Is someone messing with me?
April 12, 2007 11:25 PM   Subscribe

Is someone stealing the valve caps off my tires, and why?

I recently moved to a new area and have lost several valve covers off my tires. I had no problems during the 2000+ miles on the way out, but after a few weeks two had gone missing. When I noticed, I picked up a couple new ones at a local garage and put them on finger tight, as well as checked the others to make sure they were snug.

Now, a month or so later, I’m missing two more (I’m not sure if they are the same ones). I know I put them on tight and have never had this problem before. I am not driving on bumpy roads, and the only thing that has noticeably changed from my previous location is the much higher altitude. Is it possible that they have worked themselves off (maybe a pressure differential?) or is someone messing with me?
posted by unreasonable to Grab Bag (8 answers total)
Are they shiny or crome? When I was a kid we used to steal them from cars and put them on our bikes and trade them with friends.
posted by chillmost at 11:35 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Someone is messing with you!
posted by ranglin at 11:50 PM on April 12, 2007

I remember stealing chromies with my friends when we were 10 years old because rumor had it they were worth a lot of money! I mean, you can melt them down into precious, erm, metal, right?

I made no money off this hobby, nor ever really understood it. (At least chillmost, above, got some kind of use out of them -- we just took them to, well, I have no idea.) And with the genesis of slap bracelets I moved from petty thievery into fashionable, tiger-rawrr adolescence.
posted by Hankins at 12:45 AM on April 13, 2007

I used to take them off and deflate the tires of cars parked in front of my driveway as my passive-aggressive revenge. Are you doing anything that might piss people off?
posted by JJ86 at 6:47 AM on April 13, 2007

Might be worth investing in anti-theft valve caps.
posted by rottytooth at 7:05 AM on April 13, 2007

If they're cool, metal ones, some kid has them on his bike.

Check the bikes outside the arcade or mall.

I did the same thing as chillmost & Hankins as a lad.
posted by UncleHornHead at 7:08 AM on April 13, 2007

Response by poster: Not cool metal ones, just black plastic and I think they go missing when my car is parked at my house.
posted by unreasonable at 7:38 AM on April 13, 2007

Best answer: One sunny day, while my car was parked on a street in idyllic Worcester, MA, someone stole my car's radio antenna. There was a clean arc scraped into the paint by the pliers they used to unscrew it.

This seemed rather odd to me. It certainly wasn't worth much, and I'm unaware of any meth recipes calling for car antennas. So I imagine it works something like this:

One day, some time ago, someone needed a new antenna for their car. It doesn't matter why, exactly, they just did. Now, where do you go for a car antenna? Where are there lots of antennas? On cars, of course! In fact, there are so many different antennas on so many different cars anywhere you go - the mind boggles! So this person picks up a pair of pliers and goes shopping.

The next day, someone goes to their car and finds that they need a new antenna . . .

You see where this is going?

Well, the epidemic stopped with me. I found a coil of old wire in my dad's basement, soldered one end onto the antenna nub on the car, and duct-taped the wire in a spot under my hood. My radio reception was as good as ever (maybe), and the slow migration of antennas (or for the semiconductor enthusiasts, one antenna hole) ended there. Until someone borrowed my car and decided he needed a real antenna. He claims to have "bought" one. And so it goes.

Anyway. With regards to your situation, it sounds like there is not just one missing valve cap in the vicinity of your house, but actually quite a few. So the valve cap "diffusion rate," as it were, is quite high in your area. One way to solve your problem is, as others have noted, to prevent the migration of your caps by technological means such as anti-theft caps.

Another, far less authoritarian and more "natural," approach is to simply replace them as they migrate away. "But that's preposterous!" you might exclaim, "I will surely go broke and be unable to feed and clothe Tiggles, my pet iguana!" While it is true that the valve-cap-replacement-rate will be quite high initially, soon enough your neighborhood will reach a state of near-saturation, and the migration rate will lessen dramatically. In the long-term, one must account for spontaneous valve-cap annihilation, of course. This means that the number of missing valve-caps will never reach absolute zero, and so there will always be some migration, but I assure you the steady-state rate is quite low. (I haven't actually worked out the numbers, though, so YMMV.)
posted by whatnotever at 8:58 AM on April 13, 2007 [6 favorites]

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