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Gas Siphoning

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Gas siphoning is an old trick used by many people. It involves removing gasoline from a car or tank using a long hose with one end in the tank while the user sucks on the other end to create negative pressure so the gas will flow through the tube. It's a rather unhealthy practice though, as often the user will wind up getting gas in their mouth or even swallow some of it.

In both fiction and real life, there are criminals who utilize this practice to steal gas out of other people's cars, leaving their tanks empty. However, these days more modern vehicles come equipped with safeguards that prevent this from happening. Either way, it's gross, but at the same time effective if done right. It's still possible to siphon gas in this way from other gasoline-powered machines such as a lawn mower or chainsaw, and is sometimes necessary if gasoline has sat in the machine while unused and has gone bad.

This trick is also quite common in post-societal collapse settings. Where there's lots of unused and broken vehicles lying around (Post-Apocalyptic Traffic Jam is probably a goldmine), and fuel is definitely coveted and needed to run other machines that need gasoline and the like. Such as generators, tools or actual working vehicles and etc.

Don't Try This at Home. Gasoline is toxic and it's possible to swallow some by accident. You can also develop pneumonia if it gets in your lungs. If you need to siphon gasoline, kits are sold for the purpose which include a hand-held pump, thus eliminating the need to suck on one end of the hose.


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    Films — Animation 
  • Cars:
    • In the first film Lightning McQueen runs out of gas while attempting to flee Radiator Springs to avoid fixing the road with Bessie as part of his community service, coming to a stop right by the "welcome" sign where Sally and Sheriff are waiting.
      Sally: We siphoned your gas when you were passed out. Ka-chow.
    • The sequel has a hologram device turn Mater into a monster truck... as in vampire. What does he say?
      Mater: I vant to siphon your gas!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 28 Days Later: Since gas stations no longer functioning, the group of survivors obtain their gas this way as they travel across post-apocalyptic England.
  • Done in Battle of the Bulge by Sgt. Guffy in order to refuel his tank late in the film. This proves to be a plot point, when Lt. Col. Kiley notices that full fuel drums sink in water, and that the German fuel drums he had seen earlier in the film floated on the surface. They'd also earlier captured a German patrol equipped with the rubber hoses needed for this trope.
  • Becomes a Chekhov's Gun moment in Friday the 13th Part III. After Shelley and Vera have a tense confrontation with three bikers at a gas station, ending with Shelley damaging their bikes with a car, they come to Higgins Haven for revenge. They siphon gas from Chris' van to burn down the barn. Unfortunately, Jason is hiding in the barn and takes them out. During the climactic chase, Chris tries to escape in her van, but the siphoned tank stalls out on the Haven's bridge.
  • The Gasoline Thieves is about the protagonist stealing gasoline to offer a smartphone to his sweetheart.
  • In Green Room, the bodies of Reece, Tiger, and Sam are staged to look like they were caught siphoning gas, which led to their deaths. The band is in the habit of doing this when short of cash so it's a credible claim, but Pat survives to refute it.
  • In The Irishman, Frank does this to get gas out of his car's tank and into the bombs he's going to use to blow up a rival cab company's taxis.
  • Near the climax of Lethal Weapon 3, Riggs siphons gas from a car's tank to create a fire trail through the Big Bad's construction site. He spits out a mouthful and remarks, "Ugh, Exxon!"
  • Mad Max
    • Mad Max. Toecutter's gang are shown jumping onto the back of a fuel tanker as it's driving past and syphoning out the fuel.
    • Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. In the Action Prologue, Max is shown siphoning gas by mouth in order to extract it from an enemy bandit's wrecked car, in order to gas up the Pursuit Special.
    • Mad Max: Fury Road. In the final battle, the War Rig is beset on all sides by War Boys, so Nux climbs on to the hood of the War Rig and starts spitting gas from the hose into the engine intake. Not to be undone, Slit does the same on the hood of the jury-rigged Interceptor, and it devolves into an almost literal spitting contest. And then Max joins in.
  • In The Sucker, Mickey throws sugar cubes in the fuel tank of Saroyan's car twice. Every time, Saroyan orders one of his henchmen to siphon the tank.

  • A story in America's Dumbest Criminals has a thief try stealing someone's gas this way. However, he fails to get much, so he uses his lighter to see if there's anything in the tank. Cue explosion. (Somehow, he survives.)
  • Cops: Their Lives In Their Own Words by Mark Baker. While off duty at home, a cop catches a delinquent siphoning out the fuel in his car, puts a gun to his head and says, "Swallow." His colleagues turn up to arrest the thief while he's still throwing up. The cop gets charged with terroristic threats.
  • In the gamebook Freeway Fighter, partway through your adventure you can come across a wrecked tanker with surplus fuel in it's tank. If you've collected a coil of rubber tubing earlier in the adventure, you can use the tubing to siphon the fuel into one of your spare fuel canisters, to be used for your own vehicle much later on in the journey.
  • In an autobiography written by Jeff Foxworthy, he mentions learning how to do this growing up. However, one of his friends overdid it; as a result, "Every time he burped, he smelled like an Amoco station for at least a week".
  • The protagonists in On the Run steal gas from a truck to fuel their getaway car.
  • Harold and Frannie do it in The Stand, in that case by accessing the tanks under the station instead of a car tank. Justified since everyone else in town was pretty much dead and they needed gas to power their motorcycles to get out of town.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 1000 Ways to Die: One story involves a pair of criminals who siphoned gas out of cars, but were rather mediocre at it. They eventually decide to try and use a shop vacuum to do it instead. It worked, until a spark inside the vacuum ignited the gas, causing it to explode and kill the two thieves.
  • The Amazing Race: Season 3 had an infamous moment where teams were given cars to drive from Portugal to Spain and nearly all of them needing to refill their cars. However, four teams failed to see that the cars needed diesel and happily pumped theirs with unleaded gas. Of the four, Teri & Ian were able to push theirs to a service station and siphon the gas tank, thus being able to refill and saving them from being stuck.
  • Gob from Arrested Development used to do this in high school to girls' cars just so he could go up to them and ask "Car trouble?"
  • Corner Gas: In "Whiner Takes All", Davis siphons gas out of the police cruiser so he'll have an excuse to send Karen to the gas station as part of a scheme he hatched with Wanda. When Karen notes that she just refilled the cruiser, Davis just asks her to buy him some breath mints while she's there (to cover up the smell of the gas that got in his mouth).
  • CSI: Miami: the mystery of the death of one Victim of the Week (a man found immolated inside of his house boat) is solved by discovering that he was a never-do-well who had a habit of stealing gasoline from other boats in his marina through the use of rubber-hose siphoning. The residual gasoline in his stomach from a recent attempt was very high-octane, and when the man answered his cell phone, the speaker sparked and set off the gasoline fumes that were coming out of his mouth.
  • Dark: Jonas, who has been stranded in 2053 for over six months, needs fuel for a generator. He steals it from a tank-like vehicle used by the inhabitants of the future by sucking on a hose.
  • Fresh Off the Boat: When Eddie's car runs out of gas, he ends up having to walk back and runs into Grandma Huang, who teaches Eddie how to siphon gas. When asked by Eddie how she knew how to do that, Grandma replies that back in her youth, she had a hard life as it was during World War II, and she had to resort to questionable acts to survive, be it fighting, stealing or selling counterfeit cigarettes. After some heart-to-heart with Eddie, she offers to let him try siphoning the gas, causing him to promptly spit it out in disgust and pain, wondering how Grandma can manage.
    Eddie: Oh damn, it burns! Holy crap! How do you handle that?!
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: In the episode "The Gang Solves The Gas Crisis", Charlie siphons gas repeatedly by mouth.
  • Justified: A down on his luck Dewey Crowe tries to siphon enough gas to leave Kentucky, but is caught by the old woman who owns the car. She seems sympathetic at first, but is just buying enough time to get her shotgun.
  • Several tasks on Taskmaster have seen contestants try to use this technique to empty containers of liquid, but fail due to not understanding the physics of it. In one episode, Sian Gibson tries to move a pile of rice by siphoning it. In the studio, Greg questions her belief that sucking some of the rice into the hose would cause the rest of the rice to magically follow.
  • One episode of My Name Is Earl revealed that Earl and Randy used to siphon fuel from the tank of a Yugo whenever they were low. Now that Earl is trying to make up for his misdeeds, he pays the owner a visit and gives him some gasoline in return. He then discovers that the man was suicidal when Earl was stealing his gas and repeatedly tried to asphyxiate himself with the exhaust fumes, but his car kept running out of gas due to Earl's thievery.
  • SAS: Rogue Heroes. When David Starling bursts in on General Richie uninvited, he mentions that the latter used to come to his father's house for grouse shooting. Richie phones up General Auchinleck to let him know that the boy who once tried to siphon the fuel from their cars to make petrol bombs is here. Stirling says that was actually his sister's idea, as she wanted the grouse to have a chance.
  • Trailer Park Boys: In one of their schemes to get cash, the boys set up a fake gas station and get the gas from, you guessed it, stealing gas from other people's cars. Cory and Trevor end up siphoning the gas and get ill from the fumes eventually.
  • Urban Legends: One story involved a man converting the gas tank of his RV into a septic tank, and a thief that tried to siphon gas from it got a nasty surprise when he instead siphoned the septic tank's... contents.
  • The Walking Dead: Most gas stations either stopped working or were completely drained in the first days of the apocalypse, so siphoning gasoline from abandoned vehicles is the standard way most survivors keep their vehicles fueled.
  • In The X-Files episode "Home", the inbred hillbillies fuel their vehicle using this trick. It's made realistic when one of them gets a mouthful of gas when sucking on the hose and chokingly spits it out.
  • In the Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. episode "Car for Sale" where Sgt. Carter sells his car to Gomer, Sgt. Hacker decides to add extra fuel overnight between drives to make it seem like the car has amazing gas millage while it belongs to Gomer, then when Carter gets it back, he siphons out the fuel to make it seem like it has terrible millage.

    Video Games 
  • There's an event in Death Road to Canada where you encounter an abandoned car. You can choose to ignore or try to siphon the gas. Should you decide on the latter, the person you chose to siphon will swallow some gas by accident, lose morale (but not health) and be tired the next day.
  • In Full Throttle, an early puzzle to steal gas from the local gas tower is actually solved by luring the police to the tower to investigate the attempted theft, then siphoning the gas from their hoversled.
  • In The Last of Us, Bill gives a hose to Joel so that he can siphon gas from the many broken down cars in order to keep the salvaged truck running. Somehow it works, despite all the gas being decades old. In the Left Behind DLC, Ellie has to siphon gas from an old semi-truck in order to power a generator.
  • In the finale of the custom Left 4 Dead 2 campaign Journey to Splash Mountain, the survivors have to siphon gas from vehicles to fuel a generator instead of gathering gas cans scattered throughout the map.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Strong Bad Email episode "ISP", Strong Mad somehow manages to siphon internet bandwidth from Bubs's computer server. It gave him Helium Speech.
    Strong Mad: I'M A WEBSITE!

    Web Original 
  • In one of the Darwin Awards books there's a story about a thief trying to siphon gas from an RV this way. Too bad he didn't put the hose in the gas tank, he put it in the sewage holding tank. Yuck.

    Western Animation 
  • Close Enough: Randy's biological parents were criminals who were experts at siphoning gas out of vehicles before getting caught and sent to prison. Their son is shown to have inherited their skills, as he was able to siphon gas out of a moving tanker truck, while riding in a car parallel to it.
  • Family Guy: In "Airport '07", Peter siphons gas from Quagmire's plane thinking that doing so will make his pickup truck fly, only to discover that doing so would inadvertently result in Quagmire's plane almost crashing and having to make an emergency landing.
  • Freaky Stories had an episode about a man who never bought gasoline. He always carried a hose with him to syphon from the nearest car. But one night he ran out and found a mobile home stationed in the middle of the road and tried to steal some gas, but he sucked to hard and ended swallowing the contents. He caused an uproar and woke up the home owner, who was unaware of the issue and the protagonist just said he ran out of gas and the man offered some. But then he revealed that the previous tank where he swallowed was actually his septic tank and that he "wouln't want to swallow that."
  • Kid vs. Kat: The episode "It's a Rocket, Man" has Kat utilizing this technique when concocting rocket fuel to get it from a garbage can into a tablespoon so it can be inserted into Coop's model rocket.
  • In the Justice League episode: '"Hereafter". Clark siphons some gas from some cars, after he (and the area around him) were transported into a place that had a red sun, forcing the Man of Steel to use one of the provided vehicles due to his lack of flight powers (and powers in general).
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Lumber Jerks", the gophers Mac and Tosh have to stop a truck from delivering a set of furniture made from their own tree, so they empty the tank by siphoning. One gets gasoline in his mouth and turns Green Around the Gills as he coughs.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: In "Don't Forget the Motor City", the Ghostbusters are trying to cleanse gremlins from a car manufacturing plant. At one point, the gremlins trap Winston in a robotic monster made from sections of various cars. Since using their proton packs would likely injure or kill Winston, Egon hints at a way to beat the machine; Ray catches on and starts siphoning gas out of it, which eventually causes it to shut down. In a nod to its dangers, Ray chokes and starts coughing and gagging when he gets a mouthful of gas.
  • Regular Show: In "A Bunch of Baby Ducks", Rigby reluctantly uses this technique to drain the water out of the park fountain, complaining that the water "tastes like how Muscle Man smells."
  • The Simpsons: In "The PTA Disbands", during a disastrous field trip to Fort Springfield, Principal Skinner pulls Otto the bus driver aside and tells him to gas up the bus. He then hands Otto the "credit card," a length of hose and a breath mint for later. This serves to underscore just how destitute Springfield Elementary is. When they're forced to flee after Skinner tries to circumvent the admission fee, Otto is found siphoning gas from the more affluent schools' gas tanks.
  • In the Woody Woodpecker cartoon "Ration Bored", Woody tries to get around fuel rationing by siphoning gas from cars in a junkyard. Unfortunately, one of the cars happens to be a still-in-use police car.
  • SpongeBob does a varient of this in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Greasy Buffoons", where he uses this technique to siphon out a grease trap, claiming that he "saw it in a movie". It doesn't work at first, but when Mr. Krabs looks down the hose, it splatters all over his face.

    Real Life 
  • This was a common problem during the 1970s petroleum crisis.
  • The Canadian insult "hoser" is speculated to refer to farmers from the Canadian Prairies who would siphon gas from farming vehicles with a hose during the Great Depression.
  • One man ended up horribly ill when he tried to illegally siphon gas from a trailer home. It wasn't the gasoline that got him sick, but the fact that he accidentally siphoned from the septic tank. The owner of the trailer refused to press charges because it was the best laugh he ever had.