Gas thefts a growing problem with higher costs to fill up

Gas thieves sometimes drill holes into the bottoms of fuel tanks to get what they want.
Gas thieves sometimes drill holes into the bottoms of fuel tanks to get what they want.(KWCH)
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 5:07 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - While record-high gas prices have come down a little, many are still feeling the impact. That includes some people in the Wichita area warning others on social media of thieves emptying their gas tanks.

With costs sometimes approaching $100 just to fill up a vehicle’s tank with unleaded gas, to find it’s all gone the next morning can be especially frustrating. And depending on how thieves got into the tank, it can be even more costly than what you paid at the pump.

When thieves target a vehicle and take extreme measures to get what they want, victims often end up at auto repair shops like CARSTAR in Wichita.

“Thousands of dollars in damages. It’s a constant battle against them,” said CARSTAR Owner AJ Pickering.

Pickering said in the last few years, his staff has dealt with the surge in catalytic converter thefts.

“We hear stories of them just being in a parking lot at the grocery store, the home improvement store in the middle of the day, and they come out, ‘boom’, catalytic converter is gone,” he said. “Turn on the vehicle and it’s a very loud noise.”

Now, they’re seeing more cars targeted for their gas.

“Now that gas prices have gone up, we’ve seen a lot more where the hole was drilled in the fuel tank and fuel tanks have had to get replaced because of it,” Pickering said.

While many thieves till go through the top of the tank, that’s not always how it is anymore.

“A lot of manufacturers have made the doors lock, so when you lock the vehicle door, it locks the gas door as well, so it helps keep them from siphoning.”

For owners of older-model vehicles with twisting gas caps, one step you can take is getting a locking gas cap, which can be found at many auto-part stores. And while that will protect your tank from above, there does remain the issue of below, as thieves are drilling holes into the bottom of the gas tank.

“Some of these vehicles, there’s just enough room and they can just slide under there and as bold as it is, to use a drill and metal right next to flammable gas. They just jump in there, put a hole in there, fill up a tank and take it off,” Pickering said.

State Farm Insurance said some other ways to protect yourself and your vehicle from gas thieves include:

  • Park in a well-lit and well-traveled area.
  • When you can, park in a garage or driveway.
  • Avoid parking in public places for extended periods of time.
  • Park your car so the fuel door is facing the road.

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