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Meals on Wheels - How to prevent rodent damage to your vehicle

Rodent-inflicted vehicle damage is an age-old problem that some say is increasing as automakers use more plant-based biodegradable materials to reduce waste. Some are blaming the auto industry’s shift to wire insulation made from soy, as well as rice husks, wood, peanut oil, corn and other sugars. Critics charge that plant-based plastics give off a faint vanilla smell when warm, turning vehicles into a moveable feast for pests.

What Time of Year Do Rodents Seek Shelter in Cars?

Rodents are active year-round, but their behaviors vary according to the season. In the summertime, they're often going in and out of buildings in search of food, water, and nesting materials and spaces. During winter, they're more likely to spend more time indoors.

Since it's in the nature of rodents to look for shelter from cold and rain, they're likeliest to nest in cars during winter. Cars parked outdoors are especially vulnerable, though they will also infest cars within garages, provided the garage itself is accessible.

What to Check in Your Car for Rodent Damage

Rodents can cause damage to numerous parts of a vehicle because the enamel in their teeth is strong enough to gnaw through all sorts of inner-vehicle components - from ignition wires and air vents to interior upholstery and hood insulation.

Common signs that rodents have been active in a vehicle include:

  • Gnawed wires around the engine

  • Shredded gauze in the air vent

  • Chewed insulation and upholstery

  • Chew holes in nonmetal engine components

  • Claw marks and droppings

In some cases, the damage can get so intense that a car won't start. Even if rodents don't invade the passenger area, a flashing check-engine light could indicate damage under the hood of a vehicle.

How Do Rodents Get in Cars?

Though a vehicle might seem protected, rodents have a way of getting in. It's especially easy for mice to squeeze through openings smaller than a dime. Usually, they'll crawl up from under the engine and make their way to other areas once inside.

How to Prevent Rodents From Coming Into Your Car

When you open your glove compartment to reach for a map, pen or pair of sunglasses, the last thing you want to see or feel is a live or dead rodent. There are certain parking areas and circumstances where a rodent-free vehicle cannot be 100 percent guaranteed, but the following tips can lower the odds of rodents entering your car:

  • Keep your car clean. If your car is filled with paper, garbage, tissues, cups, fast-food bags, ect — it can be a magnet for rodents. In a sense, your car has been used as a dumpster, which is always the ideal kind of place for rodents to hide, nest, sleep and find food.

  • Don't allow moisture to build up inside your vehicle. Mice thrive on water and therefore are attracted to moist areas. It's important to keep condensation from building up. If condensation persists night after night, have your car inspected to locate the cause.

  • Keep foliage away from your car. When autumn leaves fall and surround your car, a literal pathway is formed right to your vehicle. By contrast, rodents are less likely to enter your car when they can’t come anywhere near it.

  • Don't leave openings into your vehicle. If one of the doors is slightly ajar, or the sunroof or one of the windows won't close all the way, your car could easily become a rodent haven.

  • Don’t let your car sit unused for more than a couple of days.

  • If you are storing your vehicle for the season, invest in a drive-in bag or capsule that completely seals your car.

  • Parking your car indoors is always ideal, because it sets up a buffer zone between the vehicle and the outdoors.

  • Seal your garage by plugging even the tiniest holes with stainless steel mesh, sheet metal or aluminum flashing.

QFI Pest Control can help to identify possible access points in your garage and home. We will do a thorough inspection and make recommendations based on our findings. Regular programs are available to help reduce the number of rodents around the exterior of your home. These rodent protection plans control the population and can really make a difference in protecting your home and vehicles. Contact us for more information.


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