Animals are happy to make just about anywhere a home when it’s cold outside—including your vehicle. A critter using your car as a place to crash might seem harmless, but it is not. That’s because animals like squirrels and mice likely aren’t just sleeping in your car, they’re also chewing on wires, hoses and other important parts. Enough chewing could make your vehicle unsafe to drive.
The good news is you’re not helpless to stop this from happening. Here are a few ways to protect your car from animals—and a few tips for what to do once the damage has already been done.
Rodent-Caused Vehicle Damage Prevention Tips
Rodents’ teeth don’t stop growing; they continuously chew to prevent their teeth from getting too long or sharp, The Washington Post reports. Your vehicle’s wires are an ideal place for these pests to keep their teeth under control because they can hide easily in the engine area. It’s also warm and engine wires are small enough for rodents to get their mouths on. Since the engine compartment looks like the go-to place for rodents, the key is keeping them from wanting to hide out there in the first place.
Move Your Vehicles
Rodents can find their way into any vehicle, but they are more likely to take shelter in one that’s stationary versus a car that’s driven daily. Move any cars that don’t get use from time to time so animals don’t have time to get comfortable.
Keep Your Car In A Sealed Garage If Possible
Parking inside versus on the street or your driveway is another good way to protect your car from rodents. Simply keeping your vehicle in a garage isn’t always enough to keep pests away, however. Take other preventive measures like making sure your garage doesn’t have any stored food or materials that animals can nest in like newspapers, straw or cardboard, according to Consumer Reports. You should also keep trash cans used for food waste outside of your garage.
Close And Clean Up Your Vehicle
Animals can find their way into your car on their own, don’t make it any easier for them. Close your vehicle’s windows and make sure your sunroof is closed completely when you’ve parked for the evening. Be sure to keep your car clean too; food wrappers and garbage can also attract rodents.
Make Your Vehicle Unattractive To Rodents
Just like there are scents that can draw pests to your car, there are aromas that can keep them away. Certain essential oils like peppermint as well as ones derived from cloves and cayenne pepper can send rodents looking for shelter elsewhere, according to Consumer Reports. You can spray these oils in or around your vehicle to keep these animals at bay. Sprinkling cedar shavings, Western Red in particular, can also turn away rodents. Wrapping your vehicle’s wires in rodent-deterrent tape like car manufacturer Honda makes can help keep these critical parts intact.
What To Do After Animals Have Been In Your Car
Even if you follow all of the tips above, there is still a chance an animal could find a way to take residence in your vehicle. If that does happen, take action to clean your vehicle as soon as possible. Certain rodents can leave behind infectious materials in their nesting materials, droppings or urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Such dangerous virus particles could potentially come through your vehicle’s air vents, putting you and your passengers at risk.
Clean Out The Engine Compartment
If you suspect a rodent’s been in your vehicle’s engine area, move your car to a well-ventilated space. Then open the hood and let the engine air out for about 20 minutes. Opening all of the car doors and the trunk can also help air out your car. Inspect your engine compartment for potential nest building. Be sure to wear plastic gloves and a long-sleeve shirt when doing so. Nesting materials could be anywhere, but the most common areas are between the battery and vehicle frame, near the windshield wiper motors and below the intake ducting or the air filter.
Thoroughly disinfect parts of your car where there are signs of rodent activity (nesting materials, droppings, etc.). Avoid using a vacuum cleaner or sweeping rodent waste or contaminated surfaces until they’ve been disinfected. This helps prevent creating potentially infectious aerosols, according to the CDC. High-pressure sprayers should also not be used to remove nests or droppings.
Engine Cleaning Safety Tips
Remove the battery cables before you get to work to decrease the chance of shocking yourself. Spray contaminated materials well with a commercially labeled disinfectant and let it sit for five minutes (or for however long the manufacturer suggests). Once clean, pick up the materials with a paper towel and throw away the waste. You can then clean the rest of the area with more disinfectant. Wait until the sprayed area is dry before reconnecting the battery cables, again to prevent an electric shock.
How To Clear Rodent Nesting Materials Out Of Air Intake Systems
Your vehicle’s engine compartment isn’t the only place rodents like to hide. They can also move through and build nests in your car’s air filters, hoses or ducts. To check engine compartment air filters, open the unit and inspect the filter. Use the same disinfectant process as above, throw away the nesting materials and contaminated filter. Install a new filter and close the unit. Do not hesitate to contact a professional mechanic to handle this work if it proves to be too extensive.
Be sure to take care of yourself after you’ve cleaned and inspected your vehicle for rodents. Disinfect your gloves before removing them. Take some of that disinfectant and pour it into the garbage bag holding the rest of the discarded materials. Rinse your cleaning gloves off with regular water, remove them and wash your bare hands with soap and water.
Keep Your Vehicle Rodent-Free
There are no guarantees that animals will steer clear of your car, but you can at least do everything in your power to try. Practicing proper rodent prevention techniques could help you avoid serious vehicle damage and costly repairs. Plus, the last thing you want to do is have to file an insurance claim for something that you actually had the ability to control. Of course, if you do ever have to file a claim, you can do so anytime through the GEICO Mobile app.
If you inspect your vehicle regularly, equip it with rodent-deterrent scents and keep your car clear of any enticements like food wrappers, protecting your car from rodents will be a lot easier.
When your car breaks down, GEICO Emergency Road Service (ERS) can help you get back on the road. For as little as $14 a year per car, you’ll have coverage for when you have a flat tire, need a battery jump or your vehicle towed, run out of gas, lock your keys in your car and more. You can request help from the palm of your hand with the GEICO Mobile App. Sign up for GEICO ERS today.
By Joe Dyton