When you come out to your pickup sitting in the driveway and deactivate the alarm system, the last thing you expect to find is an empty fuel tank.
But that’s what’s been happening with growing frequency around the country as thieves have reverted to a crime that was popular back during the Middle East oil embargo of the ’70s: drilling a hole through the bottom of the tank.
“I’ve had several customers have their vehicles towed here to have the gas tanks replaced,” says Warren Spears, an autobody repair shop owner on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“Gas thieves are using a drill with a step-bit to punch a hole in the bottoms to make off with the fuel. It’s fast and effective for the thief, expensive for the vehicle owner,” Spears says.
Spears speculates the thieves are using cordless drills and low-profile boat-type fuel cans, which can fit easily underneath a taller vehicle, to make off with the stolen fuel.
Spears says insurance companies usually cover the cost (less the insured’s deductible) to replace the tanks if they can’t be safely repaired.
“The best way to deter this newest [fuel-stealing] method,” Spears says, “is to have a skid-plate that covers the fuel tank so it’s not easy to access from underneath.”
Editor’s Note: Bruce Smith is a Senior Editor at Randall-Reilly