4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

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.

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.

Roto-moulded tank blends in with the un­der­side equip­ment.

Fit­ment of the light­weight re­place­ment fuel tank only took a cou­ple of hours, thanks to the tal­ented crew at ARB.

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