Rodent damage is an ever-increasing problem for car owners. Animals looking for warm spaces to spend the winter are liable to crawl up into the engine compartments of your car and chew the wires, using them as a food source and as nesting materials.

Though damage from rodents may be included under comprehensive insurance coverage, it is always better to prevent damage rather than pay for it later. Replacing the wiring in a car engine is a lengthy, complex, and expensive process.

Since their teeth never stop growing, rodents constantly have to chew on things to wear them down to a reasonable length. They will chew almost anything, but there are ways you can deter them from nesting in and chewing wires in your car.

Why Do Rodents Chew Car Wires?

Though it may seem strange to us, car wires are quite enticing to rodents. Visually, they can resemble the shrubs or roots that rodents chew on in the wild. They may also chew car wires if the car is close to their nest.

It’s been suggested that car wires that are made from plant matter can give off a smell that attracts rodents, though it is more likely the warmth and scent of the insulation that attracts them. The most likely reason rodents chew car wires, however, is merely to trim their teeth.

Rodent teeth are unlike human teeth. Where we have one set of baby teeth and one set of adult teeth, rodents have one set of teeth that never stops growing. To keep their teeth at a reasonable and manageable length, rodents will chew just about anything. Car wires are just one of their many unfortunate victims.

Is it Common for Rodents to Chew Car Wires?

Car wire damage caused by rodents has become increasingly common over the last few decades.

Rodents like spaces that are dark, small, and warm. A recently run engine provides the perfect spot for rodents to nest and store food. Once in the engine bay, rodents will chew on anything nearby, including your car wires. Car wires provide a consistent and abundant food supply for rodents, so once they are in your car they have little reason to leave.

Another factor in the increase of chewed wires is habitat loss. With people spreading out more, what was once considered a rural problem has now moved into the cities.

How to Prevent Rodents from Chewing on Your Car Wires

Close up of a rat on a black background

There are multiple ways to prevent rodents from chewing your car wires. If you want to do a thorough job preventing any future rodent damage, you’ll need to make some changes to your car, inside and out.

First Steps

The first step in preventing rodents from damaging your car is to find all the places that can grant them access to the interior of the car. Rodents are notorious for being able to fit through tight spaces; this means they will be able to squeeze through even the smallest of gaps and get into your car.

Check areas like the air vents, cable ports and holes, and around the steering column for gaps. While you shouldn’t block up things like air vents, there are preventative measures you can take to keep rodents out of them.

Before starting that, a good first step is to be sure to dispose of any prime nesting materials from your car; this includes newspaper, cardboard, straw, rags, and other garbage. Never leave food or food wrappers in your car, or even nearby.

Above all else, keeping your car and the area around it clean and free of food waste will prevent rodents from making a home in your car. They do not want to live somewhere that does not have an abundant food source.

Try to park on concrete or asphalt rather than dirt or grass and clear debris such as leaves from around your car. Whenever you can, park in a closed garage. Running and moving your car frequently will also help to keep rodents from taking up residency. If you’re planning to stow your car away for the season, you can buy zip-up vehicle covers to completely seal off your car from rodents. 

Physical Deterrents

There are several physical barriers and deterrents you can use to keep rodents away from your car wires. The best defense against rodents is installing metal mesh over important areas of the car and its entrance points. Putting metal mesh over the air cleaner intake, for example, is a good way to keep pests out.

Park your car in a closed garage whenever possible. Leave the doors closed, but the hood open. Having the hood open will deter rodents from setting up shop in the engine bay as they dislike feeling exposed, and the engine bay will not retain heat as well, making it inhospitable to rodents.

You can also set up ultrasonic emitters to scare vermin off. You will not hear them due to the high frequencies, but rodents will. These are best used in secluded or rural settings so as to not disturb neighbors’ pets.

If there is already minor damage to some of the wiring, fix it with special rodent tape. This rodent tape looks and acts very similarly to electrical tape, however, it contains capsaicin – the chemical that makes peppers spicy. It is extremely good at deterring rodents as they are more sensitive to it than people.

If you choose to set up traps, use either catch-and-release traps or snap traps, as they are more humane than sticky traps. Keep in mind that if an animal is trapped and scared, it may defecate or panic. This may cause damage if it is not contained and can potentially spread disease. To set up snap traps, place them around and on the tires, as this is where most rodents will climb up.

Chemical Deterrents

Close up of mothballs on burlap

Another method to prevent rodent damage to cars is to use chemical deterrents. While keeping your car and surrounding area clean is the best way to keep vermin away, that is not always possible depending on where you live and park. Certain chemicals are good at keeping rodents away as they detest strong smells. Some common chemical deterrents include mothballs, essentials oils, and other strong-smelling plants.

Mothballs contain the chemical naphthalene. It is what creates the mothball smell. For mothballs to be effective, you will have to use a lot.

Another way to scare off rodents is to put essential oils or plant extract around areas you don’t want the rodents to be. Peppermint oil, eucalyptus, wormwood, and clove are all excellent choices to keep rodents away from your vehicle.

While chemical deterrents are easy to set up, they are not the most effective method of preventing infestations. You will have to reapply them quite frequently, and certain chemicals may present other forms of risks. For example, mothballs may be hazardous to children and some scents may trigger allergies in pets. 

To get the most out of chemical deterrents, use them in combination with physical deterrents. This way, rodents will be more unlikely to approach the car in the first place, but you still have something in place to keep them out if they do.

How to Tell if Rodents Have Chewed on Car Wires

Chewed car wires with exposed internal wiring

The most obvious signs of rodent damage to your car are jaggedly gnawed holes in various non-metal components, urine stains, droppings, scratches, and nests that include materials from the car. While these signs are usually apparent at first glance, be sure to check in and around every part a rodent could reach.

Damaged wires and holes can be easily attributed to vermin if they have very frayed and jagged edges. Some parts may be missing entirely. Be sure to also check for damaged belts or piles of debris.

If there is damage from inside of the car, some indicators you may notice are that the check engine light may be on, the electrical displays may be malfunctioning, or the car doesn’t turn on at all.

Some more subtle signs may indicate that rodents have been there, but have not yet decided to stay. These could include bad odors, a reduction to heat and sound insulation around the engine, and minuscule amounts of paper or food bits that have been stored in hard-to-see areas.

If you think you may have had rodents in your car, but aren’t sure, try shining a UV light around to look for urine stains. You should also be sure to check around your car and the area you park it for rodent droppings.

It is vital to check for rodents in your car and take measures to prevent them from nesting as their presence can cause serious health and safety risks. The nests and debris they leave can lodge in places that prevent the engine from functioning while you are driving. Additionally, rodents are known to carry a wide array of diseases that can be transferred to you through the ventilation system.

What to Do if Rodents Chewed Your Car Wires

The first step you should take if rodents have majorly damaged your car wiring is to take your car to a professional. Mechanics know how to fix rodent damage and can repair most issues they cause. Be aware, however, that the cost of wiring repair is usually quite high.

The next step is to take preventative measures. Many excellent products can help you reduce the risk of vermin infestations, but to keep rodents away for good, it’s a good idea to hire a service to clear them out for you.

Pest control services will also have more effective and long-lasting ways of dealing with rodents than you can buy from your local store. If you find traces of rodents or need help with an infestation, contact Stampede Pest Control, and your problem will be solved in no time.