Gas Theft: What You Can do to Prevent Gas Theft
For as long as there have been cars equipped with fuel tanks, there have been less than upstanding citizens looking to take your gas through nefarious means. You’ll tend to see gas theft more frequently along with rising gas prices. Unfortunately, today’s thieves are still stealing gas from cars in what seems like an annoying but relatively harmless siphoning process, but others are taking a more damaging approach as well.
It's become more prevalent that gas thieves are drilling holes in fuel tanks to steal gas, and an average repair cost for fuel tank replacement is approximately $1,200 to $1,400 including parts and labor. Sometimes all it takes to prevent siphoned gas, though, is a locking gas cap.
Avoid the frustration of having your gas stolen by implementing these important and practical tips.
Research on the areas you are driving to
Although it’s non-violent, gas theft is still a crime. When you’re driving somewhere and plan to leave your car for a while, how do you know that it won’t be tampered with before you come back to it?
Typically (and sadly), certain areas are more likely to experience crime than others. Rural areas are not exempt from theft and other crimes, but they occur with much less frequency than in urban areas. You might find that low-income neighborhoods have higher theft rates, fuel included, as residents do their best to scrape by, but high-priced areas can also be targeted by thieves.
So, what do you do? Research the areas where you plan to park your vehicle, even if it’s just for a short time. Check with websites like SpotCrime that compile police reports into a handy map. Do you need to go somewhere that has a high rate of crime? It might be a good idea to take an Uber or Lyft instead, or choose public transportation.
Where’s the safest place to park?
If you’re trying to prevent your car from being targeted by would-be thieves, some places are better than others at keeping it safe.
Some of the safest places to park include:
- Brightly lit areas that make it difficult for lurkers to go unnoticed.
- High-traffic locations where eyes are always watching.
- In a secure parking garage, ideally with security.
- In a mall parking lot with plenty of other drivers around.
Let’s be honest here. Nine times out of ten, someone trying to snake a hose into a gas tank or sucking on it to siphon fuel is an especially obvious bad apple. If there’s a chance they’re being watched and their crime could be reported or witnessed and recorded, the likelihood of the offence occurring goes down substantially. Parking in full view in a busy area might not be cohesive with avoiding door dings, but it’s a great tactic for preventing theft.
Replace Your Gas Cap With a Locking Gas Cap
One of the simplest and most effective methods to prevent your fuel from being pilfered has been around for decades. A locking gas cap is just like any other gas cap except that it has a keyed lock that only someone with a key can remove. Installing it is as straightforward as removing your non-locking cap and twisting in the locking one.
Generally, locking gas caps are great option and fast to install, but there’s more to it. Vehicles are equipped with onboard diagnostic systems nowadays, and they test the fuel system for leaks by building a small amount of pressure. It’s crucial to use a locking gas cap designed to work with your vehicle as a small leak or improper venting could cause a Check Engine Light to come on.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re worried about having your gas stolen while you’re parked, a few tips to follow include:
Park in well-lit areas
Avoid parking in unfamiliar locations overnight or for extended periods of time
Choose secure parking in underground parking lots when away from home
Park in your garage
Park in high-traffic areas
Check neighborhood crime stats ahead of time
Most new cars have a check ball in the fuel filler hose to prevent a gas thief from threading a siphon hose down into the tank. However, it isn’t foolproof and there are techniques that can effectively circumvent the safety measure.
With a normal gas cap, it’s nearly impossible to tell if someone has siphoned gas from your car because a fuel cap can be so easily removed and re-installed. With a locking cap, though, someone would need to put the effort in to break the cap off, so it would be simpler to notice.
If your car has been the target of a gas thief, it should be reported to the local authorities. Your local police will likely take a statement, but unless there’s substantial damage like a drilled fuel tank, the costs are probably lower than your insurance deductible so there would be little chance of recompense.
What if you’ve just picked up a BBQ grill with your pickup truck? It’s a different type of gas theft, but your propane grill should be tied down and secured with a lock to prevent it from being the victim of a five-finger discount.
Fuel theft is a growing problem again, but it’s simple and cost-effective to prevent being targeted. Buy AutoZone locking gas caps for your vehicles and deter thieves from making you their prey.
For more tips for how you can improve fuel efficiency and save money on gas, check out our Fuel Efficiency resource.