Tank-drilling gas bandits fuel anger of 2 Langley truck owners

There has been a rash of gas thefts in Langley B.C., with a twist — of a drill bit. Thieves are puncturing gas tanks to drain fuel, which is hitting record levels, including 160.9 cents per litre in Vancouver.

'You already stole my gas. Now you ruined my vehicle,' Dodge Ram owner says

In Langley, B.C., at least five people who drive trucks with large plastic gas tanks have been robbed of gas by somebody with a drill who drained their tanks. (Grant McMillan)

There has been a rash of gas thefts in Langley B.C., with a twist — of a drill bit.

Thieves are puncturing gas tanks to drain the valuable contents, with fuel prices hitting record levels at 160.9 cents per litre in Vancouver.

They're mostly targeting trucks or vehicles with larger capacity gas tanks, according to auto repair shops and tow truck drivers in the area.

Brent Theilade found himself standing in a puddle of gas-soaked pavement early Monday morning when he got to his Dodge Ram on his way to work at a garden wholesaler and found his tank empty.

'I would have rathered them siphon it because drilling a hole in somebody’s tank of gas is just worse than ever. You already stole my gas. Now you ruined my vehicle,' says Langley resident Brent Theilade. (Brent Theilade)

"I was angry at first. I'd just filled up $120 the day before," said the Langley man, who parked in the Walnut Grove Drive of North Langley.

The gas cap, which does not lock, was secure, but a check under the truck revealed a dripping tank.

Then he noticed a note on his windshield.

It was from the driver who parked behind him, warning that a hole had been drilled in his 98-litre tank by gas thieves who made off with up to $150 worth of gas.

He called a tow service and headed to the auto repair shop, where his fears were confirmed.

When Theilade got to his truck last Monday, he found a note warning him that his gas tank was probably empty because of gas thieves who drilled into it. (Brent Theilade)

To replace the punctured plastic tank on his Dodge Ram with a new tank would cost up to $2,200, plus the labour.

Theilade went for a cheaper used tank, but still had to come up with the $300 deductible before the Insurance Corporation of B.C. would pay to replace the tank.

And he's not alone.

Grant McMillan had parked his Dodge Ram pickup on the same street and lost about $100 worth of gas.

He said the stench tipped him off, so he wrote the note to warn the other truck owner.

"I thought, 'What a dumb thing. It would have been easier just to give the thieves $100,'" said McMillan, whose truck had not yet been repaired.

Calls to five other auto body repair shops in Langley confirmed at least five cases of punctured tanks in the past two weeks alone. 

This type of theft is rare, but has happened before in Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C.

Rick Cosco, owner of Big O Tires in North Langley, said he's seeing a rise in the number of incidents at his shop.

"We are getting this more and more because of the cost of fuel. It seems to be getting worse."

Gas prices are soaring in B.C. (CBC)

Replacing a punctured tank takes a few hours, after it's ordered.

He said thieves mostly target pickup trucks — Dodge or Ford vehicles — with large, expensive-to-fill plastic fuel tanks.

That way, there's no risk of sparking while drilling a metal tank, but Cosco said it's still dangerous, as a lot of the flammable liquid ends up on the pavement.

"They walk away leaving a big puddle of fuel on the ground," he said.

It is expensive — up to $2,400 with labour included — and inconvenient to fix.

Theilade said he's over what happened to him, but hopes he's not hit by tank drillers again.

"I lost a tank of gas, but I'm not going to lose my mind over this.

"But I would have rathered them siphon it because drilling a hole in somebody's tank of gas is just worse than ever. You already stole my gas. Now you ruined my vehicle."

RCMP are investigating Theilade's incident and at least one other involving the man who was parked behind him, but said thefts under $5,000 are common, and there's no easy way to track how many incidents include gas siphoning or stealing.

A tool usually reserved for fixing things is being used to destroy gas tanks to get at the valuable fuel, say auto shop owners. (Shutterstock / welcomia)

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