Gasoline theft often spikes when gas prices rise, making the fuel a more attractive target for crimes of opportunity. Depending on the thief’s approach, gasoline theft can also cause severe damage to the car much like catalytic converter theft, so it can cost car owners more than just a tank of gas. Most measures car owners can take to prevent fuel theft are simple and inexpensive. However, like other vehicle theft prevention, your best bet is to keep your car visible and avoid leaving the vehicle unattended for long periods.
How does fuel theft occur?
Siphoning is the classic method of gasoline theft. Thieves insert a tube into the target vehicle’s gas tank and create suction to draw out the gasoline, using the tube like a big straw. Most modern cars have locking fuel doors, caps, or other anti-siphoning measures, making this technique more difficult. As a result, new ways that thieves are stealing gas include drilling holes directly into the target vehicle’s gas tank and using specially designed vehicles to tap into underground fuel tanks at gas stations.
Tips for gas theft prevention
Stop gas theft before it happens by following some basic security guidelines:
- Park in a private, closed garage when possible.
- When parking on the street, park in well-lit, high-traffic areas.
- Avoid visible routines like parking in the same spot on the street every night.
- If your car has a locking gas cap or fuel door, ensure it’s locked.
- If your car doesn’t have a lock for the fuel, consider upgrading to a locking fuel cap.
How can I tell if I’ve been a victim of gasoline theft?
The most obvious sign is that when you try to start your car, it either won’t start or starts but shows a much lower fuel level than when you parked it. Other signs of gasoline theft are visible without starting the car, like puddles under the car, a gasoline smell around the vehicle, or scratches on the gas cap. Don’t try to drive your car if you suspect the fuel tank has sustained some damage. While driving on empty won’t necessarily hurt the car, a compromised fuel system can be dangerous.
Theft and vandalism damage are usually only covered by comprehensive auto insurance coverage. Make sure you and your vehicle have the appropriate coverage in case of gasoline theft. Learn more about how car insurance works.