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How can I stop someone stealing fuel from my car?
August 26, 2007 4:35 AM   Subscribe

How can I stop someone stealing fuel from my car?

Three times over the last two weeks, someone has siphoned petrol from my neighbors and my car (an old mini and a mk2 vw golf). They've busted the locks on the petrol caps, and these are both old cars, so don't have any kind of anti-siphon devices fitted. We've informed the police, but they don't seem to hold out much hope of doing anything about it. Any idea how we can physically prevent them from doing this? We're in the UK if that makes any difference.
posted by blacksky to Society & Culture (26 answers total)
 
I started thinking of a few ideas, but if you did anything that frustrated the perpetrators (like, say, smearing the cap with anti-climb paint and then always using gloves to open it yourself), they might retaliate by keying your car or smashing the windows in).
posted by grouse at 5:07 AM on August 26, 2007


Would a car cover be enough of a detterent? just to encourage them to choose someone else's car.
posted by kaydo at 5:14 AM on August 26, 2007


car alarm?

alternatively, if you park in the same spot every day, motion-activated lights might be a deterrant. if you and your neighbors all install these, the theives might go to another block.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:16 AM on August 26, 2007


According to snopes, while sugar in the gas tank isn't as effective as most people think, it at least causes some damage. If you are sure you are going to be siphoned you could sugar/salt/sand/water your own gas tank and then drain it before you next use your car, laughing as you imagine the siphoners car grinding to a halt.

Alternatively, the suggestion at the end of the article to sprinkle some sugar round the tank and leave a sugar bag might be enough to scare them off.
posted by scodger at 5:17 AM on August 26, 2007


Replacing the locking cap is obviously the first step. But I take it you expect them just to break the new cap? I suppose it becomes a war of attrition at that point: when does the cost of stolen gas exceed the inconvenience of keeping the tank empty and storing the gas in a separate locked can elsewhere.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:19 AM on August 26, 2007


We live on a quiet cul-de-sac which I think is why we're being targeted. I bought a new cap, but now don't dare install it in case they just trash it again. At the moment I'm just keep it running on fumes. We already have motion activated lights on the front of the house, but the sensors don't reach out onto the road as we have a front garden.
posted by blacksky at 5:25 AM on August 26, 2007


When does it seem to be happening? Couldn't you wait up for them and then call the police when you spot them?
posted by dance at 5:46 AM on August 26, 2007


Paintball gun. and staying up all night should take care of it, although I think personally electrifying the car to give a paralytic shock would be fun as well. I am living in the UK right now and I see why people aren't allowed to have guns here. The population would drop like a rock as all of the chavs who do highly irritating but minor crimes get shot.
posted by koolkat at 5:50 AM on August 26, 2007


Alternatively, the suggestion at the end of the article to sprinkle some sugar round the tank and leave a sugar bag might be enough to scare them off.

That reminds me of the old gag where a guy leaves a note on his drink when he goes to the restroom "I spit in this drink." When he comes back someone has added, "so did I."

I am thinking the surveillance camera is a much better option.
posted by caddis at 5:59 AM on August 26, 2007


Paintball gun. and staying up all night should take care of it, although I think personally electrifying the car to give a paralytic shock would be fun as well.

Of course, if you did this you would be the one in jail rather than the yobs.
posted by grouse at 6:04 AM on August 26, 2007


can you position the car such that the gas cap is too close to a wall or something to be accessed?

I'm thinking pulling the car up on your lawn about 2" away from the wall under your bedroom window.
posted by n9 at 6:25 AM on August 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Put a sticker on the cap that says something like "SMILE! YOU'RE ON POLICE CCTV!"
posted by wackybrit at 6:38 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ask a friend if you can park your car at his place for a couple weeks and ask the guy to give you rides to/from work.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:56 AM on August 26, 2007


You may be able to rivet a steel mesh basket inside the tube leading to the tank. Make it deep enough to be able to insert the gas nozzle but not deep enough to to allow for siphoning.

If your car is an old beater maybe you could try riveting on a heavy-duty cover with a padlock.
posted by JJ86 at 7:27 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you are sure you are going to be siphoned you could sugar/salt/sand/water your own gas tank and then drain it before you next use your car, laughing as you imagine the siphoners car grinding to a halt.

Bleach works too.

Seriously, though, I take it you don't have a garage, or a place you could park your car that would be "out of the way" for the thieves, but not so for you? If you are able to install a floodlight with a motion sensor, that may be enought to deter.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 7:37 AM on August 26, 2007


Personally, if this was enough of an issue, I would reroute the tank access tube to another location, like behind the license plate or in the trunk, and install the real gas receptacle there. The thief's gas cap would contain a hose that goes nowhere, so he thinks he's dipping into the tank but can't get suction. He'll give up.
posted by calhound at 7:41 AM on August 26, 2007


Try this.
posted by paulsc at 7:46 AM on August 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Note that while an empty tank because they've busted your gas cap is annoyingly expensive; replacing your gas tank because the thief was unable to defeat your gas cap and so punctured the tank instead is much worse.
posted by Mitheral at 10:59 AM on August 26, 2007


Here's another idea -- add a gallon or two of octane booster to the gas tank. Once the thief gets his fill, pump out your tank (or have a mechanic do it) and fill completely with gas. Octane booster in large quantities will destroy the thief's engine, but when diluted sufficiently in your own tank there will be no problem.
posted by calhound at 12:22 PM on August 26, 2007


Pepper spray booby trap?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:58 PM on August 26, 2007


Setting up a booby trap is a serious offence punishable by up to five years in prison.
posted by grouse at 2:16 PM on August 26, 2007


Actually, if it was only pepper spray, then that provision probably wouldn't apply, and the maximum prison sentence would only be six months, plus a fine of up to £5,000.
posted by grouse at 2:20 PM on August 26, 2007


About the booby trap law I wonder where the line is drawn. Banks use those dye packs, something that could conceivably cause death to the perps or even bystanders if the thing was to go off and blind a driver.

I wonder if something similiar mounted behind a gas door would be legal.
posted by Mitheral at 4:02 PM on August 26, 2007


You could always get one of those little yellow diesel stickers and put it on the petrol cap - I presume whichever pikey is responsible if fueling their own vehicle rather than selling it on - you never know, it may be enough to flumox them...
posted by prentiz at 4:25 PM on August 26, 2007


It's really hard to find exploding dye packs for sale. I looked before mentioning pepper spray.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:45 AM on August 27, 2007


If I had a few hours with some plumbing fittings and hose clamps, I could make a little Y-insert that would allow the fuel you pump in, assisted by gravity, to drain through a screen into the real tank. But their siphon hose would be diverted by the screen into a reservoir of diluted varnish, coca-cola, or something else that won't be very good for their engine.

If you can picture that, you can probably build it.

You could also dust the cap with itching powder, then just use gloves when you touch it yourself.
posted by Myself at 7:24 AM on August 27, 2007 [2 favorites]


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