Get­ting back on road tough after thieves ruin gas tank

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Puzzles - BY RAY MAGLIOZZI Got a ques­tion about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Fea­tures, 628 Vir­ginia Drive, Or­lando, FL 32803, or email by vis­it­ing the Car Talk web­site at

My newly ac­quired 2018 Nis­san Rogue was van­dal­ized.

Late at night we dis­cov­ered a mas­sive gas spill and odor around the car. Then we no­ticed gas was com­ing out from un­der our car.

A tow was or­dered, and the fire depart­ment dis­patched. There was gas ev­ery­where! I was ques­tioned: “Did you run over some­thing?” I hadn’t.

After the gas stopped seep­ing, the car was towed to a me­chanic. The me­chanic called the next morn­ing and said, “Some­one crawled un­der­neath your car, used an 1/8-inch drill bit and made a hole in your tank!” Wow.

Six weeks later, my car has yet to be re­paired. Though at a rep­utable re­pair shop, a gas tank for such a new car is just not avail­able! It’s been back-or­dered for six weeks. I wait pa­tiently each week for an up­date from the me­chanic, and the last com­mu­ni­ca­tion was that “the tank is now on its way from Ten­nessee!”

This has been a most ag­o­niz­ing, not to men­tion in­con­ve­nient, ordeal. I had the car barely four months when this hap­pened.

Have you heard of this? I’ve been told that be­cause it’s such a new car, Nis­san would not just have gas tanks sit­ting around.

Does that sound le­git? Please pro­vide any thoughts. — Rita

Well, it’s un­for­tu­nate that these knuck­le­heads didn’t de­cide to smoke a cig­a­rette while they were drilling into your gas tank. Then you could’ve got­ten a brand-new 2020 Rogue.

What these crim­i­nals did was ob­nox­ious, and the re­sult of a bad up­bring­ing. But I’m not sure it’s com­pletely sense­less, Rita.

My guess is that some­body needed gas. They prob­a­bly had a 5-gal­lon gas can or an empty 2-liter soda bot­tle. So, they drilled a hole in your tank, took what­ever they could and then ran away, leav­ing the rest to spill out.

It’s a rot­ten thing, but that’s my guess as to what hap­pened.

And the ex­pla­na­tion for why there are no re­place­ment tanks avail­able does sound le­git. There is lit­tle to no rea­son for Nis­san to stock gas tanks for brand-new cars. There’s no de­mand for them.

Be­cause of where the gas tank is lo­cated, if you had an ac­ci­dent that crushed your gas tank, re­plac­ing it would be the least of your prob­lems. The car would be to­taled.

There was a time when gas tanks would get re­placed be­cause they would cor­rode after a few years. But now gas tanks are plas­tic. So they re­ally never fail.

We’re glad yours is fi­nally on its way from Ten­nessee.


Dear Car Talk: I have an ’87 4Run­ner that I bought new. Yes, that makes me older than dirt. But my love is still true.

When I put the truck into re­verse, the backup light doesn’t come on.

I had a me­chanic fix­ing some­thing else who said he could fix it for about $400. I think he said it had some­thing to do with the mech­a­nism in the shifter.

It’s been a while since then, and he’s not around now. Any ideas how I could fig­ure this out? Thanks. — Paul

Well, lucky for you, Paul, I’m old enough to be dirt’s fa­ther, so I’ve worked on plenty of 1987 4Run­ners.

But whether it’s go­ing to cost you $40 or $400 de­pends on what type of trans­mis­sion you have.

If your 4Run­ner has a stick shift, there’s a $40 switch that con­trols the backup lights. You can find one on­line and it’s a piece of cake to re­place. It screws into the out­side of the trans­mis­sion.

If it’s an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, the switch is also easy to re­place since it bolts to the out­side of the trans­mis­sion, but, un­for­tu­nately, it’s a lot more ex­pen­sive. On au­to­mat­ics, the backup light switch is built into the neu­tral safety switch — which pre­vents you from start­ing the truck un­less the trans­mis­sion is safely in park or neu­tral.

Be­fore you re­place the neu­tral safety switch, it’s a good idea to check the wiring. You’d hate to re­place the whole switch only to find out you had a bro­ken wire some­where.

But if the wiring is good, it’s al­most cer­tainly the switch. Don’t even bother shop­ping for a new one. The price will give you heart pal­pi­ta­tions. It gave me heart pal­pi­ta­tions, and I don’t even own a 4Run­ner.

So, my ad­vice would be to spend some time look­ing for a used one. Try your lo­cal au­to­mo­tive re­cy­cling cen­ters (aka junk­yards), and look on­line, at places like eBay. If you’re lucky, you can find one for a few hun­dred bucks.

Or, for four bucks, you could Vel­cro two plas­tic flash­lights to either side of the rear quar­ter pan­els. Be­fore you back up, get out and turn them both on. Just giv­ing you op­tions, Paul. Good luck.

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