Rodents are eating my car

Our car is back in the shop, third time this month, due to rodents chewing on wires. We own a 2011 Ford Flex and due to the pandemic we don’t drive it as much as we used to, but we do drive it at least every other day.

Earlier this month, while returning from vacation with the family and dog and all our gear onboard, the orange wrench dash light came on and the accelerator became unresponsive. The car did not stall, but depressing the accelerator had no effect. The car could be driven in reverse, and it did not stall. It was a Saturday, we were 90 miles from home and out in the sticks. So I called the dealership and they said if I could get it there they would see what they could do.

Of course, turning the car off and then on again seemed to resolve the issue. So we got home and I took it to the shop. Four days later they installed a new throttle body and car seemed fine.

The following Saturday the problem resumed, so back to the shop. This time they said that rodents had chewed on wires in the engine and passenger compartments, which shorted out the throttle body. They repaired the damaged wires and replaced the throttle body (at no charge) and we were back on the road.

This morning the problems resumed.

Mechanic said they are seeing a lot of rodent damage to car wiring this summer. Tracing down all the damaged wires is going to pile up the labor charges and this is getting expensive. He suggested putting dryer sheets in the engine compartment and dribbling peppermint extract on the carpets as rodents don’t like the smell.

So, anyone else experiencing rodent issues this summer and do they seem worse than in years past?

Damn. Where do you live? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that problem here in the SF Bay Area. I assume our rodents have better dining options. Is your car usually parked in a garage? May want to make sure you don’t leave any food in the car that might attract them. I assume you’ve tried trapping and such—-may also need to get yourself a cat, in addition to your dog.

We live in Southern Maine near the coast. No garage. We have a teenager, so yeah, food gets left in the car so we need to be more diligent about that.

We live on a small lot with too many trees. Squirrels ate the engine harness of my wife’s SUV. Insurance covered it under a critter damage clause. I’ll back up and repeat that. Insurance covered a 4K bill with a clause we didn’t know was in the policy.

For what it’s worth, we knew we had a rental clause in the contract. We thought that was going to help with the cost of renting a car for the 3+ weeks the garage had the car. Unfortunately the rental clause was written for pre-covid prices and what used to rent a pretty nice car for a day…doesn’t anymore.

Oh, back to the squirrels apparently the engine harness on her SUV used to be made of plastic, but is now made of soy. Yeah. It’s essentially rodent candy.

My mechanic told me the same thing about rats when I started having battery problems with a 2010 Honda. A guy from AAA also told me the thing about the dryer sheets and peppermint oil. In my case, however, it turned out it was probably a bad battery, and I suspected there was an element of CYA in the mechanic’s story about the rats.

It all sounds kinda suspect to me, like blaming gremlins. I guess it’s plausible that rodents would seek warm places in the winter, but that’s not an issue here in Southern California. And why would rats chew on wiring in my car when there’s plenty of foliage around? Or, heck, if they want wiring, there’s plenty in the house they can access.

The plot thickens! So there’s something in the manufacturing process uniquely appealing to rodent appetites?


Not located in the States but this has happened to me a lot with martens in years past. Mechanic told me that you need to clean the whole engine compartment thoroughly since martens usually also pee in there, which will attract yet more rodents in the future that will want to chew your wires and tubes.

If you drive out to the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park, the standard advice is to bring a tarp to wrap your car in if you’re leaving it for any length of time because the marmots for some reason like to chew on radiator hoses and brake lines.

Once I got a packrat out from its nest in the engine compartment by combination of spraying predator scent in the compartment and a live trap under the truck.

I think you want them chewing on your car more than your house.

It’s a car galosh!

Right, but I’ve never been told to put dryer sheets soaked in peppermint oil in the walls of my house. If these supposed wiring-chewing rats are such a bane to cars, why isn’t that even more true of houses? I remain skeptical!


You think you have problems?

I live in the sticks in northern Vermont, and yeah, this is a real issue. As noted, soy-based wire wrapping is part of the issue. Another is that a lot of critters simply like to/need to chew on things; it’s hard-wired into their DNA.

We had mice eat through the dishwasher drain hose once, which cost a pretty penny to fix because Bosch uses their own sort of fancy and expensive hose. Dryer sheets were exactly what the repair guy recommended, and we did it, and so far, knock on wood, no more chewing in that location.

And no, my hovercraft is as of yet not full of eels.

I see what you did there. :)

Heh, I did not intend that, but I’ll take it!

Had to pop the hood the other day for something and found a walnut sitting on the engine block.

So apparently a squirrel was hanging out in there and left his lunch behind.
It’s not a big car and there isn’t much room in there and our squirrels are pretty big, but maybe it was a younger one from a while back or something.

And be need to, it means they either chew, or their teeth become too big and hurt them. Almost makes me feel sorry for them.

To keep rodents out of a storage unit I was renting I used packs of rodent repellent I found on Amazon. Reviews claimed that people used them in cars with success. I don’t trust Amazon reviews of course, but they did seem to keep a kinda crappy storage unit free of evidence of mice.

Here in Australia we don’t have rodent issues because all the snakes got there first.

Mostly because it’s not happening to me, there’s something a bit charming about small mammals who could be in a cartoon mucking about in our cars. Maybe they are like the shoe cobbler’s elves? The little cartoon mammals come every night to tune up your engine, except they’re really bad at it!

Also, the things you can learn on Qt3. This should be a PBS website!

I had rats chew up most of a thick parallel port cable long ago. The printer still worked, amazingly. I guess it was unimportant data correction cables or something. Made me wonder how many house fires are caused by rats.