Fuel Transfer Tanks, and some fuel storage tips

Fluids are always an issue.

Heavy. Bulky. Moving when you don’t want them to move.

Add in something that’s flammable or combustible, and you have even more potential worries.

One of the solutions I’ve been using in my pickup is a transfer tank. You’ve probably seen them in the beds of commercial trucks, flatbeds and pickup trucks. Usually decorated with a red Fill-Rite 12 volt pump on a top corner. I’m specifically a diesel guy, so my fuel issues are a bit different from gasoline issues, but there’s still lots of overlap concerning storage, transportation and utilities.

What’s the difference between the transfer tank and the auxiliary fuel tank? Well, not a whole heckuva lot. Both hold fuel. Both dispense fuel. Both look basically the same. Legally, the transfer tank can not be used as a connected auxiliary fuel tank, whereas the aux tank already has that legal issue dealt with. Not to mention the design is usually a bit nicer than just a DIY tank mod, like many folks do. Personally, even though I’d love to have an Aerotank or Transferflow, I can’t afford them. So I have just a basic transfer tank, with a Graco fuel pump, auxiliary filter, and a digital flow meter. It does the trick, and it’s more flexible than just an auxiliary tank – if I need to fuel up a generator, another vehicle, or just dump fuel into my storage tanks, I just fire up the pump and go do it. Most of the auxiliary tanks that are out there are not designed to work as transfer tanks too, but there are a few companies out there that do have a dual duty style…but again, you will pay quite a bit more for it. I don’t mind paying a thousand less and pulling over every four hours to top off the tank. Heck, that’s about my limit for sitting in one place anyway.

The two different types of fuel transfer that auxiliary tanks use are gravity feed, and solenoid activated gravity feed. With the low tech gravity feed, you don’t have to do anything – other than keep your main tank cap on. I guarantee someone will leave it off once though, and you’ll wind up dumping fuel on the ground. You might only do that once but it can still be an expensive lesson to learn. Then, of course, there are the issues that happen when someone else uses your vehicle…

If you do want to try this method out, it’s pretty simple. All it amounts to is a “T” fitting in the main fuel fill hose and a auxiliary or transfer tank that has a fuel bung mounted low. Don’t say I didn’t warn you though.

What I do like are the solenoid actuated systems, and for that matter it’d be relatively easy to hook up a manual fuel dump valve that would feed transfer tank contents into your main fuel tank. Not hard to do a system that you could either actuate from the drivers seat, or from the bed of the truck.

Of course, you can always do like I have, and just use a regular transfer tank. There are plenty of decent ones being made out there – RDS, Better Built, Weather Guard, Transferflow, Aerotank are a few that have a good product.

The other issue you have to deal with on the transfer tank is how do you get the fuel from point “A” to point “B”? You’ll need some kind of fuel pump (even though you can siphon quite nicely from them), fuel hose, and fill nozzle. I haven’t seen any fuel pump out there that are junk. All of them do the trick, but you’ll have to decide which one to go with depending on your usage pattern, how fast you need a fill, etc. Manual pumps usually run around a gallon for ten pumps of the handle, while the electric pumps will go up to 30 gallons a minute, if your fuel tank can handle that rate. Most can’t get anywhere near that, but the larger tanks on full size trucks can, as can most of the diesel tanks on military vehicles.

If you’re really,really frugal, you can always modify a used fuel tank off of a junked car or truck. But there are definite trade-offs here – mounting can be an issue, as can safety. You’ll also commonly find that the fuel tanks (unless they’re aluminum or stainless) have got a nice coat of rust on the inside that has to be dealt with. For some of us though, it’s worth it. It’s something I’ve done in the past.

As to fuel storage, there are a few basic things with it. One major thing is watch the safety issues – ground everything. What you don’t need is a spark while opening/closing/or filling. It’ll spoil your day. Store the fuel drums off of the ground – direct contact will give you corrosion issues down the line. Don’t store the tanks half full, you ideally want them as full as possible. It’ll help with corrosion inside the tanks, and condensation issues also. Make sure you have easy access to the storage. Have a few fire extinguishers handy – I like the CO2 style, but the powder and foam ones are great also. Make sure that the area is signed as a no smoking/no open flame area. I also try not to use radios in the area – cell phones are one issue, but if you’re also into Ham radio you know how much power can be put out by a rig, and corona/static effects.

My basic storage system is 55 Gallon fuel drums that originally held transmission fluid (sourced them from a local fuel supplier for $20 each), and a manual Fill-Rite pump. Ground straps are clamped on, and the drums are stored off the ground on strips of Apatong wood.

One of the major benefits to the whole bulk fuel storage is the ability to be able to buy at a drop in the price. Another benefit that most folks don’t realize is that there are big differences in seasonal fuel blends. Differences that will effect economy, power and storage life span. Do some research in your own area, and find what the best season for fuel is.

-Greg

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