Mice in your engine compartment?

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Critters in your engine?

Temperatures are dropping and small rodents are going to try to stay warm – possibly in your engine compartment!

Your car’s engine can be an inviting place because of warmth, smells, and/or the colorful wiring. Mice, squirrels, rats, raccoons, and even porcupines are looking for a good nesting place! If they set up housekeeping, rodents will make a mess and can create havoc with your vehicle’s electrical system.

Rodent Damage
Rodent Damage

Some examples: one customer woke up hearing his car horn blowing. Mice had taken up residence in an area where wires from one of the electronic modules crossed with another. Replacement of the Brake Module cost nearly $800 in parts alone, in addition to the time involved in replacing the unit and associated damage.

More recently, a customer noted that his Honda CR-V was running “sluggishly” and was difficult to start. The “diagnostic code” indicated a crank position sensor failure. However, the code triggered because of damage to the engine wire harness, which we were able to repair. (Note: had we simply replaced the crank position sensor, we would not have resolved the problem. “Code readers” are a tool which lead us to a problem area, but are not considered complete diagnostics!)

One of our most unusual finds was a porcupine that climbed out when our technician popped the

Porcupine was safe!
Porcupine was safe!

hood. The customer had noted that the A/C was not working – the porcupine was down around the serpentine belt and we heard a high pitched squeal (from the belt, not the porcupine!). We made sure he got out safely and, luckily, our customer’s car did not have significant damage.

Cars that are not driven frequently or are parked outside can be a particular target, but even cars that are driven frequently can have problems. In particular, food or crumbs in the passenger compartment will attract mice. Be proactive… throw away trash, and vacuum up crumbs in your car. Also, be sure your dog or cat food and bird seed is kept in closed containers in your garage, so that you are not inviting rodents inside.

Symptoms of mice infestation can vary from finding droppings in and around your vehicle to having a “check engine light” on, lights blinking, erratic running, misfires, blower motor noises, and/or lingering odors. If caught early, damage may be minimal.

What else can you do to avert danger from rodents? Prevent access to the garage by sealing gaps in doors, and/or reduce the rodent population by setting traps in the garage or around the car. Keep your engine free from antifreeze, which has a sweet smell that can and will attract rodents. If you park outside, try to vary your parking spots.

To deter rodents, you can also wedge moth balls or dryer softener sheets around the engine compartment. Or you could use one of the small ultrasonic devices that are available for keeping rodents at bay. One more option is a product called “Rodent Tape” that can be placed around various electrical harnesses in your engine bay and will repel the varmints with it’s “peppery” taste.

Contact your favorite honest accurate auto technician if you are losing the “rat race”!

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