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Can Rodents or Mice Ruin a Car?

Eddie spent 35 years in the automotive business with Honda. He is an ASE Certified Master Technician and has bruised knuckles to prove it.

Can Rodents Ruin Cars?

The simple answer to this question is yes! Is there a way to prevent this from happening? Absolutely! Every minute of the day there is a mechanic uncovering damage caused by:

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Chipmunks
  • Squirrels
  • Opossums

These rodents can chew wires, hoses, plastic panels, and other car parts that make good nesting materials. Not only do they damage cars by chewing parts, but they also ruin cars by urinating and defecating throughout the entire interior which doesn’t leave a pleasant smell; in fact it's downright raunchy.

Signs That Mice May Be Living in Your Car

Rodents are not very clean nor do they pick up after themselves. If you think you may have rodents, like mice, living in your car you’ll need to look for evidence, like mouse droppings, bad odors, or weird sounds. One of the most common noises you’ll hear is the heater fan making a rumbling or vibrating noise; this is because mice like to build nests in warm dark areas and the heater blower motor meets both criteria.

The heater blower motor may provide these comfy living conditions but it also comes with a little surprise. Once the operator enters the vehicle and turns on the fan, the amusement park ride begins for these little critters; some make it out before the ride gets out of control, some don’t, and if they don’t make it out in time, all hell breaks loose and so do their little bodies. I’m not going to go into details because I’m sure you can imagine the mess it makes, and the smell that follows a few days later.

Rodents Give Mechanics a Bad Name

There is a disconnect between the customer and the mechanic when rodents are the cause of a problem in a vehicle. It’s almost like the customer doesn't believe rodents could be living in their vehicle and they think the mechanic is selling them a bunch of malarky. But there are many news reports on this very widespread problem and tons of documentation on the issue.

Some of the most common problems found in our Honda shop are chewed windshield washer hoses and nests built in the HVAC blower motor. I’m not sure what the attraction is with these windshield washer hoses; maybe it's because they have alcohol running through them and it makes a nice night cap for the mice? In our garage, we see about ten of these chewed windshield washer hose problems each week and a half dozen HVAC heater motor nests. Some of these cars are in our inventory and the others are customer vehicles.

What Rodents Chew In Your Car

So you’re probably asking yourself, “Self … where do the mice get the nesting material from?” Most of the material comes from either your vehicle or your garage. Items they use from your vehicle include:

  • Insulation they chew from the vehicle's hood liner (where the windshield washer hoses are located)
  • Carpet insulation
  • Interior upholstery

Mice also like to bring in snacks for the late-night matinee, like acorns, dog food, bird seed, and French fries found under the seats. They taste great washed down with a little windshield washer fluid. Remember, they have unlimited access to your vehicle, so it important to keep your car clean with no snacks left behind for your unwelcome guest late night binge eating problem. One important thing to remember about rodents is they shit and piss where they eat and live and that’s not cool.

News on Mouse Deterrent Tape

Where Rodents Live in Your Car

Rodents can also build nests in these areas:

  • Behind the dash
  • Under the center console
  • Behind any plastic panel
  • Headliner
  • in the engine compartment
  • in the trunk

When Rodents Live in Your Garage

If you park in a garage, there is a good possibility that these critters will have a smorgasbord of options. If you’re anything like me, I store water, dog food, birdseed, snacks, and leftovers in the garage. It's only because I'm lucky that I don’t have rodents living in my garage or vehicle.

If you think you may have mice or rodents living in your garage, you can either set up snap traps to put a permanent end to a temporary problem or you can get an electronic rodent deterrent system that simply plugs into a wall outlet. I have also found battery operated units that you can place inside your vehicle.

So what can you do to help prevent further damage or evict these critters from your car? You can try one of the many electronic devices mentioned above or you can try a different line of defense like peppermint oil or Pine-Sol. I have also heard of customers using Bounce dryer sheets. I’m not sure dryer sheets work but your car will definitely smell better.

Stop Rodents From Chewing Wires and Hoses

If you have rodents that are chewing wires or windshield washer hoses, there’s a rodent tape that can be wrapped around these areas. The tape has hot pepper embedded in the tape and most rodents don’t like to eat hot pepper, unless it’s on the hot fries under the seat. If you’re looking for a spray, there are some commercially offered sprays you can spray directly on the affected areas.

Let me know what you think, and if you have stories, please share them with us. If you have questions, leave them in the box below and I will get back to you.

News on Damage Done to Car From Rodents

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can you guess how long a mouse has been inside your car by the damage done?

Answer: If the car moves every day, a mouse can only do damage when the car is parked for the night. If the car sits for days, the mouse can continue working on its project nonstop.

Question: How do you recommend to get a Rodent out and away from an old project car to prevent further damage?

Answer: If it is parked near a power source I highly recommend using one of the plugin deterrent units, if not try using pine-sol in and around the vehicle, maybe soak some old towels or rags in the pine-sol and place them around the vehicle.

If you have any stories you would like to share or questions you would like to ask, leave them in the comment box below and I will get back to you, thanks.

Tammy Winters from Oregon on August 31, 2020:

lol...I can imagine. I use to have pet rats and they would chew up everything.

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on August 31, 2020:

Hi Tammy,

Rodents can destroy a vehicle to the point of becoming a total for your insurance company if they are not stopped ASAP! We find building nest, chewing wires, and causing all kinds of disgusting smells in vehicles, it not nice working on vehicles with rodent issues lol.

Tammy Winters from Oregon on August 30, 2020:

oh wow.... rodents can be destructive. Thanks

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on June 05, 2019:

Hi Walter,

I would use a mixture of dish soap, water, and bleach, it won't remove grease or oil but it will remove mice leftovers. As for the carb, I recommend you vacuum the nest out. Hope this helps.

Walter Shanley on June 03, 2019:

What is the best way to clean / remove the residue of Mice exc rements (combination of poop and pee) on / in the engine compartments? If you "search" on the net, you get Gunk Degreasers...not sure if this is the best.

What if some of this is also within parts of the carbs from a nest in the airbag??

Thanks,

Walter

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on May 05, 2019:

Hi Deb,

The only solution would be to take the car out for a good rip, high rpm's to blow the nest out. Don't worry about fire, the debris should blow out the tailpipe. Steel wool is a good idea for next year.

Debharr1973 on April 29, 2019:

Hi Gary, my car was stored in the garage all winter. I had tons of things inside and outside of car to keep the mice away. Also had traps set to catch them. After uncovering the car, only a few mouse droppings in the engine compartment, but nothing inside or in the trunk. But it seems they got into the tailpipe and built a nest in the muffler. Stinks really bad when running. The only place you can smell it is the tailpipe. Any chance my car will start on fire??? How long is the smell going to last??? It is sickening. I will put steel wool in the pipes next year. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks Deb.

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on February 19, 2019:

Hi Gary,

It would take a long time for a mouse to chew through a battery cable, I would guess weeks. The will usually just chew the insulation and maybe a few strands of wire, now if it were a small wire like 16 gauge they could chew through it in a few hours.

Gary on February 19, 2019:

How long would it take for a mouse take to chew through a battery cable of a car. Could it happen over night

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on August 13, 2018:

Hi Mandagrl1

I think you're right about not working on it consistently. It's very common to find several nests but the repair should take no longer then a week if they are working on it daily. Have you asked how much the repair will cost? It may be a good idea just in case they think you have an open checkbook.

mandagrl1 on August 09, 2018:

For anyone who has had a rodent problem in their car before, how long did it take to repair the damage? My car has been in the shop for 5 weeks now and they said they found a nest around the bumper and had been fixing it and thought I'd get it back this week, however now they're saying they found "several more" nests in the dash. I have a feeling that they have just not been consistently working on it all this time and are trying to buy more time to repair it. What's the average length of time it took to repair your vehicle and how likely is it to find "several" nests?

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on May 22, 2018:

Hi Rick,

Mice can get in no matter what, we find mice homes in cars that haven't even left the lot for delivery, they are very intrusive if a car sit for a long period of time and even when driven daily. Thanks for the feedback, I'm sure leaving the cowl unsecured didn't help matters.

Rick Stanton on May 22, 2018:

Mice getting in after windshield replacement. If you’ve had your windshield replaced make sure the mechanic got the fresh air intake housing reinstalled correctly. The little plastic fasteners usually break and then there are gaps were mice get in, chew through cabin filter and on into HVAC. Found this on my Honda Civic. “Safelight repair - mice are in place”!

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on March 16, 2018:

Hi Dianna,

Yes, these guys are very destructive and can ruin a vehicle. We just had a vehicle in the shop today with a nest behind the rear quarter panel and the mouse used the insulation for it's house and chewed the rear washer fluid hose going to the back glass. Thanks for commenting, I really appreciate it :)

Dianna Mendez on March 16, 2018:

Those little critters can cause tons of damage! Thanks for passing on the tape idea. I'm sure people out there will be using it to fight off these invasions.

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on March 05, 2018:

LOL, that's probably true, we're taking over the earth and the animals don't like it, do you blame them? They were probably trying to set the horses and chickens free from the barn :)

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on March 05, 2018:

Hole crap Oscar, that's not funny lol. Do you have a dog lol, I hear they work very good at keeping cats away. They do sell come sprays and also electronic deterrents on the market but I'm not sure how well they work. Let me know if you try them, thanks.

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on March 05, 2018:

Thanks for the feedback WheelScene.

Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on March 05, 2018:

Hi Matt,

Great feedback! we use the rodent tape a lot on problem areas like windshield washer hose and injector wires. I have a plug-in mouse and insect repellant unit in my garage at home that seems to work pretty good on the mice and spiders lol. Thanks for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it :)

Matt39 on March 05, 2018:

Great information!! We have found luck at our shop installing the MouseBlocker units. They wire to the battery and emit a powerful sound that has been keeping mice out of our customers vehicles for some time now. They also supply us with their anti rodent tape for the wiring repairs just like Honda sells.

WheelScene from U.S.A. on March 02, 2018:

Thanks for sharing such a comprehensive article!

Oscar Jones from Monroeville, Alabama on March 01, 2018:

Very Interesting! Not so much the cars, but I have a couple of mice that wander around in the attic at night.. I did put some downey sheets up there. thanks!

what do you suggest to keep prowling cats off my car and truck at night? I don't have and enclosed garage. they leave scratches in the paint yes they do.. i think their claws have gravel embedded and they have actually left scratches in the glass while sliding down.. these nighttime villains!

The Logician from now on on February 28, 2018:

Great Hub Page! Been there. Really asking for trouble if you live in the woods and leave the car sit for a while. I heard of a squirrel chewing wires, hot wired an old truck while a deer sat in the driver's seat and drove it into the barn.

Of course I doubt it was true but I heard of it.