Why are cars bitten by rats today?

Components made from environmentally-friendly materials are attractive to rodents.

One morning in mid-January, Tess Klingenstein turned the key to start the Honda Fit. But the engine refused to speak up. When she tried again, "all the warning lights were on". The car was almost brand new, so this woman was surprised.

Vehicles are put into the workshop. The worker opened the bonnet, looked inside and said, "You have this mouse" . Klingenstein - a speech therapist in Washington - said rodents bitten off electrical wires and damaged air filters. She lost 300 USD to repair. "He said that I was still lucky , " Klingenstein said.

Rats like to snuggle and bite, and cars are ideal shelters in the cold season. The warmth and shielding attract the animals. There are countless wires and pipes back there - the undeniable attraction. Possible hazards are broken fuse, fire and even vehicle damage.

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A Ford Focus that hasn't been used for months and is bitten by a rat.(Photo: Morgan Finkelstein).

No one is monitoring and assessing the consequences that rats have on cars. But experts say the problem could get more serious due to the warming. In the fall, the mouse set fire to a sedan in Manhattan. Rats also sabotage a series of student vehicles in Florida.

Over the past few years, some drivers have filed lawsuits against carmakers, accusing today's environmentally friendly cables of being attractive to rodents . The American Automobile Association (AAA) warns that modern cars are like a treat for rats.

"Your car 20 to 30 years ago didn't have that many wires, now you have wires for everything," said Bruce Jenkins, manager of the AAA Atlantic Service Fleet . "Too many different types of sensors, computers, and modules."

While there are no official statistics, the best solution could be from a San Diego citizen, David Albin , who claims to be "The Mouse King Dave".

Three years ago, Albin was a normal guy, working in financial services and owning a house in a residential area. The rat then ruined his family's cars, causing $ 2,500 in damage to Albin's Honda Civic, and $ 9,300 with his wife's Hyundai Sonata. Albin is obsessed with stopping rat infestation. He introduces his own method on a website and in an electronic book.

"It seems that every year more people have this problem. And mice are increasing," Albin said.

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Traces of rats biting in a Honda Civic.(Photo: David Albin).

Rats are not the only animals that can sabotage cars. Ground squirrels are also known for their ability to bite and victims are tourists who drive to visit Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon in California. Ferrets have also caused carmakers in Germany to study self-defense. And vultures strip rubber from cars. A lawsuit against Honda described a rabbit "still nibbling on a power cord while the car is in the dealership" for repairs.

However, rats are the main culprits in cities like Washington. Complaints submitted to the city government about rats have increased in recent years, such as in Park View where Klingenstein lives. Some measures are used for prevention, such as solar bins and dry ice. But the mouse still seems to win.

They chased Erica Spencer, a 35-year-old lawyer, from the ground floor apartment in Dupont Circle, where she paid extra for an outdoor parking space near a food-filled garbage can. After discovering a burning smell while driving a 2003 Ford Explorer, Spencer found a slum under the bonnet, made out of "a type of diaper and a large piece of cotton." Rat poison won't help, insecticide packages with mint smell are also ineffective. After a rodent destroyed $ 3,000, Spencer gave up.

Spencer concluded: "I realized that I cannot live in a place where there are too many rats. I can give myself a better quality of life." She moved to a high-class apartment building with a parking lot, but kept the Explorer. The woman said: "We call it a rat car. Basically, there is nothing original in the engine."

One mouse died under the bonnet of Morgan Finkelstein's car, and the others destroyed her boyfriend's car. The boyfriend - politician - knew that his Ford Focus had been destroyed by a rat while parked behind the house for several months during the 2018 election. When he returned, he could not start the car. Then the Focus stayed in place for more than a year because the crane couldn't go through a tight curve to pull it away.

The main reason is that the soybean insulating layer of conductors is currently used by many automakers. This material is more environmentally friendly than the insulation made from oil derivatives.

The lawsuits allege that soybean material is better for rodents and that is the downside, and that auto insurance should have additional damage from the animals. The defendant claimed that the insurance did not support damage from "environmental conditions , " and Toyota once wrote in a court filing, that "rodents eat everything, whether it's made from soybeans or is not". Judges sided with the car company.

To help drivers avoid the hassle, many supposed anti-mouse products hit the market. Such as a system of mouse mats under the car, or a trap with LEDs and "ultrasonic" waves placed in the engine compartment. Also peppermint oil or anti-mouse tape is treated with pepper.

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Albin uses ultraviolet lights to illuminate the engine room to detect rats.Urine stains under the light.(Photo: David Albin).

Albin, who claims to be the "Mouse King", says he has been frantically researching everything after the mouse destroyed his family's cars, even causing him to get up to check for traps in the middle of the night. After trials and failures, Albin found a method he thought was effective.

The Albin method was done like in the winter, he opened the bonnet every night and checked it out in the morning. Before that, he set a peanut butter trap in the engine compartment, and sometimes above the tires. Albin also sprays peppermint oil all over the engine compartment, or keeps the lights on all night, because rats like the darkness. The best way is to place a statue of an owl nearby, but he also warned that the rats will quickly recognize the fake.

Andre - who also works in politics - believes that mice are growing in his Honda Civic hybrid. One day in late 2016, Andre woke up early in the morning with a "refreshing spirit" with a clear plan.

But the car did not start, and the bonnet was opened. " There, the engine, is the biggest mouse I've ever seen. It's very big, it looks like it's pregnant ," Andre said. The car must cost $ 7,000.

Andre said that he was glad he could not find a mouse and did not have to banish a family of mice."Maybe everything will be worse and worse," he said.

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