During the colder months of the year, rats, mice, squirrels and other rodents seek out places to stay warm and safe from predators. One of their favorite places to hide out is the engine of your car. Have you ever tried to start your car after tucking it away for a few days to find that there's something wrong under the hood? When your mechanics take a look, they find damaged, frayed or broken wires that are indicative of one thing — rodents calling your car home.

But why do rodents chew the wires in your car? What can you do to help prevent these pests from causing expensive damage? And what can you do if your car was damaged by rodents eating car wires? Read on to learn more about protecting your car wiring from the teeth of furry pests.

Why do rodents chew car wiring?

There are a few myths about why rodents are so attracted to car wiring. Have you ever heard that rodents chew car wiring because it tastes good to them? It's a common misconception that the coating of your car's wiring is made from some sort of organic material that rodents like to eat. Others believe that rodents are attracted to an electromagnetic signal emitted by the car. This is a myth, too.

The real reason for all the chewing lies in rodent biology. The truth is, rodent teeth never stop growing, and they have to chew to keep their teeth from getting too long or sharp.

Related > What Can Mice Chew Through?

Rodents are attracted to your car wires because the engine compartment of your car is a safe, quiet and warm place for them to hide, and they see it as a convenient place to nest and trim their teeth. The engine wires are some of the easier things for them to get their mouths on, so they're usually the first things they chew. They may also resemble the stems or plants that rodents would chew on if they lived outside.

What types of rodents chew car wiring?

If you want to know what types of rodents are to blame for the chewing, think about which rodents are small enough to get into your engine compartment. Some of the most common problematic critters are:

  • Mice - Mice are very small and can easily squeeze into tiny holes.
  • Rats - Although rats are larger than mice, they're voracious chewers and can cause major damage quickly. These are one of the more common culprits.
  • Squirrels - Squirrels may seem like they're too big to creep into your car and start chewing car wires, but most of their bulk is fur — under all that fluff, they're quite small.
  • Chipmunks - Chipmunks are always looking for a warm place to hide during colder weather.
  • Larger animals - Although it's less common, larger animals like groundhogs, opossums (which aren't rodents) and woodchucks may find their way into your engine and call it home.

These creatures may be quick to take up residence in your engine once the temperature starts going down, so be on the lookout for rodent droppings, an unpleasant smell or traces of food. Though rodents spend most of the day hiding away, you may even spot them on rare occasions. You might also hear scratching or scuttling sounds coming from under your hood.

Related > How to Identify Mouse Droppings

How much damage can a rodent do to your wiring?

Rodents chew through wires with little effort and can create damage that can be difficult for mechanics to fix. This is because they can get into hard-to-reach areas of your engine and chew on wires that are hard to locate.

If your mechanic can't find the damaged wires that are causing problems, they can't fix them. In addition, rodents may bring nest-making materials and food into your engine, which can pose problems — as can the waste they leave behind. Materials such as paper, cardboard and leaf litter can pose a potential fire hazard as the engine's compartment temperature increases. Depending on the make and model of your car, and how long the rodents have taken up residence in your vehicle, the cost of this damage can range from minor to significant.

How to stop rodents chewing car wires

Wondering how to stop squirrels chewing car wires and how to get rid of rats in car engines? While it's not impossible for rodents to find their way under the hood of a car you drive every day, they are more likely to choose cars that stay in one place for a while. This means that if you have any cars that don't get regular use, they will probably be a rodent's first choice.

To help prevent this, move these cars more frequently to keep the rodents from getting comfortable. If you can park inside of a garage instead of outside, that is even better. And if you do park in a garage, check for entry points that rodents may be getting in through, and seal them up if you find them. These potential entry points include:

  • Thresholds
  • Tops of doors
  • Damaged doors
  • Pipe entry points for utility lines
  • Around dryer vent hoses
It may also be helpful to have rodent traps set up by a pest control professional around the area where you park your car if it's in a garage. Also be sure to remove any tempting food (such as pet food) from inside or around your car.

Is rodent damage covered by warranties or insurance?

If you're wondering if your auto insurance or car warranty may cover damage caused by rodents, your best bet is to check your policy. Sometimes, but not always, comprehensive insurance policies will cover the cost of chewed or damaged wires. In recent years, there has been a call for auto manufacturers to cover rodent damage in their warranties, but most currently don't provide that type of coverage.

With that in mind, it's even more important to protect yourself from expensive damage by taking preventive measures, watching for the warning signs of rodents and being aware of what rodent damage to car wiring looks like. And though we don't treat for rodents in cars, if you believe you have a rodent problem in your home, then we can help. Contact Terminix® today to help get rid of rodents.

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