MOST modern 4x4s have a factory-fitted 70- to 90-litre fuel tank, whether that’s petrol or diesel models.
When rigs roll out of the factory, the salesperson will claim they’ll have an average fuel consumption of around 10.0L/100km. And, as long as we’re travelling light, there may be little standing between us and getting close to the factory’s promise; but we all know it’s a stretch.
So, standard tanks will see us in good shape for a great weekend away close to home – supplemented with a single jerry in case things go pear-shaped. However, all bets are off once we bolt on bullbars, rear bars and side rails and extend our range to remote country.
We’ll happily pack our rigs to the gunwales with fridges, spare tyres, recovery gear, recreational kit and perhaps a camper trailer skull-dragging behind, but now that we’re ‘loaded for bear’ our fuel usage has probably increased to around 20.0L/100km (or worse). That now means our rig’s 80-litre fuel tank might get us no further than around 400km.
So, it makes sense to plan ahead before leaving the fuel stations behind. While many roadhouses on major outback routes are spaced around 300km apart, this doesn’t account for the extra fuel we’ll use when we’re up to our axles off the beaten track. Besides, even some major outback tracks, like the Gunbarrel Highway, expect us to travel nearly 500km between drinks.
You could deal with this issue by strapping jerries to the roof, but this comes at a cost. Rack load limits can quickly be exceeded and, equally important, top loads like this can dangerously screw with a vehicle’s centre of gravity, especially when you have four jerries, a spare tyre and everything but the kitchen sink up there.
Aftermarket extended-range fuel tanks are a much better long-term solution, if you can afford it. And these days we are spoilt for choice with off-the-shelf prefab and custom options.
So, what do you do? We recently asked ourselves the same question while standing around the crew’s Hilux in the shed. The rig’s stock-standard tank wasn’t cutting the mustard, so it was time for a new approach. After some research, we figured we’d give the new ARB Frontier long range tank a go… and we’re glad we did.
This roto-moulded tank takes advantage of the nooks and crannies on the underside of the vehicle, and we particularly like how the new tank beds into the under-chassis and hardly lowers overall clearance (a rough look suggests approximately 5mm).
Noting there’s now no bash plate, we were concerned the new fuel tank may be too exposed in rough terrain. Sure, the manufacturer’s online video shows an empty Frontier tank being run over by a Centurion military tank, but we were planning on imposing heavier punishment.
The ARB Frontier long range tank’s maiden challenge would be a trip from south to north across Australia. This route would take in Lake Mungo and Cameron Corner before covering stretches of the Strzelecki, Sturt’s Great Stony and Simpson Deserts.
On the way, the Frontier tank would be peppered with millions of pieces of gibber rock, would negotiate hundreds of stony causeways, and would be dragged across a rollercoaster of sand dunes.
What damage has the Frontier tank sustained following this sort of punishment? The answer is absolutely none! And to be honest, apart from the dust, there’s nothing to see. Not a scratch!
The Frontier tank has effectively extended the fuel capacity of the ’Lux from 80 to 145 litres (the fuel capacity of Frontier tanks vary with different vehicle makes and models). Even with the rig fully loaded and towing a camper trailer, it’s now achieving 750km on one tank with little effort.
While the test run saw us carrying a spare jerry as a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ back-up, we didn’t given it a second glance. Even during a 240km detour to a mate’s property in the middle of the Simpson, we were in good order, easily achieving 552km between fill-ups including a trip across the dunes to the NT border.
However, one thing that left us scratching our heads was why the Frontier tank doesn’t come fitted with a drainage hole in the event of diesel contamination. Note to self: take a drill bit and a suitable plug (or a chewed Mintie) to fit on-the-fly in case of emergency.
Check out more 4X4 product tests
Despite this, the tank is an impressive piece of kit, and being made of plastic it is significantly lighter (30-50 per cent) than its metal rivals. Being plastic, it also comes with its own heat shields, as the new shape takes it closer to the exhaust.
The guys at ARB looked after us, fitting the tank in a couple of hours. Chatting during the installation process, we were told the main problem the workshop faces is when customers arrive to have the ARB Frontier tank fitted without having first emptied their rig’s old fuel tank. Sounds like a rookie error to us.
Available from: www.arb.com.au
RRP: Prices vary
We say: Tough and durable, doesn't hinder your clearance, takes you further