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Covering Your Gas

Tips to keep crooks out of your gas tank

by Autobytel Staff
May 22, 2008
2 min. Reading Time

It still doesn’t cost as much per gallon as your designer hair products or your daily Starbucks habit...yet. But, is that precious petroleum costly enough to make you clean out your garage so you can park your car in there instead of storing your forgotten treasures? People are getting desperate for the go juice and are stooping to new lows to get it. So, you may want to rethink which of your valuables deserve priority in that two-car storage closet currently occupied by your used bowling ball collection and juniors crib and baby swing — I promise, he won’t be using them now that he’s in college anyway. Nowadays, locking fuel caps and filler flaps are not enough, and below we list the reasons why.

There are plenty of movies about harmless hooligans tapping someone else’s fuel tank to get the shenanigans in the plot rolling. Good news! Many cars nowadays have a check valve or filler screen that prevent these thrill seekers from having a good time at your expense.

But that filler screen doesn’t score you an automatic Get Out of Being Siphoned card. Meant as a deterrent, not a stop-all, determined crooks have figured out ways to get past these devices on certain vehicles. Often the result is damage that makes fueling difficult or prevents the valve from keeping fuel from coming out of the filler neck if the car should end up in any position other than right side up. Bottom line: Don’t count on these devices to save you from having to hoof it to your corner gas pirate with your gas can in hand when you find your tank empty.

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The simplest way to stop siphoning is with a lockable gas cap, right? Sort of. Sales of locking gas caps have historically risen with the price of gasoline. However, like most theft deterrents, it’s a device that only makes theft less appealing, and doesn’t prevent it entirely. How desperate a crook is depends on how much work he’s willing to put into it.

That locking gas cap may keep your neighbor’s teenager from joyriding on your precious fuel, but someone who is looking to score a large amount of gas from several vehicles in one night will have tools to get around it, including everything from tools to pry or crack the cap off which may result in damage to your vehicle, to having spare or blank keys that will jimmy the lock open.

Unfortunately, locking gas caps are not the most technically advanced key-locks on the market. I have had several over the years and found at least three of them to be interchangeable with a little wiggling and a bit of force. But they do help.

Stories are popping up all over the news about gas hungry thieves running into locking gas caps, impassible fuel neck devices or both and taking their need for petrol to all new lows – the bottom of your gas tank. More and more people are finding themselves victim to gasoline theft by having their fuel tanks punctured with a sharp implement and drained from underneath the vehicle. It’s quick, it’s easy, and they probably didn’t come with a 22 gallon gas can, so it’s also messy – as whatever they don’t steal will end up all over your driveway.

I had a custom gas tank built once that was so solid and thick that it doubled as a skid plate and could be used as a jacking point. I always thought, “There’s no way these punks are poking through this.” But remember, crooks aren’t noted for their academic achievements. Some are outright dumb enough to bring drills. Hot metal, flammable liquids, friction, sparks from electric motors – not the best combination – but some are just too stupid to know better, or just don’t care. It just shows how desperate times are. If there’s a will, there’s a way. No gas tank is safe.


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