With gas prices increasing to near-record highs, AAA is warning motorists that gasoline theft may be on the rise at well – and it could cost vehicle owners far more than the expense of replacing stolen fuel. That’s because, on newer cars, thieves are unable to simply siphon the gas from the fuel tank, so they opt for drilling a hole in the fuel tank instead.

“Newer vehicles have a ‘roll-over’ valve between the fuel tank and filler neck intended to prevent gas from spilling out, to lessen the chance of a fire, in the event of a rollover. But that same valve also makes siphoning gas much more difficult,” says Jim Lardear, Director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA. “So, thieves seeking the path of least resistance now access the fuel by drilling directly into the tank.”

And, a small hole in your fuel tank can mean a much larger hole in your wallet. Fuel tank repairs can cost as much as $1,000 to replace.

Damage to the fuel tank may – or may not – be covered by insurance, depending on your policy.

“For those who have comprehensive coverage, the damage would qualify as vandalism,” says Sonia Medina, spokesperson for AAA Insurance. “But, of course, not everyone has comprehensive coverage.”

AAA encourages vehicle owners to talk to their insurance advisors to ensure they have adequate coverage.

AAA offers the following tips to protect against gasoline theft:

  1. Park in the garage at your home if you have one.
  2. When out in public, park in a well-lit area with high traffic. If possible, park in a secure location like a fenced-in lot or parking garage.
  3. When parking in a garage, find a spot near the exit or elevator as those have the most visibility and foot traffic
  4. If parking on the street, when possible, park with your gas tank on the street side.

AAA recommends looking for the following signs if you suspect gas theft:

  1. The smell of gas as you approach your vehicle.
  2. Puddle underneath your vehicle near the location of the fuel tank.
  3. The vehicle does not start.
  4. The vehicle starts but the fuel gauge shows lower than it was when you last drove.
  5. The check engine light (yellow) is illuminated.

AAA recommends victims of gas theft that may have damaged the vehicle:

  1. Contact the police to file a report.
  2. Reach out to your insurance company to see if your policy covers related repairs.
  3. Take your vehicle to a trusted repair facility as soon as possible.

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