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Family Car Tip: Keeping Your Car Rodent-Free

2007 Saturn VUE I4

2007 Saturn VUE I4

It’s no laughing matter when hungry rodents – rats, squirrels, even raccoons – start chewing the wiring on the family car. Those burned by this expensive repair know that just having the wiring replaced doesn’t get rid of the problem. The critters often just come back – presumably because they’ve found happiness under the hood.

I have some experience in this situation. Our daughter’s car, a 2007 Saturn Vue, had to go into the dealer after a Check Engine light came on and OnStar notified her that there was a problem. Engine diagnostics confirmed the problem and the dealer replaced the entire fuel-sending unit. But the same Check Engine light came on after the repair. Upon further investigation, mechanics tracked the source of the problem to the wiring harness – which rodents had chewed and caused to short out.

Needless to say, the repair cost, which wasn’t covered by manufacturer’s warranty, didn’t make us very happy campers. Worst of all, since our daughter parked her car outside (she’s since moved, but still has to park outside), the pesky rodents came back!

Researching the subject, I came up with some interesting – if untested by me – solutions that FamilyCarGuide readers may want to try:

Turn their noses. The obvious first choice of many car owners is to sprinkle, spray or place some sort of deterrent in the engine compartment. Among the many choices are specific rat- or squirrel- deterrent fragrances, cayenne pepper, moth balls (some say this is pretty much useless), even ground-up Irish Spring soap (the green variety only). The idea behind use of deterrents is that if you figure out which one the rodents or critters really don’t like, they’ll leave your car’s wiring alone. Just be sure the deterrent is non-poisonous. If rats die in your engine compartment and you can’t find them, you’ll have another big problem. You also want to keep children and pets safe – since rodents often carry deterrents with them and drop it where children/pets may come into contact with it.

Trap them. Another semi-reliable rodent solution is to set out traps – behind the wheels, inside the engine compartment at night – to catch the rodents. Of course, you won’t be catching a raccoon with a mousetrap, but you may very well snag mice and rats.

Park somewhere else – preferably in an enclosed space. Rodents can’t get at the family car if it isn’t left out in the open. Although not an option for many multi-car families after the garage is filled up, if you do have room in the garage – or can make room – the best solution to keeping your car free of the rodent problem is parking it inside. Others have found that simply parking elsewhere at night in the autumn and winter (the time when rodents are seeking the warmth of the car’s engine compartment) or rotating parking spots helps prevent rodent damage.

Pressure-clean the entire engine compartment. Of course, just because you get rid of the rodents for the time being doesn’t mean they won’t come back. One way to ensure they aren’t immediately drawn back to your car is to get rid of the feces and urine that attracts them. Mechanics who’ve dealt with this problem say pressure cleaning the entire engine compartment will do the trick. This sounds like a fairly reliable suggestion.

Does anyone out there wonder why the automakers – who obviously know about the problem of car wiring being targeted by rodents – don’t put some kind of protective covering on it? Think of all the expensive repair bills that consumers would be able to avoid. These range from $268 (the amount we paid) to several hundreds or thousands to replace shredded engine harness, hoses, brakes, oxygen sensor and more.

Just a thought.

By the way, FamilyCarGuide would love to hear reader suggestions on how to defeat rodents and keep them from making a meal on the family car’s wiring. Share your comments below.

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Comments (5)
  1. Need Help Here! See the post is almost 2 yrs old, but just got my Kia Sportage back after 4 wks from Squirrel damage (think more so than rats)...1.5 days later, they are already chewing up underhood (prior damage, nothing apparent underhood..this time it's chewing rubber under wipers..tearing out insulation to dashboard) APPARENTLY there is something in my engine/suv attracting these guys...I understand insulation on wires now made with soy vs petroleum, but this is absurd! Do not tell me mothballs, put them down and underhood before I drove suv in after picking up from dealer...there is no food, etc in's just me!, ugh! There is something in the KIA's attracting these varmits..talked to 3 other Kia owners with same problem!

  2. Cost last week was $2,633.13 - albeit $500 to me(deductible) and ins paid the rest..however, still was out for rental $$ for a week - could have been worse until the dealer gave me a loaner.

  3. We have tested all kinds of urban legends an most are not effective. We use a product developed by our neighbor a retires aerospace engineer and a animal behaviorist. They built a better mouse trap.
    It's called the Rid-A-Rat. It is sold in many hardware stores and even one car dealer sells them in Flagstaff, Arizona.
    The Rid-A-Rat chases the vermin out of the car and prevents nesting. Once installed you are done. Made in the USA and safe and green.
    Homeowners insurance will sometimes pay for the damage. Rid-A-Rat. It keeps rabbits away too.

  4. Just locate the cabin air intakes which are located somewhere under the hood. Place 1/4 " hardware cloth over the intakes and secure them to the sheet metal firewall with paper clips.

    Most intake holes are covered by the lonf plastic cover under the hood of the car up by the wiper blades. You'll have to remove the plastic rivits which hold the cover in place to access those holes and cover them with the metal hardware cloth screen.

  5. We experienced a similar problem after we took our vehicle in for a nagging check engine light only to find mice nesting under the engine cover and chewing wires in there. A few hundred dollars later the wiring was repaired but no solution to keeping the rodents out of there led us to do our own research. We discovered a product called the mouse blocker and had that installed. Hoping that will protect us.

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