Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Under the hood, a cozy rat retreat"

Not long ago, I was talking to my neighbor Lenny, who repairs old cars in his driveway.  Somehow, we got on the subject of rats, and Lenny loudly asserted: "Really, Dave, rats LIVE in cars."  He went on to describe how, one day, he'd opened the door of his car, and a big rat jumped out.

"Yeah," I thought, "Maybe they live in your car.  Not mine!"  But it wasn't long before I noticed the droppings and seed nibblings on top of my engine, left by chipmunks.  That's how this blog came to be.

And yes, Lenny was right.  Rats do like to visit cars, and can be a big problem. 

Rats have visited every car in New York City

Don't believe me?  Read the NY Times article.
Here are a few quotes from the article:

“They like to go into the engine’s compartment to stay warm and they build a nest there,” said Gus Kerkoulas, the owner of Z P Auto on Great Jones Street in Greenwich Village. “They hang out, and during the night they must get bored, and they eat the wires.”

“It wouldn’t run. I called the mechanic, and he said, ‘Oh yeah, the rats ate the wires.’ I said, ‘Oh come on, you can come up with something better than that.’”
Aaron Gruber, whose family has owned Manhattan Alignment and Diagnostic Center on West 131st Street for 30 years, said incredulity is a common response among his customers.
“They think it’s a joke,” he said, and so “we show them the wires chewed up.”
Ignition wires seem to be a particular favorite, he said.

In some cases, having the car fail to start may actually be preferable to the alternative. “Once you start the engine, if a rat is caught between the fan belt, you have a bloody mess and you hear eeehhhhhhhhhh!” Mr. Kerkoulas said.

Afterward, he said, “Someone will come in and say then, ‘I have a real bad smell.’”

He said that even if a city dweller has not had engine problems, chances are rats have still visited the car. “I guarantee you that there is not one car in New York City” that you won’t find rat droppings in, he said.
 
Rats in the desert

“My father was telling me that people will leave their hoods open so animals won’t seek shelter” from the scorching sun, he said.

In 2004, emergency managers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico advised... twigs, leaves and weeds from rats’ nests caused fires in two new trucks.

Pack rats like cars because they offer a safe place from predators.  It probably has nothing to do with the sun, since park rats have lots of cool places to hide.  Poison and other standard remedies don't work.  What does work is putting your car in a rat-proof garage, or keeping the area around where it's parked completely clear, or leaving the hood open, so they don't feel safe in there.  Try this link for good information about dealing with pack rats.

Cats under the hood keep the rats away

Cats may not keep the rats away, but they certainly know about the protection available under a car hood. Mr. Centanni said that a few years ago, a stray cat had crept into his engine to have her babies. “A bunch came running out,” dropping down from the front of the car. Maybe not what one hopes to find under the hood, but at least there were no rats.

Is there a way to prevent rat attack?

The usual repair bill for a rat attack is $500-600.  Sometimes, the bill is in the thousands.  Rats have a special appetite for the plastic insulation of wires like your ignition wires.  They like to gnaw on something, to keep their teeth sharp.
  • Everyone agrees, the best method for rat control is to clear away hiding places and make sure there's no food available.  A never ending struggle, with no clear victory.
  • Place 2 rat traps, one for each front wheel, on the ground next to the wheel on the inside.  That's where they go into the car.
  • Poison?  Other critters can be harmed, like your pet... or child.   The problem with poison.
  • Some people advocate moth balls in a sock under the hood, away from moving or hot parts. But your car may start to smell like moth balls.  Moth balls--probably not very effective.
  • Others talk about cayenne pepper or hot sauce.  I wouldn't advise this, unless you want to turn your car into a giant burrito
  • See my comments in an earlier post about how in Wisconsin they use "compatible animals" to keep pests out of your engine. Cats would be one example.
Rat damage fraud

Whereever there's misfortune, there's always someone waiting to take advantage.

In Redwood City, CA, recently a couple who ran an auto repair business were convicted of doing unnecessary repairs, then claiming rats had damaged the cars.  Sometimes they even put a dead rat in the car, to help convince the customers.  The man was facing a possible 6 year sentence, and paying one million dollars in restitution.  Link

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This blog has the best advice for conrol of rodents I have seen.

For more stories, try googling something like "rats damage cars."  You'll be flooded.

1 comment:

  1. I bought a 2012 4-runner and 3 weeks later it wasn't running. Rats had invaded it and had eaten all the engine wires and had gotten into the catalytic converter. now the bill for repair is at 5000.00 and thankd goodness my insurance is covering all but the deductable. I went to the dealership where i bought it and bought another one. didn't trust the first one. surely they could meke something to keep them away.

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