The high fuel prices and a planned trip to Alaska got us seriously thinking about an additional fuel tank for Gulliver. After all, 32 gallons can only take us so far, especially when we average 8 miles per gallon while towing.
An additional fuel tank offers a couple of perks. First, it would give us more flexibility in where we stop, enabling us to go longer distances with fewer fillups. That would mean we could take advantage of rest areas, which could save us 20 minutes a pop over a truck stop. Second, it would enable us to stock up on fuel when we find it at a good price.
Weighing the Options
Most people who add fuel capacity to a truck do so through an additional tank that sits in the truck’s bed. Various makes and models of those exist. Some stick up higher than the sides of the bed and include a gas pump handle for manually filling the in-market tank that came with the truck. Others sit just below the sides of the bed and connect to the onboard tank for more seamless switchover.
We wanted one shorter than the sides of our truck as we have a tonneau BAKFlip cover over the bed to protect our fifth wheel hitch when we’re not towing. During travel, we flip the cover open and secure it in place.
To accommodate Bob’s handyman skills, we carry a lot of tools in the bed of our truck, too, distributed in four stacks of modular containers secured against the cab — where most after-market fuel tanks are designed to sit.
Not wanting to part with or relocate the tools to the trailer, Bob looked into other fuel tank options. He found we could replace our 32-gallon onboard fuel tank with a 55-gallon tank. That’s the route we decided to pursue.
The Doctors Are In
Bob ordered the tank and had it sent to my brother Steve’s house in Michigan. Bob and Steve are both mechanically minded and felt confident they could perform the operation and save money over having a dealer do it.
Preparing Gulliver for surgery meant draining his onboard fuel tank. Since we arrived at Steve and Ginger’s with about a half tank of diesel, we had a bit of driving to do to empty his bowels. Two round trips to the Detroit airport, about 70 miles each way, to drop me off and pick me up for a work trip to San Francisco did the job.
The day of surgery arrived. Steve offered the use of his garage for the operation.
Out with the Old, In with the New
Bob crawled under Gulliver and loosened the bolts holding the original fuel tank in place. As he neared time for the old tank to come out, fumes overpowered him, making him dizzy and lightheaded. I got dizzy too. Did we hallucinate seeing a duck that thought it was a chicken? No, that actually happened.
The guys succeeded in removing Gulliver’s old tank. Then they had to reattach hoses from the original tank to the new tank before they could install it. Bob painstakingly cleaned around the openings of the old vessel before doing so to help ensure no debris got in the new tank.
Because the new tank stood taller than the original, installing it required jacking up Gulliver’s tail. That enabled enough wiggle room to get the new tank into position. The guys got it secured and returned Gulliver’s tail to the ground.
Road to Recovery
Before the transplant could be considered successful, the new tank had to be tested for leaks. The guys poured 5 gallons of diesel into the tank. That amount barely covered the bottom. But it held and provided enough fuel to get to a local station to fill the tank in full. As Bob pumped diesel, I peered under the truck to watch for leaks. Thankfully, I saw none.
Now, we have a longer driving range. The tank sticks out about 2 inches below the truck, which is no big deal. The only drawback is that the range to empty notification on our dashboard is based on a 32-gallon tank, not its 55-gallon replacement.
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This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.