Can you carry extra fuel?

How to travel with extra fuel safely.

In the outback, carrying extra fuel is a necessity with service stations being few and far between. You can also save money by buying extra fuel when prices are low and carrying extra with you.

When towing a caravan, a car’s cruising range will be greatly reduced due to the weight of the rig. Meaning you will burn through more fuel, more quickly.

But it’s not as simple as just filling up a container of fuel and hitting the road — there are safety, practical and legal considerations to bear in mind.

How to carry extra fuel

The most common way to carry extra fuel is in a jerry can. You can’t use just any container, it needs to be specifically-designed to carry fuel and comply with Australian Standard AS2906:2001.

The safest containers are metal jerry cans, as they’re much harder to crack than plastic. However, plastic jerry cans designed to carry fuel are lighter and easier to carry than their metal counterparts.

You should also make sure your fuel cans are either colour-coded or clearly labelled. This is to prevent mix ups, and to assist rescue services if there’s an emergency. With properly-labelled containers, they’ll know exactly what they’re dealing with and avoid further problems.

Here are the standard colour codes:

  • Red = unleaded fuel
  • Yellow/Black = diesel fuel
  • Green = water
  • Orange = ethanol 

Where to carry extra fuel

Having the right container is just the first step. You also need to carry and store them in the right location. Never store fuel containers inside your vehicle where the vapours can be inhaled. Smelling fuel is sure to cause nausea, drowsiness and headaches. In some cases, the fumes can even be poisonous.

Where can you carry them on the outside of your caravan or vehicle? Fuel containers cannot be carried anywhere that’s prone to impact in case of a collision. That means fuel containers cannot be carried on the front of your vehicle, the rear of caravans, or on the drawbar of trailers.

Fuel containers can’t overhang your vehicle on either side. If they’re mounted on the rear of your car, you must be an approved, ADR compliant holder. They also cannot overhang too much in the rear.

Carrying extra fuel on the roof is an option if no other suitable place is available. They must be carried in a secure roof basket and strapped in, so they can’t slide. If you do carry fuel on the roof, keep the extra weight in mind. A 20L fuel container weighs about 23kg when full. You should not carry large fuel containers on the roof, due to the effect on your car’s centre of gravity. It’s better to use multiple 20L jerry cans.

How much fuel can you carry?

Legally, you cannot carry more than 250L of fuel in jerry cans in your vehicle. That’s not the only consideration. Extra fuel adds extra weight to your vehicle, so you have to make sure you’re staying under your GVM (the maximum legal weight of the car). Not to mention the fact that the higher the weight, the lower the fuel efficiency.

Find out more about fuel safety.