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How to Stop Mice and Rats From Infesting Your Cars in The Winter
- Published: Dec 04/2018
- Last update: Jun 02/2023
- 20min read
- Views: 27,422
The festive season is right around the corner, and we are all getting ready for it. Planning trips and calculating the present budget, thinking of new recipes and a million other things. We also prepare ourselves and our homes for the ice, the snow and the freezing temperatures. But are we the only ones that are getting locked in and ready?
Of course not! Rodents easily find their perfect habitat around people. During the winter, the warmth and food they can find by keeping close to us is lifesaving, and rodents use the opportunities well. While some find shelter underneath our homes, others have a different approach and hide in our vehicles. What?!
So, if you:
Then read on! This article is for you.
We already know that rats can infest our homes and how to get rid of them. But rodents can also take over our cars, and they can easily spend the winter inside without you even noticing. Got your attention? Keep on reading, and you will learn where they nest and how you can protect your property.
Signs of mice and rats in your car:
It might prove a bit difficult to recognise those signs because often there are many other potential causes for them to appear. The last thing that would come to your mind is that your car is rodent infested.
The most straightforward sign would be the stench. Even if you have never smelled the smell of a rodent nest, there is no chance you would miss it. The odour is musty and close to the smell of old cheese, which makes it unmistakable.
You can also hear a strange noise coming from the dashboard. However, that may also be some mechanism moving about, a malfunction in the air conditioning and many, many other things. If you recognise the sound as the scratching of little nails or sharp teeth destroying some plastic, you may have rodents living in your dashboard.
They get there through the air vents and often make nests in the filter boxes. That filter’s job is to filtrate the air that comes from outside the car so you can breathe fresh air.
Another sign of an infestation is obvious chewing marks on the interior of your car. Now, such cases are not so common, especially for modern vehicles. However, if an entry is present, a rodent would gladly live inside of your car. Often a result of neglect and intense corrosion, there are holes in the body panels of some vehicles.
Those holes can get large enough for a full-size rat to squeeze through and will give it access to soft plastic panels or interior carpets that would serve as food and nesting material. You may never see the rat itself because it will leave the premises during the day and scavenge for food.
Check lights could also indirectly tell you that you have mice or rats living in your car. If you are not familiar with the most common check lights, you can see them here. You can still drive while some of those lights are on, while others indicate you should immediately turn off the engine. The problem arises because of rodents chewing wires from your vehicle’s harness. This results in the improper operations of some sensors.
No matter the reason, as soon as you see a critical check light (those are often in red), you should search for the help of a professional mechanic. Rodent damage to your wiring can lead to the malfunctioning of important systems. This is especially true for modern vehicles, where everything is coordinated by electronics.
We have already mentioned big holes in metal panels that are a result of neglect and severe corrosion. But what if you are a conscientious owner and take good care of your car? How can a nasty rodent find its way inside?
Well, quite easily. You may close all doors and windows, and you may have no holes in the body panels, but you can’t isolate your engine. After all, it needs air in order to cool itself and work properly. Very often, the engine compartments don’t even have underskirts and are easily reachable from underneath the car.
If your car, truck, camper or another type of vehicle, is somewhat high, it might prove difficult, for mice especially, to just jump on and latch to your transmission and climb from there. Rats, on the other hand, can get in most cars by simply standing up on their back feet or climbing on the tires. The tires are an easy entry point.
Rodents can then easily reach the breaking callipers and the steering rack. All that’s left from then on is to look around for a way that will lead them to the engine bay or straight to the insides of your car.
If you park your car near a thick shrub or a tree, the creative rodents can jump on the vehicle from its top and squeeze through air vents and scoops. Hold your horses, don’t go chopping trees down or duct-taping all your car’s scoops and vents! We will talk about rodent-proofing your vehicle further down in this article.
Treat your property to limit the chance of your vehicle getting infested.
depositphotos / By DesignPicsInc
Mice can get pretty inventive when it comes to their nests. Those small and nimble rodents can nest practically everywhere. Their smaller bodies and their flexibility allow them to squeeze in unimaginable places. With their ability to chew through almost anything, the possibilities for nesting spots get even more. When it comes to cars, the options are not as many as those in a domestic habitat.
Common mice nesting spots in cars:
Vents are often where mice just end up after entering your vehicle. If they have entered through an air scoop of some sort or a vent, they will find a dark and warm place and settle in. Often those vents lead to exits that are coming from your dash or the upper right corner of your doors. This allows mice to nest right behind your dash, where they will enjoy the heat from the engine and will be well protected from the weather outside, thanks to your vehicle’s isolation.
Behind the dash, there are a lot of cables, plastic and other materials that can serve as food. The cabin air filter housings on some cars are also located behind the dash, and those are ideal nesting places. The air filter is made of fibreglass and paper, which is the perfect nesting material.
The trunk of a car is often targeted because of the large space and the numerous hiding places. Lots of vehicles have secret compartments for tools, CD changers, first aid kits and many more. Those compartments may serve as a hiding place, and the insulation of your trunk serves as the perfect building material for a nest.
The compartment for the spare tire is an ideal place. It is well hidden, and people don’t open it often. You would only reach in if, God forbid, you are in need. It is also less likely for you to hear the rodents while they are tucked in somewhere in your trunk.
Glove compartments are not the perfect spot for nesting in case you are still driving the car. It does not provide so much protection and is often opened. However, if the vehicle is abandoned and is not driven daily, the glove box could be a perfect place for a nest, right between the cables and isolation in the front of the car and the comfort and padded seats of the inside.
We have mentioned how air filters serve as a top-notch building material for rodent nests. The boxes where those filters are located can be found in places other than behind the dash. Some cabin air filters are located in the engine compartment. Below the front window is also commonplace. If you are driving a larger vehicle, those filter boxes could be two.
The air filter for the engine would be somewhere at the front, in a similar-looking box but in a warmer place. Thus it may be a preferred nesting spot. This poses a risk to your engine and the younglings of the rodents, but… Which one do you care more about…
Below the seats is another place where the mice’s nest is practically already built for them. So much padding and fabric right underneath their tiny sniffing noses. Usually, mice find their way to and inside the backseat right through the trunk. It is comfy, cosy and almost impossible to notice, especially if you don’t load your car with larger tools or something else, and you need to lower the back seats in order to fit in your cargo.
For an everyday family saloon, that is almost never necessary. In some cars, the back of your trunk is actually the back of the back seat, and if a rodent chews through it, it will end up inside the very seat. There, it will have the perfect conditions to give birth and build a nest. Those scenarios are not typical, yet it does happen. Once again, this sneaky tactic is often observed in vehicles that are left for a couple of months unused. That is so because the mice wouldn’t want you to sit on their nest, and if the car is driven daily this is highly possible.
The next place where mice like to nest is on top of batteries. Well, they won’t just lay on top of a pair of Duracell. We are talking about car batteries. The reason behind this is that batteries tend to emit warmth because of the current moving through them. Combining that with the warmth from the engine, it makes for a cosy spot to start a rodent home. Often batteries are located in other compartments, like those of the air filters, which makes it even easier for mice to hide inside the crevices.
We have talked about the air filter boxes, the batteries and the vents right behind the engine and how mice make nests in there, but the reason behind all that is the warmth provided by the engine itself and, of course, the enclosure of the vehicle… However, when rodents nest in everyday driven cars, they do it because of the heat, and they prefer to be close to it. That is why nests located directly on top of the motor are not something uncommon.
Rats build their nests in the exact same spots as mice do, although there are some restrictions. Because of the larger size of rats, they can’t infest the vents and can hardly squeeze in behind the dashboard. Although a rat nest in a car engine is not something uncommon, so isn’t a rat nest in a car air filter. Bigger vehicles like jeeps, trucks and caravans can provide more options for a rat.
The same principle applies to properties applies to vehicles, too, and it states the following: If you have a rat infestation, you are not likely to have any mice living nearby. Mice and rats don’t live together anywhere. Rats are predatorial to mice, so you can imagine what would happen.
depositphotos / By PhanuwatNandee
Modern-day vehicles have a plastic cover on top of the motor, which serves as great protection for the mice that have managed to climb on and hide under it. Also, there are plates below the engine that serve as protection from flying rocks, and if you ever do some work on the motor and drop a bolt, you won’t end up losing it. Mice and rats often utilise those plates and use them as solid “ground” to build upon and be close to the heat source.
Some vehicles, like the VW GOLF MK-V, for instance, have an air filter built into the top plastic engine cover, which is the best of both worlds for mice. They can have the enclosure and nesting materials of the air filter, plus the heat of being right above the engine.
So… “How to get rid of mice in my car engine?” You may ask. The right question is how to prevent them from getting there in the first place. And you might do a double-take when you see a face looking at you from the glove compartment or an air filter, but, just like any other wild creature, rats and mice are unaware of the social boundaries. But yes, if you were never expecting to be so vulgarly charged by mother nature, it may come as a surprise to have a rat peeking out between your timing belts.
The key element to prevent rodent infestation of your vehicle is to mind where you park it. In most cases, vermin find their way in during the night while the engine is still warm and welcoming. If you park near an area where it is likely for vermin to lurk around, it is more likely for them to crawl on your car. Such places are unkempt gardens, deep shrubs, piles of firewood, the top of sewer lids, or next to full trash cans. Obviously, parking around such places makes your vehicle vulnerable. Now, if the weather is hot, your car will most likely not be of any interest to the pests. However, during the winter, things are completely different. So avoid parking around the above-mentioned objects and places, and you will limit the chances of your car being infested.
Another thing you can do is to make sure you park in brightly lit areas. Rodents do not like bright lights and will avoid your car. If you park in a garage that you are not absolutely sure is vermin free, you can leave the lights on too, and you can leave the front bonnet open.
Blocking any possible entryways is always a good idea, although you need to be extra careful not to completely shut any vents and air scoops to the engine. That could resolve poor air quality in the cabin or overheating of the engine. Most people install metal mesh around the openings of bigger scoops, spoilers and etc. If you colour the mesh black, it could be almost invisible. This mesh can’t be devoured by rodents, which is a great solution.
Don’t let your vehicle sit in one place for too long, and even when you are driving it daily, make sure you switch your parking spot from time to time.
There are many products on the market that prevent mice and rats from nearing your vehicle, like electrocuting tire pads that you should park on. We will concentrate on the simple rules for now and leave the commercial products for you to research on your own.
There are a couple of DIY methods with which you may evict the rodents nesting in your car.
Common methods to get rid of rats in the engine bay:
Apparently, mothballs are the most used method. It makes sense. It is the most affordable method out of those listed above. You only have to put a couple of mothballs in plastic containers and spread them around the engine bay. Ensure the containers are well attached and won’t fall where they should not. You can use zip ties to firmly mount the containers.
It is also important that you have a couple of holes in the container to let the smell of the mothballs roam the engine compartment. That is key, don’t skip that step because it is all pointless if you forget about it.
Peppermint oil is also effective because of its smell, which doesn’t bother us by any means. However, rodents tend to run away from it like vampires from garlic. Great! Don’t just sprinkle your engine with peppermint oil, though. You can once again use small plastic containers. Please, bear in mind to keep those containers away from areas that emit heat.
The commercial electronic devices available on the market resemble an alarm system against rodents. You need to mount them inside the engine bay and connect them to the electrical system of the vehicle. Once you turn on the device, it will emit light and occasionally make low-frequency noises. Some people can hear those noises, but most can’t. Your dogs will most likely hear them, so don’t be surprised if your pets stare at your car a lot.
The sounds deter rats and mice, and the flashing lights make them run away from your engine compartment because it is simply impossible for them to sleep there. Sadly we don’t have any data on how effective those devices are, and if you’re going to spend some money on them, it is best to do your research in advance.
Like every other animal, rodents will avoid every sign of a predator. So, leaving the smell of a fox or a cat around your vehicle will definitely deter any mice or rats.
Mice inside your vehicle could be highly destructive as well. They can ruin your seats and carpets. They will most likely leave a musty odour behind, even after you eradicate them. But worst of all, they tend to chew on seat belts!
Nimble rodents can get between the PVC cover and the steel of your central column. Behind that PVC cover is where the mechanisms for your seat belt are hidden. When you put on your seatbelt, you do not see the entire belt. Most of it is still behind the cover. You may have put on one that is half chewed through and not even suspect that! In fact, all belts could be chewed on. That is a major reason for worry!
If you have had a rodent infestation in your car, please, check the condition of your seatbelts. Seatbelts are 48mm wide, and there is a reason for that. This is calculated so it holds you in your seat and controls the speed with which you will collide with the airbags. If they are halfway chewed through, they will withstand half of the force and will ensure half the protection.
It is most likely for you to have a problem like that if the vehicle has been sitting for a long time. So, if you are saving a vehicle from a scrap yard, remove the covers of the central columns and check the condition of the seat belts. While you are at it, you can see the state of the mechanisms as well. Some might be blocked and not work properly.
You can use the same methods to get rid of mice in the interior of your car as the ones used for deterring them from the engine bay. In such a case, you would probably want to avoid the smell of a predator. Spreading “fox piss” in your car will probably not solve your problem without another arising…
Deep clean the interior
After you remove all signs of the rodent infestation it is time to deep clean the interior. You can benefit from a professional mobile car valet service, that could be combined with sanitization and ozone deodorization of the interior.
depositphotos / By weerapat
Mice and rats, accompanied by their constant need to chew something, can cost you thousands of pounds if they find their way inside your car.
Problems caused by rodent damage could be hard to locate and round up in repair bills. To top it all off, damage to the wire harness can only be fixed by replacing the entire harness. On their own, those harnesses are quite pricey. When you consider that if the rodents are not permanently removed from your vehicle, it is almost inevitable that you will have problems with the harness again. Chilli repair tape is a good answer to the question of how to prevent rats from eating car wires.
Rodents in engine compartments often chew on vacuums and even brake fluid tubes, which can lead to accidents that can cost you not only money.
It does sound a bit scary, and it is… As soon as you notice signs of mice, rats, squirrels, possums (not actually rodents) or other rodents, take precautions. They may be cute to some of you, but there are far more important things than preserving the life and well-being of a cute rat.
It depends on the provider. Look at your policy. Is there anything about “comprehensive coverage”? Usually, this level of insurance is not mandatory, meaning that for standard insurance, such a clause will not be included. However, in most cases where you are leasing the vehicle or have bought it on credit, such an insurance clause is added.
The “comprehensive coverage” takes care of any damage done to the car that is not inflicted upon collision. Any animal-related damage should be enlisted there. So, if a passing horse breaks your tail light, you should be covered.
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Apart from the suggestions we have provided above, you can take some extra steps to protect your vehicle. Like, make sure to park in a garage, if possible. The environment in the garage is far easier to control than the one outside.
For any cars that you would like to keep in a shed and you are not sure if there are rodents around or not, you can raise the car on jack stands.
If you find (have found) yourself in a situation where you might need help with rats infesting your home, but you wonder how it goes. You might find the following example of a property rat treatment that we have posted recently. We believe it will answer a lot of questions about the service.
Did you find our article on how to get rid of rodents in your car helpful? Have an interesting personal experience? Why not share your thoughts with us in the comments below?
Image header source: Shutterstock / Author: Holger Kirk