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Fuel tank replacement
A fuel tank is a container used to safely store flammable liquid on a vehicle. The fuel tank capacity differs between vehicle makes and models. Passenger car fuel tanks will ordinarily hold somewhere between 45 to 65 litres of fuel. Smaller cars will have a smaller fuel tank than larger vehicles due to space and weight considerations while heavier vehicles have larger tanks as they are more likely to consume more fuel and they have the extra room to fit a larger tank.
Some 4WDs may have a smaller secondary tank or have long-range tanks installed that can hold up to 185 litres of fuel. These tanks are needed when driving in remote areas where fuel stations are few and far between. Long-range tanks can also be of a stronger construction to reduce the chance of punctures or damage from traversing rough terrain.
Fuel tanks can be damaged, suffer punctures, or develop leaks over time. If you ever notice fuel leaking or a fuel smell from around the fuel tank - other than when you fill up - then have the fuel tank inspected as it may need to be replaced.
What is a fuel tank?
Fuel tanks are made from metal or plastic. In the case of metal tanks, stamped steel or aluminium sheets are welded together to create the tank. Plastic, blow-moulded polyethylene tanks can take on more complex shapes and this works well for creating a tank that can fit around axles and/or exhaust systems. Due to the more structured fitment, the plastic tanks provide increased crash safety and provide a better use of space.
The fuel tank will have a pipe that extends to the fuel filler point on the vehicle. There will also be at least one vent or valve at the top of the tank in case there is an overflow situation. The fuel tank will be strapped and bolted onto the underside of the vehicle.
Most fuel tanks are positioned to the front of the rear axle. This is to keep it away from crumple zones on the car - which is also why they stopped the fuel filler from being located at the rear of vehicles. Now they are all located on the side of the vehicle. The fuel filler cap is an important part of fuel storage and should be in good condition as it aids in keeping the fuel system working well.
NEED A NEW FUEL CAP? How to replace a filler cap
Here are some relevant Australian fuel tank design rules:
- A fuel tank is not allowed to extend to the widest point of the vehicle body (excluding mirrors)
- Every fuel tank has to have a provision for at least 5% fuel expansion when full
- The filler pipe can not be in a position where overflow will run onto exhaust or electrical systems
- All tanks have at least one pressure vent or valve that will operate if the tank is filled to overflow, which can’t leak into an enclosed compartment
An intact fuel tank is considered to be extremely safe. However, when leaks and damage occur, things start to get a little more dangerous. You will want to get it fixed or replaced quickly.
Symptoms that a fuel tank needs replacing
- Contaminants inside that can’t be cleaned out
How is a fuel tank replaced?
- Fuel is drained from the tank
- All the fuel lines entering and exiting the tank are removed
- Rear suspension dropped (only necessary on some rear-wheel drives)
- Fuel tank removed and new tank fitted
- Straps and bolts refitted and tightened
- Suspension raised (if it had to be dropped)
- Fuel lines refitted
- Tank filled with fuel
- Checked for leaks
Tips to remember
A fire extinguisher should be at hand at all times when working on highly combustible materials and there should be no naked flames in the work area, which should be well ventilated.
The fuel drained from the tank should be stored in proper fuel storage containers in a safe location whilst the tank is replaced.
An AutoGuru qualified mechanic will make the job look easy. Sit back and relax while the pros take care of the new fuel tank fitment.
How important is replacing a fuel tank?
Considering fuel costs and the environmental impact of leaking fuel, it has a high cost. Best not to let it slip through the cracks. The safety aspect of getting a faulty fuel tank replaced is an important point. Fuel is a flammable liquid and should be contained properly, so get any issues fixed straight away.