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Scrapyard Scavenging 01: How to siphon gasoline

Posted by on 2011/04/07

The battered task light that illuminates the rust-stained walls of your underground crash-pad starts to dim, and the coils of your electric hot-plate fade from bright red to a dull gray, the rank water on the stove is yet unboiled.  You know what it means… your little honda eu2000i generator is almost empty.  Getting up from your workbench before your hideout is plunged into darkness, you start rummaging around in your junk pile for your gascan, it’s empty.   You meant to refill it a couple days ago, but the storm had only just passed.

First, you’ll gear up.  It’s just after nightfall, and you have no intention of being seen, so you slip on your blacks; they’re a little stiff from air-drying after the storm.  Deciding to indulge, you rip open a fresh pack of socks liberated from the burned out Target a few blocks south of you, and slip your knife into your belt.

You take quick stock of what else you might need from outside, but you’re pretty well stocked from your last run, some more protein bars would be welcome.  You decide to travel light, a multi-tool, a crowbar, a pistol and your last 5 precious rounds, and a small led-flashlight with it’s fully charged batteries. Making sure you’ve memorized where everything on your person is located, you pick up your 8-foot length of clear tubing and your gas can.

Easing your way slowly out of the camouflaged entrance to your shelter, what used to be the storage basement of a now demolished convenience store, and check the street outside for signs of movement.  Nothing.  No one really comes down into this neighborhood, so close to the edge of the city, mostly burned out warehouses and old office buildings that have already been picked clean by scavengers.  Sure, there’s the occasional weirdo or wanna-be bravo, but you’re no pushover.

As you walk, you pass the cars you’ve already drained, marked with an innocuous scratch on the fender or near the gas cap.  You’ll have to travel a little further than you have in the past.  Dipping into a recessed doorway at the clanging of distant  metal, you check your gun to make sure there’s a round in the chamber.  All good.  After a few moments of silence you attribute the sound to an animal and consider briefly the possibility of a fresh meal; but you didn’t bring your slingshot, and you’re not wasting a bullet on a rat.

Rounding the corner of 3rd street, you spot an Elantra that’s been crushed by a fallen fire escape.  It looks like the gas-cap is blocked by a bit of twisted metal, which means it may not have been drained yet.  You scan the windows of the surrounding buildings, no light, no movement.  You hold your breath… theres a rattle of distant gunfire, but so faint it must be half a mile away.  You steel yourself and step out into the open and stalk across the street to the Hyundai.

The fire escape has embedded itself through the roof of the car, and leans against the building, a bent section of ladder is sheared into twisted spikes of steel, one of which is resting across the gas cap, which you nudge aside.  You place the gas can on the ground and hoist your crowbar out of it’s holster on your back (yeah, you made a crowbar holster), kneel down, and muffling the sound with your jacket, pry the cover open.

The gascap unscrews easily.  After another furtive look around, you unroll your tubing and push the hose a few feet into the gas tank.  You blow into your end, and you’re answered by a bubbling inside the tank, you’ve found gas.  Quickly, you angle the hose so that it reaches from the tank to the ground, then curves back up to a point above the fuel level in the tank.  Properly positioned, you suck on the hose until the gas begins to flow down and fill the hose, eventually stopping when it reaches a height level with the fuel remaining in the tank.   Placing your thumb over the hose to make sure no gas is lost, you angle the end of the hose down into the open mouth of the gas can.  Once the hose drops beneath the level of the gas in the tank, the fuel flows freely.   In a few minutes your gas can looks about three quarters of the way full, so you ease the hose up from the gas tank to cut off the supply of fuel; finally you straighten the hose vertically to make sure every drop pours into the gas can.

Finally, you screw the gascap back into the tank, force the flap back into place, and reset the ladder.  There’s still plenty in the tank, so you’ll be back.  You shake out your hose and roll it back up, hoisting the gascan and again readying your pistol, you set off up the street and back to your pad.   There’s another burst of gunfire, closer this time, and the distant revving of engines…

7 Responses to Scrapyard Scavenging 01: How to siphon gasoline

  1. Daniel

    Easier way to get gas is to take the screw driver on your multi tool and jam a hole in the gas tank. Next take 2 feet of tubing and fill your gas can

  2. chance

    Good point Daniel. I was looking for minimal environmental impact; but in a pinch or a hurry, absolutely; just watch out for stray sparks.

  3. Thomas Glenna

    I don’t see how this will come in handy. You should just make a guide for shooting guns.

  4. Sammy

    Okay, this one is my favorite post so far, you should write more like this.

  5. AcidEater

    Chance, will you write up something about lock picking? I could see that being a pretty handy survival skill.

  6. chance

    While the original is long gone from the internet, my dear friend Leif once wrote a guide called ‘the creative criminal series’ and thankfully, his entry on lock picking was preserved as a PDF, found here:

  7. Eric

    Great article and the context is very entertaining.

    The crappy thing no one tells you about siphoning gas, is that 90% of the sucking effort equals some real strong huffs of gas even when you do it right. It’s enough to make you want to pass out. I made sure to purchase a siphon hose with a bulb or pump on the end; much faster and no more dizzy huffing:) Inhaling a bunch of fumes while hungry would be a mess.

    Great job – I look forward to reading more.


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