It’s long been suggested that to help reduce the risk of having your vehicle broken into, you should always keep any items of value out of sight. But what if thieves aren’t interested in what is inside the passenger compartment of your vehicle, but in your fuel tank?
Given the historic high price of gas that motorists are currently paying at the pump, it should probably come as no surprise that incidents of fuel thefts are on the rise.
Many of these incidents of been gas-and-dash incidents, where thieves will fill up at a station and drive away without paying. It’s not a new phenomenon, but one that has increased in recent months. According to the Ontario Convenience Store Association, which represents 2,700 gas stations across the province, there were 21,000 thefts in 2020. With an average loss of $52 per incident, this amounted to a collective loss of just under $1.1 million.
The association predicts as many as 50,000 drive-off thefts will take place this year, with the average loss per incident expected to be around $75 because of the higher price of fuel. It estimates gas-and-dash incidents could cost retailers $3.75 million in 2022.
Historically, an increase in the price of fuel has also been attributed to a rise in cases of gas being stolen from the fuel tank of vehicles; a practice generally known as gas siphoning. While the Toronto Police Service said it has seen an increase in reports, it is difficult to say how widespread the practice is.
Siphoning gas takes place by placing one end of a hose directly into the fuel tank of a vehicle and then using suction to pumps the gas out through the hose into a container. It’s very low tech, using simple physics to move the liquid from one place to another.
Newer vehicles are often equipped with features to prevent siphoning. Anti-siphon mesh screens are often fitted in the fuel filler pipe and act as a physical barrier to prevent hoses from entering the fuel tank.
There is also a rollover valve located at the tank inlet. This valve is designed to keep gas from escaping the car in event of an accident, but it also prevents would-be thieves from sticking a hose into the tank. Because of this, the rollover valve is also often referred to as an anti-siphon valve.
With gas siphoning becoming harder to do, some thieves are now resorting to drilling holes directly into the fuel tank and draining its contents. The practice results in owners not only having their fuel stolen, but also with hefty bill to repair or replace their vehicle’s tank.
To reduce the risk of having your vehicle’s fuel siphoned, there are a few preventative steps you can take.
- Even if the door to your fuel tank locks, you can also purchase a locking gas cap. This added security might dissuade thieves from trying to siphon your gas. However, as some vehicles are designed to not have a gas cap, this approach will not work for every vehicle owner.
- Park in your garage rather than on the street or in your driveway. While many homeowners use their garage for storage, using it to house your vehicle makes it harder for possible thieves to access your vehicle.
- Avoid parking in a public lot or space for extended periods of times. Leaving your car overnight or for a few days – like at the airport while you go on vacation – can be tempting to thieves. Instead, police suggest you take public transit to the airport, or get dropped off, so you can leave your vehicle at home.
- If you leave your vehicle in a parking garage, try to park it in a well-lit area or spot with a lot of foot and vehicle traffic, like near a stairwell or entrance way. It is also a good idea to park so your fuel door is visible. The more noticeable your vehicle is, the less attractive it will be to a thief. And, if equipped, remember to turn on your car alarm when you leave your vehicle.