How To Protect Yourself From Gasoline Thieves

by Fred Lee on 14 June 2008 8 comments

Attention drivers! Fasten your seat belts and prepare yourselves for a wild and crazy journey back to the madness of the seventies. But you’d better remember to hold onto your hats. Or in this case, your gas caps.

In a situation redolent of oil embargoes and gas rationing, fuel prices in this country continue their dizzying ascent into the stratosphere. As a consequence, there has been an alarming increase not only the rising number of gasoline thefts, but in the extreme lengths that some of perps are willing to go to in order to steal the precious petrol.

Most of the thefts still involve people driving off before they pay, with convenience stores that sell gas along busy interstate highways being the primary targets. In fact, with these stores providing as much as 80% of the gas to consumers, they are, on average, expected to lose as much as $1000 of gas this year, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.

What really has law enforcement officials concerned, however, is that in addition to drive-off thefts, some bandits are targeting consumers, using more brazen methods that move well beyond the standard siphon to include pumps, saws, drills, and even guns. Apparently SUVs and large pickup trucks are the car of choice because they have larger gas tanks (and are thus more profitable) and provide easier access to them due to their higher suspensions.

Difficult as it may be to imagine, what the thieves end up doing is literally drilling a hole in the tank and letting the gas drain out, which they will later sell on the black market. Now besides the obvious hazard of a having gas leaking out the bottom of you car, the cost of replacing your tank can run as high as $500.

As gas creeps up well beyond the $4.00 benchmark, the situation might very well get worse. So with this in mind, here are a few things that you can do to protect yourself, or at the very least, minimize your risk:

1. If possible, park in a secure, locked garage, especially when parking overnight

2. Position your car under a streetlight to increase visibility.

3. Park in high traffic areas where your car is in plain sight.

4. Don’t park in public lots for a long period of time and, if need be, move your car frequently.

5. Keep the access door to your gas cap in full view whenever possible. Don’t let it be obscured by a wall or shrub.

6. Buy a locking gas cap. If you don’t already have one, a ten dollar investment can save you a lot of headache.

7. Report any suspicious behavior, especially around your car.

In the end, like most things in life, the responsibility lies with you to practice a little common sense and make it harder for thieves to get to your gas. This, in turn, will save you time, hassles, and of course, money.

One other solution would be to simply get a smaller car. Besides the obvious savings and convenience, they have smaller gas tanks making them less attractive to thieves. Small cars are also much lower to the ground, so accessing the gas tank is that much more difficult, if not impossible.

Unless, of course, they’ve brought along a jack.

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Myscha Theriault's picture

We just bought one this week. It was quite a quest to find out which one we needed. My husband finally went to Stant.Com and found a place to enter in the type of vehicle we had to find out the exact part we needed to order. We were in a hurry, so we went to the local VIP auto parts place here, but you could certainly order one off that site. At least it looks like you can to me.

Hadn't heard of the tank drilling thing. That's pretty brazen. Timely post.

Guest's picture
Aaron

Just a few things to add. If you do park on the street, try to do it where the side of your car with the gas cap is facing the street. That way, Mr. Would be Gas Thief will most likely have to be on the street side to get your gas.

Oh, and hopefully no one reading this needs the next piece of advice. Along the gas tank replacement route; the new JB Weld (called WaterWeld) will fix it. WaterWeld It's made for marine applications, and if you know boats, you know that the gas tanks don't come out for replacement.

Use some brake cleaner or something to clean around the hole, knead up a chunk of the expoxy, and stick it in/around the hole. It will mushroom through the hole to anchor itself in. It's made for this stuff to, so no worries. MUCH cheaper than a replacement tank too. I just used it to seal up the tank in my '69 VW a few months ago, and it worked great.

Guest's picture
Reliant

Locking Gas Caps are a temporary deterrent. Because as you say in your article, they can drill a hole in the gas tank itself.

Fred Lee's picture

Thanks for the tip, Myscha. Not exactly something we buy all the time.

And thanks, Aaron, for the great advice. It's always good to find an alternative to replacing a gas tank, something I for one have never done. And I agree, Reliant, locking gas caps are simply a temporary deterrent, but better than nothing. While serious thieves might go for the tank, most petty robbers would only go so far as to siphon the gas. Might as well discourage those, as well. 

Paul Michael's picture

I was wondering what to do about gas theft, some great tips here. And Aaron, superb find with that WaterWeld product. I'm going to check that out immediately, seems like an essential for any toolbox.

Guest's picture
Brandon

Here in Ireland, one liter of deisel costs EUR1.45 - per US Gallon, that's around EUR5.48 per gallon.. or $8.23 in USD.

We're getting reamed here I tell ya :)

Guest's picture

Thank goodness, I don't think this has become a problem where I live but at least now I will know the steps to take to avoid it.

Guest's picture
Guest

Wow. Um, not only is drilling into a person's gas tank a complete jerk move but... drilling into metal may cause sparks. (Not all gas tanks are plastic, especially on many trucks & SUVs.)

And, well, drill + spark + gas tank = kaBOOM!