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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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