How to carry extra fuel in your 4×4
In this guide, we look at the best options for storing and carrying extra your fuel on your 4×4, the legalities for jerry cans, long-range tank replacement options and fuel bladders.
Chances are, if you’re about to do The Cape, or Madigan Line, you’ll have your map out looking for fuel stops along the way. Gone are the days of having a local run out a 44-gallon drum with hand pump halfway for you, with all the options we have these days for carrying more fuel.
Carrying fuel in Jerry Cans
Jerry cans are the old faithful of carrying extra fuel. Everywhere you look, chances are you’ll see a jerry can on a rear bar, on a camping trailer drawbar, or up on the roof rack of a touring rig.
Jerry cans are cheap, simple, and easy to carry – though you need to remember that most places you’re going to store a jerry can, it’s going to be higher than where the standard fuel tank is, which will raise your centre of gravity.
Legally, you can carry up to 250L of fuel in jerry cans on your vehicle (this includes your camper, or caravan too.) That said, a 20L steel jerry can weighs about 4-5 Kg, add ~17Kg worth of fuel to it, and you’re looking at 22Kg each.
Twelve of them on the roof is probably not going to be the greatest idea in the world. Besides the roof cage crushing the roof or gutters in, chances are your 4X4 will fall over as soon as you look at a corner at 100Km/h simply due to the weight up there!
Jerry cans with unleaded in them can’t be mounted on the front or rear of your vehicle, inside the cab, rear of caravans or campers – essentially anywhere that is an impact zone. In the back of a ute is just about one of the only places for them.
Jerry cans with diesel in them, however, may be mounted essentially wherever you like (within reason), as it’s not classed as a ‘combustible/explosive liquid’ in the sense that unleaded is.
Expect to pay about $25 for a plastic jerry can, or $50 for a metal jobbie.
Carrying fuel in long-range replacement tanks
The next most common way of carrying more fuel is with a long-range replacement tank. Long Range Automotive, LongRanger, and ARB have been building these for years, and cover just about every vehicle imaginable. Their tanks are usually a metal design, which replaces either the main tank or sub-tank or both.
For example, LRA makes replacement tanks for my 80 Series LandCruiser. Options I have, are to replace the main 90L tank with a 140L, or the 50L sub-tank with a 160L. The only compromise here is that I’d have to remove my spare wheel from under the rear of the LandCruiser and move it to a rear bar carrier, which I have already done.
This gets the fuel a lot lower than jerry cans on the roof, so the centre of gravity of the 4X4 is not changed. All the tanks currently on the market use pre-existing mounting holes and OEM fillers and pickups. So installation isn’t the hardest thing in the world to do, and you don’t have to change anything around from factory, besides the actual tank. Most are even made to accommodate a 3” exhaust, being the most common modification that’ll get in the way.
Worth noting too – ARB has just released a poly tank for the underside of your 4X4, that appears to be pretty bulletproof. They literally drove a Main Battle Tank over one, and it mostly survived!
Expect to pay upwards of $1100 dependant on model, and take about 3 hours to fit it. So, call it ~$1500 drive in drive out.
Fuel Bladders & Cubes
As they sound, fuel bladders are precisely that – a flexible poly bladder for holding fuel. They range from 10 Litre bladders up to 1000 Litres. Where these shine is for putting under seats, or behind draw systems where there is no specific shape to conform to. Or the shape is that irregular that it’d be near impossible to have a tank fabricated up, or installed into a car without cutting the body in half to get it in there.
Fuel Cubes, on the other hand, are generally a poly tank that sits on the roof rack or cage and replaces the single 20L jerry cans with a capacity of 40-100 litres. The only drawback to this system is that it raises the centre of gravity substantially same as the jerry cans on the roof do.
Both the bladders and the cubes generally gravity feed, or have a small 12v pump that is used in pumping fuel into the standard fuel filler from the bladder or cube.
Bladders are quite inexpensive and can be had for around $235 for a 100L bladder whereas a BOAB fuel cube will run you about $295 for a 55-litre tank.
With this guide in hand, hopefully, you’ve now got some solid ideas on carrying more fuel, so you’ll be able to plan your trips on where you want to go, instead of via fuel stops.