Water Tank

Water storage is a critical issue for all four wheel drivers. Not only do you need to carry large amounts of fresh water, you also need 2 alternate supplies in case of contamination from one source. We suggest a couple of small plastic jerry cans for backup but for the main supply, the best water carrying solution is a stainless steel water tank. In this article we look at the major issues related to water storage and discuss how you can find the ideal solution for your needs.

Water Is Important

Every time you take your 4WD off-road you must be self-sufficient by carrying your own reliable source of drinking water. You must ensure that you carry at least 2 litres of drinking water per person per day as well as additional cooking and washing water requirements. In fact we also try to ensure that we always have a about 10 litres of spare water in case the radiator needs to be refilled. This could mean you require 40 - 100L of water storage.

Water Storage Solutions

Space is always a premium and the most efficient and safe storage of your water is important. Remember, the roof is not a good place to store water due to the increased weight above the vehicle's standard centre of gravity. Water should be stored low in the vehicle.

To minimise risk of possible water contamination and to distribute the weight load of storing water, it is best to have at least 2 water storage solutions eg. drinking water in a stainless steel tank plus washing water in plastic jerry cans. Water in plastic can sometimes take on a strange taste and take on the smell of the plastic container, especially if you stored it for prolonged periods.

Stainless Steel Tanks

There are two options for mounting stainless tanks - underbody tanks and internal mounted water tanks. Some manufacturers offer a specific design to fit in a standard location. Others are capable of offering a customised designed using the latest technology to design the most suitable shape for a specific vehicle.

Design and Construction

Water tanks need to be fully internally baffled and should have an expansion chamber incorporated in the design of the tank to ensure sloshing noises and extremes of temperature do not make the unit impractical. Each individual tank should be pressure tested by the manufacturer to ensure there are no leaks in the welds.


Look for practicalities in filling your water tank. Is a hose required or can a funnel be used to transfer water from, say a bucket, to the tank and if so is the height and access practical for you to do this?

Likewise, look for practicalities in using your water supply. How easily can you drain a quick cup of water or wash your hands? Does the tank require a pump or power supply or will it work on gravity feed? How secure is the shut-off valve and can you obtain and carry spare parts? How will you know the level of water left in your tank? Is there a level gauge? Does the tank fully drain?

Installation and Operation

Departure angle must not be affected by installation of an under-body water tank. Most vehicles have some recess that are suitable for small tank installations, such as under the passenger seat area, in a spare wheel bay or in the rear just behind the axles.

Every make/model of vehicle will have its own issues when it comes to selecting the most practical location to install a water tank. Firstly, see what standard tanks are available for your vehicle. If there are any complications you can go direct to one of the tank manufacturers for a custom-design.

Example - 80 Series Toyota Landcruiser

Typically, the spare wheel bay under the body of the vehicle is used for water storage and some tanks. These tanks are available for this model of vehicle and are specifically intended for that location. However, the spare wheel bay is also the ideal place to install a long-range fuel tank. Unfortunately in this case, there’s only one underbody option left for water storage - being a small recess under the passenger seat area. The limitation being that only a small tank of approximately 30L will fit here.

Now generally, a 40L tank contains just enough water for 2 adults to last a couple of days whilst camping in the bush. If you were to take into account the water needed for drinking, personal cleaning and hygiene, cooking and the minimal washing of dishes, you can imagine how it all adds up. That said, it may be a better option to consider a larger tank such as a 65 Litre water tank.

Internal Water Tank

Opting for a larger tank requires more thought on another installation area of the vehicle. A good option is to install an internal stainless steel water tank. Many manufacturers offer a standard internal design to suit most makes/models of popular 4WDs such as the 80 Series Landcruiser. Please note however, that if you have any storage drawers or cargo barriers, then you may need to work with a manufacturer to design a custom made water tank.

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Created: June 2008
Revised: May 2007
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