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Fill ’er up



Tips on carrying extra fuel

Because of their very size, weight and shape, larger 4×4 vehicles aren’t usually economical, fuel-wise. So, when planning a journey into the wilds in such a vehicle, serious thought should be given as to where and when you will be able to fill up with your particular brand of fuel. We’ve become used to the fact that in the more densely populated areas, fuel is generally available everywhere, day or night. But as one moves deeper into the country, the situation can be completely different. A problem with many of the new 4×4 vehicles, wonderful as they are, is that they often have large engines with small fuel tanks, which contain sometimes as little as 60 litres. This amount would, depending on how the car was driven, possibly give a range of +/ – 500 km; which isn’t much when you consider that in the past it was thought that one needed to have a range of at least 1 000 km for long-range journeys. But, other than fitting long-range fuel tanks which are available for some vehicles only, it’s difficult to achieve that amount of distance without refuelling.

In practice, though, I found that with a 2.5 litre diesel engine and an 80+ litre fuel tank in my loaded Mazda double-cab, I could achieve about 650 km by driving carefully. I backed this up with another 40 litres carried in two jerrycans on my roof-rack. On the other hand, in my thirsty old 4.2 litre petrol Cruiser bakkie which was rigged out like a Xmas Tree and always heavily laden, I often carried six 20-litre jerrycans on the front end of the roof-rack in order to achieve a decent range. With full cans this was quite a weight to have on the roof, but those old Land Cruiser bakkies were a special breed of animal. In any event, you don’t need to travel all the way with your jerrycans full: to lighten your load, you need only fill them when you actually require the extra range.

However, carrying fuel in jerrycans can be a problem. Firstly, where do you put the extra weight safely? And secondly, when carrying petrol, it’s a definite “no-no” to carry any sort of containers in the back of your vehicle, unless it’s an open bakkie where any fumes will hopefully be blown away. B In a canopied vehicle or station wagon, petrol fumes, being heavier than air, can collect low down in nooks and crannies and be ignited by any random spark. On one particular occasion that I know of, it is believed that a spark from a freezer caused the flare-up. Fortunately there wasn’t much vapour present, so the driver only lost some hair, and got an intense ‘sunburn’ on face and arms.

Full jerrycans can also be a real pain to work with. At first, with my Land Cruiser, and for want of a better plan, I used to lift the full cans onto and off the roof-rack – it should come as no surprise that I ended up with a hernia – and used a metal funnel to empty the cans into the fuel tank. Needless to say, fuel was inevitably spilled and my clothes always stank of petrol. Doing it like that is also, because of static electricity, always a dangerous business. If you’ve ever seen petrol and its vapour ignite, you wouldn’t want to be within 50 metres of such an operation; but at the time I simply didn’t know any better.

Even though it was a diesel, I evolved a much better system with my Mazda. I had a good roof-rack fitted over the double cab and strapped two jerrycans at the back of the rack. They were situated just above the fuel filler cap on the car. I had the cans lying on edge with their filler caps facing rearwards. Filler caps facing upwards or forwards on roof-racks can get hooked by branches in the bush, opening the cans to splash fuel all over the place: not a great idea. In any event, it’s always a good idea to lock the caps or wire them closed.

Positioning them the way they were, meant that when filling the main tank, I could simply climb up on the back and fill the jerrycans at the same time. Now we come to the good bit. I’ve never been a great fan of siphoning fuel, as somehow it always ended up that I swallowed some, or, at the very least, had fuel in my mouth. But at some point I discovered that if one used a large diameter garden hose (20 mm diameter), instead of employing the usual little rubber pipe, it made the world of difference…