Long Range America tank upgrade on 5th Gen 4Runner - 24Gallons
Stopping at a highway gas station was a dreaded experience. I am under my vehicle pulling out my Trail'd fuel containers, haggling with the pump, and pushing these heavy containers back under my rig to get them into place while my 2 year old son is crying in the car wanting out so he can run around.
His babysitter (our 100 pound hyperactive doberman) is clawing at the window in solidarity with my toddler. Sure, I could have my jerry cans mounted on my rear bumper but than I wouldn't have room for the necessary 10 gallons of water. And as I fill my cans, my toddler and doberman still can't run around the highway gas station unsupervised. Every overlander that spends more time on dirt than pavement thinks about an auxiliary fuel tank but usually finds it difficult to justify the cost (as did I). However, at some point the vehicle range, time savings, and convenience starts feeling like a necessity.
Reserve Fuel Options
When we start overlanding we map out our trips based on our off-road fuel range. Then we start carrying jerry cans or rotopax. However, they take up valuable space (as keeping them outside the vehicle often forces water storage inside the vehicle). Eventually I switched to Trail'd spare tanks (awesome quality product btw!) as my spare was on my bumper and I was able to utilize otherwise wasted space under the vehicle. This allowed me to carry water on the bumper and I finally had the interior space for a luxury item: a potty toilet (for my son... he didn't let me use it).
Any of these options are good options for overlanders, especially if the fuel is there for the "just in case" moment. However, we were planning more and more trips that required 250 - 300 off-road miles between trips. I was stressed that even 10 gallons in reserve is not enough (and it wasn't on two trips!) as off-road range is usually 30-50% less than on-road range. On longer trips I would estimate our group would lose 1 hour every 2 days on dealing with gas containers (legal spouts are a pain). And our refuel stops would sometimes force us to be packing, unpacking, carrying and pouring full cans in 100 degree desert weather with no shade for 20-30 minutes. The Long Range America tank now lets me carry 24 gallons of auxiliary fuel with no need to stop for refueling!
When to Upgrade?
You are doing several trips per year that require 10+ gallons of extra fuel.
You are planning trips around gas stations preventing you from exploring deeper into the wilderness that you would otherwise explore.
You spend too much valuable time/space on unpacking, packing and using your fuel cans.
You travel in states/countries (Baja, Mexico) that require an attendant to pump fuel and your tired of getting 3 gallons in a 5 gallon can.
You have toddlers that prevent you from leaving them alone in the car while you're filling up and dealing with your gas cans.
Long Range America Auxiliary Tank Install
This is one of the few items I did not have the confidence to install. I had the tank installed by RPM Garage in Monrovia. As I have an aftermarket bumper, it also required some cutting and modifications to the bumper as well.
Prior to order and install, I had not seen these tanks in person and online information was limited, I
was wondering if it would hang too low and become a rock magnet? Would it require excessive procedures to operate? Would gas stations still be a pain? I was pleasantly surprised to find that I have a little fuel gauge and button under my steering wheel and that's it. One button to pump fuel from my aux tank to my main tank. And at gas stations nothing is different from stock (only one hole for the fuel pump). I fill the main tank and then it automatically fills the aux tank.
First Test Run
I had a Baja trip planned in a week and wanted to make sure this tank really works before my trip. I took the 4Runner on a quick overnight trip to Mt. Whitney to get a full cycle of use on pavement. The tank worked flawlessly other than the fact that I spent about $230 at the gas station in Lone Pine to fill up both tanks from empty (CA prices with a supercharger).
The following week we went to Baja and ran approximately 500 off-road miles and 400 pavement miles. We raced on dry lakes, flew through mountain passes, almost had to leave two vehicles behind in Mexico, abused my winch enough that I need a new line, used a sledgehammer to build up a washed out trail, and experienced hurricane Nora at 4:30 a.m. while trying to sleep on the beach in San Filipe. The 5th Gen and aux tank were tested.
When I didn't have to get out of the vehicle to fuel up my tank at the first gas station, I knew I made the right choice! Fueling up is no different than standard and I'm not away from my toddler. When I finished the trip and realized this tank took a beating and is working flawlessly, I scheduled my wife's 4Runner for an install!
Peace of Mind
Baja information and mapping is unpredictable, you truly don't know where the next gas station will be or if the road you're on dead ends at a private property fence. Throughout the trip I never worried about fuel with a full 24 gallon auxiliary tank and that peace of mind allowed us to explore areas which otherwise we would not risk exploring. I've had similar scenarios occur while exploring in various areas in California. There were times we turned back and stressed for hours during our drive to a gas station not knowing if we can make it on our remaining fuel. This is the unrealized game changer for me!
These aren't issues but more of a "need to know" so you are not surprised after use.
It takes 30-45 minutes to transfer 24 gallons of fuel from the aux tank to the main tank. I do this while I am driving so it's not an inconvenience. I often start transferring when my main tank is 1/2 empty and keep my main tank full as often as possible. I don't want to be empty on my main and constantly monitoring the slow transfer to make sure it's working when I am almost out of gas.
The fuel level sensor on the aux tank is slow to react. It takes 1-2 minutes for it to start slowly rising to full after a fill at the station. If your off-road with constant inclines and declines, it will usually not read correctly until you stop on level ground for 10+ minutes. Most OEM tanks have the same issue but their sensors react much faster.
If you are driving off-road with inclines, declines, ruts and rocks; the movement of your vehicle will throw fuel from the reserve tank to the main tank. After a fill-up I would have a full main tank for the first 4-8 hours of off-road driving while my aux tank would slowly be losing gas. Since I'm not off-roading on level ground, this causes me to lose track of my exact fuel availability for a while. However, I know my general range based on off-road run time and mileage. If I am feeling low on gas, I can stop on level ground and get a reading after 10+ minutes.
The pump at the gas station won't shut off until both tanks are full. If you don't want to carry the extra weight around town, you need stop the pump at the desired amount.
One of my initial concerns was rock exposure due to the tanks location. I discussed this concern with Long Range America and was informed that the recommended install shops have an option to weld a slider onto the tank. I declined as I believe a flat plate welded onto the tank would not do a great job to protect the welded corner seams of the tank (where damage is most likely to occur). I decided after Baja (due to time constraints) I would build a separated skid for the tank myself; leaving a gap between the tank and skid for solid protection.
After the install I was surprised at how the tank sat under the 4Runner. It has a curve that is extremely well thought out for the departure angle of a 4Runner. It is very unlikely that most people would ever manage to get rock rash on the tank. A full aftermarket bumper will further protect the tank. After Baja I noticed the underside of my bumper had some rock rash but the tank was untouched. I can only see myself hitting
the tank if I come off a 90 degree rock wall that is 3+ feet tall at slow speeds. Then the question will be how did I get up that wall? ... Maybe Moab?
I am still going to build a skid system for my peace of mind. But in all honesty I will probably just slightly hurt my departure angle with the skid.
The tank is about 35-40 pounds. 24 gallons of gas is 151 pounds. let's say a total of 200 pounds of weight is added with a full spare tank. However this is not considering the weight you trim by removing your current gas can setup.
On my 2019 heavily modified 4Runner I am running ARB 899 coils. I did not feel any difference in suspension before or after the tank. However, I am already very heavy and tuned for that weight. My wife's bone stock 2021 4Runner just had the LRA tank installed as her first mod. I drove it on pavement with both tanks full and surprisingly felt no difference. We are waiting for an Expedition One bumper and 34's on her rig and I was debating on ARB 898 coils (400 pounds) or ARB 899 coils (900 pound) and now am confident that 400 pound coils would be more than needed.
After driving both these vehicles, I am fairly confident to state that the LRA tank will not require coil upgrades unless you are already at the point where you need them anyways.
Would I Buy Again?
I dreaded making this large financial investment for what I thought was a luxury. However, now I know that in my situation this was not a luxury but a necessity that opened up new opportunities to explore beyond the standard tracks, alleviate all worries when taking my toddlers with me, and give me peace of mind throughout my adventures.
Yes, I would buy it again as I just did! After Baja I installed the same tank on my wife's 2021 5th Gen as she will start joining us with our second [almost] toddler in a few months!