Why are cars today often bitten by rats?

Accessories made from environmentally friendly materials are attractive to rodents.

One morning in mid-January, Tess Klingenstein turned the key to start the Honda Fit. But the engine refused to speak. When she tried again, “all the warning lights were on”. The car was almost brand new, so the woman was surprised.

The car was brought into the workshop. The mechanic opened the bonnet, looked inside and said: “You have this mouse” . Klingenstein, a speech therapist in Washington, said the rodents had bitten off the wires and damaged the air filters. She lost 300 USD to repair. “He said I was still lucky,” Klingenstein said.

Rats love to snuggle and bite, and cars are an ideal shelter during the cold season. Warmth and shelter attract this animal. There are countless wires and pipes again – the attraction cannot be denied. Possible hazards are broken fuses, fire and even vehicle destruction.

Why are cars today often bitten by rats?
A Ford Focus that hasn’t been used for months and has been bitten by a rat. (Photo: Morgan Finkelstein).

No one monitors and evaluates the effects that rats have on cars. But experts say the problem could be exacerbated by a warming climate. In the fall, rats set a sedan on fire in Manhattan. Rats also vandalized a bunch of student cars in Florida.

Over the past few years, a number of drivers have filed lawsuits against car manufacturers, alleging today’s eco-friendly wires are attractive to rodents . The American Automobile Association (AAA) warns that modern cars are like a treat for rats.

Bruce Jenkins, AAA’s fleet of service vehicles for the Mid-Atlantic region, commented: “Your car 20 to 30 years ago didn’t have as many wires. Now you have wires for everything. . So many different types of sensors, computers and modules”.

While there are no official statistics, the best possible solution is from a San Diego citizen, David Albin , who calls himself “Dave the Mouse King”.

Three years ago, Albin was an ordinary guy who worked in financial services and owned a house in a residential area. Rats then vandalized his family’s cars, causing ,500 in damage to Albin’s Honda Civic, and ,300 to his wife’s Hyundai Sonata. Albin is obsessed with stopping rat infestations. He introduces his own method on a website and in an e-book.

“It seems like more and more people are having this problem every year. And the rats are increasing,” Albin said.

Why are cars today often bitten by rats?
Traces of rat bites in the Honda Civic. (Photo: David Albin).

Rats aren’t the only animals capable of damaging cars. Ground squirrels are also known for their ability to bite, and the victims are tourists driving to Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon in California. Weasels have also caused car companies in Germany to research how to defend themselves. And vultures strip rubber from cars. A lawsuit against Honda once described a rabbit “still nibbling on wires while the car was at the dealership” for repair.

However, rats are the main culprit in cities like Washington. Complaints to the city government about rats have increased in recent years, as in the Park View area where Klingenstein lives. Several measures are used for prevention, such as solar dustbins and dry ice. But the mouse still seems to win.

They kicked Erica Spencer, a 35-year-old lawyer, from her ground-floor apartment in Dupont Circle, where she paid extra for an outdoor parking spot near a trash can full of food. After noticing a burning smell while driving a 2003 Ford Explorer, Spencer found a sump under the bonnet, made from “a kind of diaper and large cotton pads”. The rat poison didn’t help, the insecticidal packs with the mint smell also didn’t work. After being robbed of ,000 by rats, Spencer gave up.

Spencer concludes: “I realized for myself that I couldn’t live in a place where there were so many rats. I could give myself a better quality of life.” She moved into a luxury apartment with a parking lot, but kept the Explorer. This woman said: “We call it a mouse car. Basically, there is nothing original in the engine.”

A rat died under the bonnet of Morgan Finkelstein’s car, and others vandalized her boyfriend’s car. The boyfriend – who works in politics – learned that his Ford Focus was destroyed by rats while parked in the back of the house for several months during the 2018 election campaign. When he returned, he could not start the car. The Focus then sat in place for more than a year because the tow truck couldn’t get through the narrow bend to tow it.

The main reason is the insulation made from soybeans of the conductors currently used by many car manufacturers. This type of material is more environmentally friendly than insulation made from oil derivatives.

The lawsuits allege that soybean-based materials are more palatable to rodents and that is the downside, and that auto insurance should cover more damage from the animals. The defendants argued that insurance did not cover damage from “environmental conditions,” and Toyota wrote in a court filing that “rodents eat everything, be it soybeans or Are not”. The judge sided with the automakers.

To help drivers avoid the same hassle, many products that are said to be anti-rat are launched on the market. Like the anti-mice carpet system under the car, or the trap that integrates LED lights and “ultrasonic” waves placed in the engine compartment. In addition, peppermint oil or anti-mouse tape is treated with hot pepper.

Why are cars today often bitten by rats?
Albin used ultraviolet lights in the engine compartment to detect traces of mice. Urine stains glow in the light. (Photo: David Albin).

Albin, who calls himself the “Rat King”, says he frantically researched everything after rats destroyed his family’s cars, even forcing him to get up to check traps in the middle of the night. After trial and error, Albin found a method that he thought worked.

The methods Albin used were like in the winter, he left the bonnet open every night and checked again in the morning. Before that, he set traps with peanut butter in the engine bay, and sometimes above the tyres. Albin also sprayed menthol all over the engine bay, or left the lights on all night, because rats like the dark. The best way would be to place a statue of an owl nearby, but he warned the rats would quickly spot the fake.

Andre – who also works in politics – believes rats are growing in population in his Honda Civic hybrid. One day at the end of 2016, Andre woke up early in the morning “in good spirits” with a clear plan.

But the car did not start, and the bonnet was opened. ” There, where the engine was, was the biggest rat I’ve ever seen. It was so big, it looked like it was pregnant ,” Andre said. The car had to be repaired for ,000.

Andre says he’s glad he didn’t find any baby mice and didn’t have to expel an entire family of rats. “It could be worse and worse,” he said.