Beware of Gasoline Robbers

Locking gas tank caps are a must in this country, which I found out the hard way this morning. About 27 liters—10,000 dram worth—of premium-grade gasoline was siphoned from my car’s tank last night. I was lucky to make it to the gas station this morning. This happened at least once before with my car, and I ended up purchasing a locking cap made especially for Lada cars by VAZ, which is the parent company of Lada. The cap is a hulking piece of black plastic with a handle that is difficult to grip and an awkwardly shaped metal key to lock it. Thing is, it didn’t last too long without the locking mechanism breaking, but I kept using it anyway thinking that thieves would be deterred once seeing that it was being used instead of the basic standard metal cap. This time they bothered to twist the cap only to realize that it wasn’t locked. When you do lock the thing successfully with the key that comes with it (I haven’t discovered yet whether it is possible to lock or unlock the cap with another device), the cap rotates freely in place but doesn’t come off. The cap I had bought used to do that, but for about five times before whatever was in the locking mechanism broke, then soon afterwards the key started to jam for some inexplicable reason. Once I wrestled the thing with a pair of pliers to extract the key. A totally absurd pointless piece of crap.

Common practice for car owners who still fuel their cars with gasoline instead of natural gas is to fill up only as much as is needed to get around for a couple of days, usually about 10 bucks worth, even far less. It is not rare to start your car in the morning only to find that you only have a few drops left in the tank. But people don’t bother buying locking gas tank caps, probably because they are hard to find, I assume. You can’t get them at all parts stores, and it took some searching before I found one a couple of years back.

So today I ended up going to the official Lada auto parts store on Gomidas Avenue to buy another one with no other choice at my disposal. I asked the clerk whether these things break quickly and he replied that they should work just fine. I bought it for 1800 dram—about $6—immediately affixed it, locked it, and like he said, it was working perfectly. Here’s hoping it will continue to function at least four more times.


Ankakh_Hayastan said…
Early in the war years the locking caps were popular. The thieves found a way around it - piercing the gas tank and draining gas that way.

Nowadays gas is more readily available so I don't know if the thieves will go that far. But that was the downside of using locked caps - gas was still cheaper than fixing the tank.
Big Ideas said…
I know, now, what to get you for Christmas.
Ara said…
When I had a Niva back in the late 1990’s, almost every time I would visit Yerevan, the gasoline would get stolen at night. I got a locking gas cap, which remedied the problem, so I thought. What ended up happening after the locking gas cap was the thief would get under the engine and disconnect the fuel line going to the fuel pump and dump the gasoline. I didn’t notice this method for quite a while, but did notice that I ran out of fuel quicker than usual (the thief would always leave a couple of liters). I guess one time the thief had to make a quick exit, didn’t have time to reconnect the fuel line and that morning when the car would not start, I called my mechanic, who discovered the problem. The mechanic installed a valve on the inside of my car to turn off the flow of fuel when I park the car. This remedied the problem, but only after what I would estimate at least a couple hundred liters of gasoline. Of course in those days, gasoline cost a fraction of what it does today, so as frustrating as it was being robbed back then, the economic impact was not as bad as it is today. Thank goodness for natural gas, which one can not siphon.

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