Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy,
February 2, besides being my late father’s birthday, is Groundhog Day. This led me to ponder about the squirrels and other little furry creatures that are known to damage vehicles during the winter months, particularly the engine compartment. If this has happened to you, rodents are the most likely suspects, particularly species who hoard or cache food resources. Depending on where you live, this might include chipmunks, field mice and pack rats. Groundhogs, not so much.
Look at the engine compartment or ventilation system from a rodent’s eyes. While we see an engine compartment or a ventilation system – rodents likely see something that looks a lot like a burrow. How convenient! And how nice of the humans to provide a prefabricated tunnel just waiting for them to move in and fill the pantry with groceries! Prevention is primarily about making the food source harder to come by. This means the following:
• Clean up the garage or parking area, remove all the food sources, and regularly vacuum the interior of the vehicle.
• Be sure to drive the vehicle regularly. This is especially important for “spare” vehicles that aren’t your everyday transportation.
• Expand your parking options so the car isn’t always waiting in the predictable location.
There’s some question among experts over whether the rodents are actually eating the insulation, harvesting it for other uses such as nesting materials, or both. I have been hearing about soy – specifically, soy-based materials used by auto manufacturers instead of petroleum-based plastics – that turn wiring into a tasty meal, but I’m not sure I’m convinced. Regardless, animals that live near people tend to be quite adaptable and that’s true of their ability to utilize novel resources, including new kinds of food and nesting materials.
How can we put a stop to it?
Wire damage commonly occurs when a vehicle isn’t driven for long periods of time or when it’s near a vibrant population of gnawers. Soy or no soy, the first step, as I’ve mentioned before, is to make sure you’re not inadvertently putting out the welcome mat by making other food sources readily available.
If food isn’t the problem, then we need to look at humane ways to dissuade the local fauna. There are myriad techniques that will do the trick… at least for a while. But the same adaptability that allows certain wild species to survive and even thrive in close proximity to humans also causes them to habituate quickly to our scare tactics. Here are some ideas:
• Noise, such as a portable stereo.
• Strobes or other blinking lights.
• Balloons or aluminum pie plates tied to the underside of the vehicle.
• A garden gnome or some other small statue with eyes placed beneath the car…you get the idea.
Make wires less appetizing by spraying them with capsaicin, the chemical that makes hot sauce hot. This won’t get rid of them permanently, but it may buy you some time to clean up and make the car less attractive to rodents. Home improvement stores carry items like this. They also sell boxes that send out a high-decibel frequency that is supposed to repel rodents. I bought one and find that it is very annoying to me and the dogs; the weird thing is my wife doesn’t hear it at all. So does that make me more like a dog or a groundhog? To be honest, I did see my shadow.
Hope this helps, and Good Driving
The Hemet Car Guy