I have long despised squirrels, but until recently it was an illogical dislike unsubstantiated by any squirrel-related experience. Now I have a reason. Let me explain.

Most days we drive to work, and until about a week ago, we paid forty dollars a month to park in a lot close to campus,  owned by the Illinois Disciples Foundation (IDF). On several occasions Grant and I saw  a squirrel getting into the engine block of parked cars by jumping up onto the front wheel and climbing in. To be honest, at the time we thought the squirrel was innocently hiding acorns or keeping warm in the cars, and it seemed like a clever thing to do.

About a month ago, the left, front blinker on our car stopped working. For those who don’t already know, you can tell from inside the car that a blinker is not working, because when you turn it on, the indicator flashes faster than normal. Grant bought a new bulb. When he opened the hood to replace it, the engine block was full of leaves and other trash. He then grabbed the wire leading to the bulb assembly and it felt unusually slack. The wire was loose because it had been chewed clean through, and was now in two pieces! That squirrel built a nest in our car, frayed wires, and ate the plastic box holding our battery. Before I brought the car in to the dealer for repair, I removed a plastic shopping bag full of leaves, newspaper, paper towels, tape, and anonymous bits of our car.

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The wire harness was repaired, but the battery box left as is, which ended up costing us about seventy dollars. I informed the IDF and insisted that the other parkers were notified. That did happen, but the organization’s response was, essentially, that it was a random act of nature and there was nothing to be done. I also tried to get advice from Twin City Honda’s service personnel on how to keep squirrels out of our car, and was told Honda recommends using moth balls. Surprisingly, Honda has an official response on how to deal with rodents because it is an established problem. Service bulletins exist for the Odyssey and Accord models dealing with rodent damage to the knock sensor wiring harness. I did my own research on the internet, and found this blog entry regarding mice wreaking havoc in an Audi TT. It has over 200 comments, many from angry Honda owners! The rumor going around is that the plastic used in Honda cars is made from soy, thus attracting rodents. Further searching turned up various strategies to keep rodents out of your car–moth balls, Bounce dryer sheets, peppermint oil, dog urine, human urine, powdered wolf urine–but the general consensus was that most methods don’t work against squirrels, and who wants their car smelling like urine and napthalene anyways?

We continued parking there, naively assuming it was a one-time event. The day before we were to drive from Illinois to upstate New York, we got in the car at 5:30 pm and the left blinker wasn’t working. Grant and I looked at each other, aghast. We opened the hood of the car, and it was dismal: the squirrel had eaten away at the battery box, ripped up every wire harness in sight, and did not even bother to make a nest–just tore up our car, and left. The service department at Twin City Honda was closed, but I spoke to one individual who said that with so many wires frayed, the car was a fire hazard and should not be driven anywhere. But we had a lot of driving to do the next day. We picked up a rental car and left the CR-V in Twin City’s parking lot, all of this quickly done before dark, because I was afraid the car might explode if I tried to turn the lights on, and even the rear brake lights were not working. We enjoyed our trip while driving a peppy little Toyota Matrix.

Ultimately the squirrel damaged six different wire harnesses that power air compressors, wipers, lights, and so on. The battery box was also replaced, as it was eaten beyond recognition. So far that squirrel has cost us over seven hundred dollars, not to mention our convenient parking spot. But I do feel lucky in a way–for the blogger whose Audi TT was ruthlessly tortured by mice, it took $18,000 and a long time in the shop to repair the damage to his car. Rodent damage is covered by some, but not all, insurance providers. Maybe you should ask your agent about it.

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16 Responses to “Rodent Car Damage”  

  1. 1 Grant Pitel

    I also noticed the squirrel hanging out on window sills in the late fall trying to keep warm… very smart squirrel.

  2. 2 Sheryl

    Now we have heard via the grapevine that someone who still parks there has gotten new email(s) regarding rodents in the IDF parking lot.

    Since we no longer park there and are off the mailing list I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m guessing that with our tasty little morsel (a.k.a. CR-V) staying elsewhere during the day, the squirrel found someone new to gnaw on.

    I have only seen the one e-mail that was sent after this happened to us the first time. That e-mail was sent March 6, 2007, and is their forwarding of an e-mail I sent.

    If somebody DOES know what’s going on, PLEASE, I am curious!

  3. 3 betty paulaski

    i have a 2007 toyoto sienna that the wires were chewed by a rodent. lucky the dealer was able to repair the wire. if not, it would have cost me 1500.00 for a new harness. how can i prevent this. please help

  4. 4 Sheryl

    Unfortunately I know of no way to truly prevent this, short of keeping your car safely away from rodents at all times. We moved from our previous parking lot to a parking garage, keeping the car four floors up–and safely away from squirrels–during the day. At night it is garaged. In the future if the car needs to be outdoors again, I will probably place mothballs under the hood and rodent repelling powder around the driveway. I’m not sure either really works. There are other products: sachels to put under the hood, or even ultrasonic devices.

  5. 5 tan

    thats nothing. The little bastards (only mice) at my whole wiring system (and hoses) clean through. It won’t even start anymore, and that car wasn’t in great shape to start with.

  6. 6 tan

    almost forgot. does anyone know how to fix a chewed clean through wiring system? their all practically in halves now.

  7. 7 Rick Suddes

    I sprayed Rataway Fragrance and the squirrel has not been back.
    Rataway Fragrance is non-poisonous and non-toxic. I see it works on rats and mice also. The bite pressure in a rats jaw is 24,000 psi.

  8. 8 Julie

    Well…I’m simply exasperated. I’m currently on my 3rd repair from squirrels. I’ve lived in the same wooded area for 25 years and in 2 months, I have repaired/replaced the gas line and gas tank of both my Nissan Altima and Acura MDX within 2 weeks of each other. No sooner had my Altima been repaired, I return from a week of non-use only to find the check engine light on once again + my right headlight not working – all due to these SQUIRRELS! They have now progressed from the rear end of the vehicle to the front end. Needlesstosay, I have over $3000 in damages – thank goodness the vehicle insurance co. has been there for me – monetarily, I’ve only been out the deductible x 3 now + excess charges on rentals, and of course, the personal time to/from the dealership for repairs and research on the internet to try to kill these things!

    Mothballs don’t work, believe me. My dealership lined the rear end of the Altima. I placed mothballs in pantyhose and placed them on all 4 tires to no avail. One day, I look out my window, the dang squirrel is sitting next to the pantyhose filled w/ mothballs. Now…it’s game on – open season – traps aren’t even effective – they learn quick.

    If anyone has any real suggestion – please share!

  9. 9 Spudman

    Our vehicles have also been targeted by squirrels, at our previous home and now at this one. For some reason they didn’t seem to bother the neighbors.

    Just got our Vibe back yesterday after 470 dollars worth of repairs. A month ago it cost us a thousand dollars in repairs including replacement of the gas tank.

    I’ve tried moth balls, Repel, hot sauce, a fake snake,and voodoo dolls. None of that worked. At the previous house trapping worked, but it took a while before I finally caught the guilty party. It was only then that the massacre stopped.
    Recently something called Scoot Squirrel was recommended to us. Sure hope this works.

  10. 10 Ann

    It is clear that the soy-based material used in wiring assemblies is very attractive to rodents. It happened to us in just one cold night while away on vacation. Now we see that there is quite a history of problems…so why don’t auto manufacturers use a different material??? They are content to be aware of the problem and pass the trouble and expense on to their customers. Even the replacement parts are made of the same material. Ignoring the problem helps keep profits up, repair personnel employed, and replacement parts businesses going. Why should the manufacturers care when they can pass the cost off to insurers and car owners. While I’m all for stimulation the economy, this wanton disregard is immoral!

  11. 11 john stoner

    i have the same trouble with mice my car a 2007 toyota camry has 27000 miles on it the dealer is charging me $3900.00 the repair my car i sugessted that they change the material they use for the insulation so the rodents will not eat it but they said there was nothing they could do i suggested plasic so the rodents would not eat the wiring my report to toyota is 1003111162 i called this number at toyota 1 800 331 4331

  12. 12 john stoner

    i also have a 2007 camry with 2700.00 milesw on it the mice got it and cost me $4000.00 to replace the wiring they bate vup wiring on march4 2010 it was repaired 16 mar2010 i put it into the garage 23mar and returned to use it 25 of mar they got it again no one including the factory rep in southern cal could not help me or even repond to my request for assistance i was vtord by ba company in ohi ca the previous wire wrapping made with soy based material so that is why the mice eat the wiring

  13. 13 Justin

    A couple of little bags of mothballs under the hood – the mothballs outgas and make the engine compartment (and other nooks and crannys) intolerable to critters.

    The problem I found with this method was that when I turned on the AC in the car, the mothballs could soon be smelled from inside the cabin. Whether you have this problem will depend on where your cabin air-intake is. My solution (since my intake is situated poorly for this trick) is to put the mothball bag on a cord, so I can easily take them out before driving the car, and put them back under the hood when I’m parking it for a few days.

    It’s worked so far. Fingers crossed!

  14. 14 therese

    I am so angry right now! Between my husband’s and my cars (both Hondas), we have spent over 3000.00 in repairs due to rodent damage to our wiring in the past 2 years. Three of these repairs have occurred in the past 2 months. What can we do to get Honda to make their wiring out of something that does nto attract rodents? This is crazy. Each time I bring the cars in for repair, the technicians say they haven’t seen anything like this before. Bull – how about my cars ? I have bought my last Honda and am seriously considering tradint it in – even with the loss of value, it would still be cheaper than paying for repairs every few months.

  15. 15 John

    A squirrel ate through an oil line to my transmission (on a Lexus RX Hybrid), while I was backpacking. I didn’t know it until my car seized up, after about 150 miles of driving (no idiot lights at all). My insurance company is telling me that rodent damage is explicitly excluded from my policy. They are saying the damage is $8,653. I have never even heard of this problem, before.

  16. 16 Sheryl

    Wow, that’s awful. When the CR-V was damaged I talked to our insurer (Allstate at the time) and believe they would have covered it. We did not think it would be worth the hassle when the repair cost was so close to our deductible.

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