Rodents Ruin Cars

By Sharon Naylor

August 9, 2012 5 min read

Squirrels, chipmunks, mice, raccoons, rabbits and other critters can do serious damage to your car when they chew on wires, brake lines, insulation, spark plugs and even the body harness. Drivers have reported their error lights coming on, their speedometer going dead, as well as brake failures -- all of which may result in expensive towing and repair charges. All thanks to nature's little chewing pests.

According to Rataway's website, rats spend 88.8 minutes a day chewing on soft and hard surfaces. Rodents must chew to keep their always-growing teeth from getting too long to allow them to feed. The dry, warm environment under a car -- and under the hood -- entices them to fulfill their gnawing needs, at a big price.

Car owners experience enormous frustrations over ridding themselves of rodent damage and seek a no-fail way to prevent critter-induced harm. Here are some leading methods that can help you deter rodents, raccoons and rabbits from your outside-parked car.

--Spray around and under your car often with products such as Critter Out, an all-natural, effective spray that is used to keep critters out of gardens and landscaping. Check the label to ensure that the spray is safe to use on your driveway material.

--Sprinkle cayenne pepper around and under your car. The spicy smell of cayenne is a turnoff to critters and may keep them away.

--Create a 1-1 ratio of Tabasco sauce and water in a household spray bottle, like one used to mist plants, and spray this spicy mixture around and under your car.

--Clear away overgrown brush areas near where your car is parked, which would otherwise attract rodents and critters as a natural nesting or hiding place.

--Don't place bird feeders anywhere near where your car is parked, since birdseed attracts rodents and rabbits.

--If you have trees that drop acorns, regularly sweep them completely away from where your car is parked so that they don't attract rodents.

--Clean all food containers, bags, packaged pet food and especially packets of ketchup -- even unopened ones -- out of your car. Rodents have a keen sense of smell and will become attracted to your car as a source of food. They'll chew through anything to get to where the sustenance is.

--Don't hang sweet-scented air fresheners in your car. Sweet scents such as vanilla or berry tell critters there's food in your car, which may attract more of them.

--Open your car hood often to check for rodents, nests and droppings to be sure your car isn't a hotbed of critter activity and attraction. Even if you don't have an active rodent nest in your car, the smell of rodent feces and urine attracts new pests to feed on your car. Have your car engine, undercarriage and wheel wells cleaned professionally -- on a regular basis -- says mechanic Tay Schlessinger, to remove all rodent scents that can exacerbate your critter problem.

--Check your car care center for inexpensive magnetic cases that hold rodent-deterring mothballs, which affix under your car to deter pests.

--If possible, clean out a bay in your garage so that you can park your car inside, preventing overnight critter access.

--While you're away on vacation, ask a neighbor to spray your all-natural critter deterrent around your car every other night.

--Ask your local nursery and garden center owner to recommend the products they use to keep rodents from chewing on their vehicle. They often stock all-natural pest repellants and will tell you which are the most effective.

Be aware that online message board responders often suggest spraying your car with coyote or fox urine bought from garden centers, but those products can have terrible smells that seep inside your car while driving. The same goes for rat poison, which mechanics say should never be sprinkled inside your car's engine or components. The rat poison can easily seep into your air conditioning system, which is very unhealthy for you and your passengers.

Another often-cited piece of online advice is to put dryer sheets inside your engine, but that -- and any other product placed inside your engine or hung from your hood -- can become a fire hazard or cause additional damage to your car.

When it comes to trapping rodents, mechanics say you'll need to tend to traps endlessly and dispose of carcasses before they attract additional animals. For more humane trapping options and products, check with your local department of fish and wildlife.

Critter damage is not just a problem for those who live in the country or the suburbs. City dwellers also have to deal with the growing problem of rat damage, which is why mechanics advise them not to park near spots where residents or businesses place their bagged garbage by the curb.

Don't let frustration cause you to place poisons around your car. Pets may be attracted to the smell, to disastrous results.

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