the tanks listed above come with a 3 year warranty except the Ironman tank which only has a 1 year warranty!
I personally would avoid the Ironman tank and pay up for one of the other tanks, that $200-300 is nothing if you’re already spending $1,200 and you will get a better tank.
Giving a 1 year warranty to me does not show a lot of faith in the build quality of what they are selling.
My ARB Frontier tank install … it’s big!
ARB Frontier Long Range Tank
Although I didn’t need a long range fuel tank I did get one for convenience sake, I wanted the build of the car to be final, I wanted to know my final weights, I wanted to no longer carry jerry cans.
In this section I’ll go over the reason I chose an ARB frontier tank over the others as well as any changes to clearance and weight increase on the car.
How much weight does an ARB Frontier tank add to the car?
This question above depends on the car obviously, but going from 80 litre capacity to 140 litre capacity for me added 8.90kg to the car.
Once you include the weight of the extra 60 litres of diesel the total weight added to the car is 58.82kg!
So it is not insignificant by any means.
Do I feel the weight sloshing around? I did at the start, but you kind of get used to it as you go and with a full tank you don’t notice it. It is different but I don’t see it as an issue at all.
How much clearance do you lose with an ARB frontier tank?
I went from having a ground clearance of 367mm to the bottom of the OEM fuel tank’s stone guard to a ground clearance of 343mm to the bottom of the ARB frontier tank, which obviously doesn’t have or need a stone guard.
This is a reduction of 24mm in ground clearance for this particular model of long range fuel tank.
That really doesn’t worry me at all as I am not into crazy 4WDing and am more concerned with approach and departure angles staying as high as possible.
See the before and after images below for a comparison, obviously the photos are not perfectly aligned but you get the idea.
For reference here are the changes to the underside looking near the driveshaft of the car.
Lastly, the differences at the rear of the car behind the cab, these tanks don’t affect the spare wheel mount at all, this photo is underneath my canopy and you can see how much higher the ARB tank rises.
Is it hard to install a long range tank?
Not really, keeping in mind I installed a poly one which was lighter weight. Make sure the tank that you’re lowering is as empty as possible to reduce weight.
If there is too much diesel or petrol it will not only be heavy but also it will be a shifting weight which can catch you by surprise and could lead to the tank dropping uncontrollably.
It is hard to say how long it took me as I was filming a video as well, but I estimate I could have done it in 6 hours on my first go, but maybe in 4 hours having done it now.
It would be easier in a garage for example but is easily doable in a day at home. I used a trolley jack for lowering the old tank and raising the new tank which worked well.
Why I bought a poly ARB tank
I wanted a poly tank as my main interest was the weight savings and reliability. I consider them to be stronger, less likely to break and with the weight savings I save fuel as well as wear and tear on the car.
I am not bothered about the baffles, although a drain plug would be very handy to have.
The ground clearance is a non-issue as I am building a touring car, not a hardcore off-road vehicle. That’s not to say clearance doesn’t matter because it definitely does matter, but the -24mm to me is fine.
The reason I went for ARB instead of Brown Davis was based on availability. The cost of both tanks was basically the same once I got them to Perth, but the ARB tank was available immediately.
Although it is claimed as having 5 litres less capacity I have also been told that it is the lighter of the two tanks. I still consider the Brown Davis a great buy but for me ARB made sense as it might be lighter (can’t verify this) and I don’t need the extra 5 litres.
Do you need a long range fuel tank? Probably not.
Is a long range fuel tank worth it? That depends on circumstance.
Did I need a long range fuel tank? Nope.
They’re handy though that much is true, so if the cost isn’t an issue and you don’t mind carrying extra weight then go for it, you want to make things as convenient as possible.
If you’re tight for mooney seriously don’t bother, they’re not needed for 80% of people it is just something people just purchase because they can a lot of the time, myself included.
What are your thoughts? Do you need a long range fuel tank and why?
Any other reasons I missed for having one?
Long range tank install video
See this for info on installing a long range tank, this is into a Mazda BT-50 but a lot of the install is similar across different car makes and models.