Part 1 – DIY Gas Tank Lift for Offroad Clearance on Vitara Tracker


Check out the details and pics of how I relocated my gas tank in the rear of my Vitara/Tracker to gain about 7″ of ground clearance behind the rear tires!

When I picked up my Suzuki Vitara dubbed ‘PJ’, I wanted it to be a super cheap yet capable offroader. On my first offroading trips, the biggest hangup was the gas tank hanging super low in the rear. There was less than 12″ of clearance under the tank and I bottomed out on it often which left some big dents. This wasn’t working for me, so the tank had to go… somewhere else.

In lieu of adding expensive beefed up skid plates both in dollars and weight, it will be way better in the long run if I just relocate the tank itself. This is the hard/long way to do it though since it will take a significant amount of cutting and welding to accomplish.

Warning

This project is not going to be for the faint of heart. I am cutting out and welding in new cross-members and large pieces of the body. For some reason I find a tremendous amount of joy in cutting things apart, making them better, and welding them back together.

DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Check out this ground clearance killer. You can already see some of the dents I put in the skid plate.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Notice here, the tank hangs so low you can’t even see the rear differential…

Starting disassembly

I had already ditched my rear bumper and the sheetmetal cabin air vents that hung down below the quarter panels (check the video HERE). Because of this I had a good hole to look through between the rear crossmember and the body to unhook lines.

This task is obviously easier when the tank is not full, so plan ahead if you can. Mine is about 1/3 full and is light enough that I can pick it up by myself without too much effort.

DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Starting disassembly. Lower the tank slightly with a jack to reach in and start unhooking hoses and electrical.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Quite a few lines criss crossing in here, many are not in the picture. It is a little tight to get arms up in here to unhook everything.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
My pair of hose clamp pliers came to the rescue once again. They are great for getting up into tight spaces and have saved my butt quite a few times since I got them for Christmas last year.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
The hose clamp pliers are about 2ft long and are the perfect length to get up under vehicles or deep in the engine bay. They have a ratcheting lock so once you squeeze to release the hose clamp you can lock it in position.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Here is a close up of the business end. These things help prevent lots of bloody knuckles from trying to fit pliers up in small spaces.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Tank out! Now the real work begins…

Making room

On these little trucks, there isn’t much room in the back to package everything which explains why the gas tank hangs low and the spare tire hangs off the back.

I am going to sacrifice some cargo room here in exchange for ground clearance. Most of my wheeling trips are day trips anyways so it isn’t like I am packing for a week (if so I can always throw bags on the roof or something).

DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Test fitting the tank.
Measuring. Thinking. Measuring. Thinking. THEN I start cutting.

This was about the time I started thinking ‘maybe it would be easier if I just bought a fuel cell that actually fit better’. But I changed my mind very quickly after looking up how much a fuel cell, pump, and everything else needed for it cost. Guess I am going to re-use all of the factory parts!

DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
The first cuts were removing the two original gas tank supports. I cut the rear of them from the top with the sawzall.
The rear crossmember will be beefed up later when I build a rear bumper.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Then cut off the front of the supports.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Lots more room under there, but still not enough for the tank.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Ready to start cutting.
Still using my original diamond cutoff wheel. Haven’t worn it out yet!
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
No going back now…
As a side note, this sheetmetal is really thin. Probably one of the main factors these rigs are so light (not complaining, just an observation).
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Big tank = Big hole.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Dropping the tank in the hole to check clearances and measure for support crossmembers.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Being that this is a gas tank, I didn’t want sharp edges in its vicinity. I took some pliers and folded over ~1/4″ of the end of the sheetmetal cut then used two hammers to finish folding it over.
Good enough for me, this part will get covered up.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Here is the tank just sitting in the hole.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
View of the fitment from above. It pretty much takes up the entire space from the seats to the back door.
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
THIS is the reason I am going through all of this effort.
PJ will go from having ~12″ ground clearance under the rear to over 19″!
DIY Gas Tank Lift - Vitara Tracker without Body Lift
Contrast this with the pics at the beginning where you can’t even see the rear differential. This will be a HUGE improvement offroad.

By lifting the gas tank instead of the suspension, I can keep the suspension stock yet have more clearance as if it was lifted. Lifts and bigger tires are a slippery slope that leads to breaking axles that then have to be upgraded. I have played this game and it never ends.

Therefore I am trying to ‘optimize’ to see how far I can take this thing using sweat equity without actually spending any money on it.

Hope this was interesting and educational. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I start putting everything back together with some new crossmembers and work on relocating the EVAP system.

Now YOU, go outside and work on something!

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