By Bryan Martin, contributing writer
Fuel tanks. They keep the high-dollar life blood of your truck contained. Let’s spend a few minutes digging a little deeper into a tankin’ conversation.
Bigger tanks are one of the most popular driver requests here at the shop. Often, drivers have a truck equipped with 100-gallon or 120-gallon tanks and are looking to change to 150-gallon tanks, to take advantage of the fuel stops with the best price on diesel fuel and get all they can at the discounted price.
Occasionally, if you purchase brand-new tanks, you may be able to sell your older, smaller tanks to a buddy or a salvage yard to recoup some cash.
Custom tank treatments. A very trendy and low-maintenance upgrade we see on fuel tanks is to wrap them in highly polished stainless steel. This provides a “soap and water” shine that will never require a buffer or polish bar. Sounds appealing, huh?
Make sure when having the shop install your stainless wraps that they put some sort of barrier between the tank and the stainless steel wrap. Here at the shop, we use a heavy mil vinyl graphic material to keep the two metals from touching. Nothing will corrode faster than aluminum and stainless steel coming in contact with each other.
I have seen tank wraps that have been installed without protection eat completely through a fuel tank in less than one year. Generally when we wrap a fuel tank for a customer, we recommend adding a set of quilted tank covers to each end of the tank to not only protect the aluminum, but conceal the ends of the stainless wrap for a more “finished” look.
Another look that will never go out of style is to paint your tanks to match the color of your truck. It always provides a clean custom look and minimizes the maintenance as far as the metal polishing goes. To make the painted surface on the front of the tank withstand the road rash elements longer, we can apply a stone guard plastic film – or some truck owners prefer to have the front of the tank sprayed with a bed liner or tuff coat material.
Aftermarket fuel tank straps are available in wider widths than original factory straps, which definitely add a custom touch, and stainless fairings are available to trim out the entire lower length of the fuel tank and conceal unsightly brackets that may be visible on some rigs.
We do offer a line of new fuel tanks with custom aircraft-style filler caps for a racier look. If you visit some of the larger truck shows, you will see all sorts of cool filler caps too.
Preventive maintenance. Maintenance on fuel tanks is usually minimal. They are constructed of aluminum, so corrosion and cavitation are somewhat of a concern. I would advise you to wash them regularly to remove the road chemicals and salt. It would even be a good idea to loosen and pull back the tank straps a couple of times a year and wash under them.
If you see a tank that is corroded and leaking, it nearly always happens under or near a tank strap. This is because of the foreign corrosive road elements getting trapped under the tank strap and slowly eating away at your aluminum tank. With tanks typically selling for over $1,000 at the truck dealerships, it’s no laughing matter.
Other maintenance concerns would be to install a new vent in the top of your tank every 500,000 miles, or at least make sure it is unobstructed and working properly. If you remove your fuel cap and hear the sucking sound of a vacuum, then you can bet your vent or your vented fuel cap isn’t working properly. This condition can also leave you stranded road side, as it doesn’t allow the tanks to equalize your fuel properly.
The last maintenance point I will mention is the insulation between your fuel tank and your straps/brackets, If you see it wadding up, or sliding out of position, you need to get it replaced and corrected very soon so the metal strap doesn’t come in direct contact with the aluminum tank and cause a hole to be worn in the tank.
Additional parts. Considering most tanks are low slung on the chassis and likely to be drug across a mound or a curb from time to time, another upgrade you may want to consider is an over-inflate valve.
This will allow you to flip a switch, and over-inflate your rear air suspension for a short time – gaining you 2 to 4 inches of additional ground clearance and allowing you to creep across the obstruction and keep your tanks in the safe zone. This is done by using an electric dump valve and plumbing it so that tank air pressure is fed directly to the air bags while bypassing the dump valve.
Just in case you don’t have an over-inflate valve rigged up, you may want to gather up an emergency spill kit. It just may save you a mountain of misery at the right time … in the wrong situation. LL