Gas theft leaves drivers on empty

Christina Stavale

After filling up with gas priced around three dollars a gallon, the least people can hope for is to get full use of the tank.

But that may not always be the case.

Earlier this summer, Tess Wolfe, senior newspaper journalism major, said she filled up her gas tank before going to her night job in Brimfield only to find her tank nearly empty when she returned in the morning. Someone had siphoned her gas.

“They left me just enough gas to drive to a gas station and fill up again,” said Wolfe, a former Stater employee.

Whether the gas theft left her a small amount of gas out of consideration or inability to siphon any more, Wolfe said she wanted to protect herself from this happening again.

Local auto retailers suggest car owners buy locking gas caps directly from the car manufacturer to protect their cars against gas siphoning. These range from $14-20.

Brian Carr, of Leesburg, Va., manages a Web site,, to help people save money on gas. He said he has received a number of e-mails from people who have had their gas siphoned.

“I don’t think it’s a widespread epidemic or anything,” he said. “But it seems to be more common in summer months and when gas prices are high.”

He said siphoning gas is relatively easy to pull off, if a car does not have a locking gas cap. People can buy siphoning kits with tubes and hand-held pumps and use them to pump gas directly from a gas tank into a container.

“Many car manufacturers have made it tougher for people to steal gas by putting a gas tank flap release trigger in the car,” he said. “But there are still plenty of vehicles without this feature.”

But individual gas tanks without locks are not the only things at risk. People have also managed to find ways to siphon gas from pumps at gas stations. Carr said most gas stations prevent this by using surveillance cameras.

He has also heard of people who suck gas from a tube with their mouths as a substitute for buying a pump, which he said is a dangerous feat to attempt.

“People will go to great lengths, I suppose,” he said.

Contact principal reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].