Did You Know Your Car Had Edible Parts?

Updated on August 7, 2018

Chewed Wiring

Did you know if your car is just a few years old, it could have been manufactured using edible parts?

We have a 2014 Prius. The ABS, anti-skid, and TRAC lights would not turn off. We took it to the Toyota dealer and after many days of troubleshooting and replacement of parts, they found that a rat had chewed some of the wires in the main wire harness. They didn't know how long it would take to fix it. So we went back out to the parking lot to get our personal things from the car. My wife opened the glove box and out popped this live rat with a smile on his/her face. My wife went one way and the rat went the other way. I think both of them were screaming. Needless to say, they both drew a crowd.

Rat's Nest

Researching the Problem

After doing much research, I found that rat damage is common in newer cars, because car manufacturers have switched from using petroleum based plastics, to using soy and corn based plastics, and covers for wire harnesses. They did this to make the parts biodegradable and reduce dependency on oil. That's all well and good for the economy and ecology...and also for the rodents, because they love soy and corn.

Even though the car is under warranty, Toyota said they would not cover the damages because they did not cause them. They said the wire harness would cost about $2,500 and if the inverter is damaged, it would be another $2,500. I contacted our insurance company and the damages are covered with our $500. deductible. So it's going to cost us $500. for a rat to have a great meal and a home in our car.

My research also shows that many newer cars have these edible parts and rodents chewing them is becoming more common, especially in colder weather. When the rodents want to stay warm, they climb in through the air ducts and have meals chewing the insulation off the wires and make nests inside the car. They will even chew fluid lines to get water. Our particular pet crunched his way to the glove box by chewing a hole in the cabin filter that is right behind the glove box and made a nest in a microfiber dust glove. I also found they have to keep their teeth ground down by gnawing on wires or their teeth will grow about five inches in a year and they don't like that for obvious reasons.

Tom Cat Snap Trap

Rat Behavior 101

The car was with Toyota for almost a week. The total cost for the wire harness that the rat chewed on was around $7,000. Our insurance, AAA said they will cover the whole cost with a $500. deductible. We did not hear from Toyota for that week, but they loaned us a 2015 Camary that we can use until they fix the Prius. They had no idea how long that it would take, because main wire harnesses are very difficult to replace. They are installed as the car is being assembled. It's like ripping out a spinal column and all its nerve endings and then replacing it with new ones.

In the mean time, we found rat droppings in the bottom shelf of a storage cupboard in the garage. I placed a box trap in there and then called Corky's exterminators. They told me it wold be a minimum $115. for "Rat Work" and it goes up from there.

The guy from Corky's was very informative to say the least. He basically told me about the behavior of rats.

  • They are very smart.
  • They have very poor eyesight and like to follow walls around corners.
  • However they have a keen sense of smell, especially for stuff they like to eat and chew.
  • They can squeeze through unbelievable small spaces and can chew their way through almost anything.
  • They don't like the light. I told him we were leaving the lights on in the garage all day and all night as a deterrent. He said they can get used to that and come out with the lights on. Just use the lights normally.

He told me I needed to buy Tom Cat Snap Traps from Home Depot and bait them with the mini Snicker bars, or peanut butter, or mixed bird seed. He also told me to pre-bait them. This means put bait in front of the trap to entice them. They also like the bait from the box traps. It will dehydrate them. But you have to have a water supply so they don't die outside the trap. They will drink the water and go back and hopefully die inside the trap.

He shook my hand and wished me good luck. I said "wait a minute aren't you going to charge me the $115? He said no, you seem to know what you are doing. If it doesn't work, then call us and we will come out and then charge you."

I bid him farewell and then went to home depot and bought 10 snap traps and a bag of mini Snickers bars at CVS. Total cost = $51.00. We set the traps and ate some of the left over Snickers bars.

Dead Rat

Catching the Culprit

The next day, I checked the traps and found that one of them had a dead rat in it. Rigamortis had already set in. It was very easy to dispose of said rat by just releasing him or her from the clutches of the trap. I have a picture of it, but if you are the faint of heart, don't look.

We finally got our 2014 Prius back from Toyota after endorsing a $7,959.55 check to AAA and paying our $500.00 deductible. That's what the two rats costs us and AAA by chewing up the main wire harness. The car seems to be O.K. for now.

However, I bought two devices that mount inside the car that are supposed to repel rats. They operate at 22Khz and put out an intermittent tone that is supposed to repel the little suckers.

Conclusion

There is a certain irony in all of this. While car manufacturers are using biodegradable, sustainable, recycled materials in their cars, the rodents are drawn to those materials to the point where it can be very costly for owners, and insurance companies to deal with the effects of rodents gnawing on somebodies car. So on the one hand we are saving the environment, but on the other hand we are making it very desirable for rodents to damage our cars.

It is very costly for insurance companies to cover the costs of these repairs. if the owners are not covered by an insurance policy, the cost to repair could be devastating for the owner.

The car dealers who make the repairs are earning profits from the repairs. Our original bill was supposed to by around $11,000.00. However I checked it with the service manager and found a $4,000.00 error. I must say, it was corrected immediately and the insurance company was also notified.

List of cars using sustainable and recycled materials

Green-Car Roll Call
It's getting easier to find vehicles that can make every day Earth Day. Here's a sampling of vehicles on the market today that use sustainable and recycled materials:

Audi
A3: Cotton fiber in floor insulation, recycled paper in cargo area floor, cellulose in headliner.

BMW
i3: Plant-fiber-reinforced material in door cladding, recycled plastic fabric seat covers, renewable eucalyptus wood dashboard.

Buick
LaCrosse and Verano: Sound-dampening material made from recycled cardboard.

Cadillac
ATS, CTS and ELR: Under-hood air and water baffles made from recycled tires.

Chevrolet
Silverado: Radiator shroud made from recycled plastics, air and water baffles made from recycled tires.
Colorado: Air and water baffles made from recycled tires.
Volt: Recycled cloth used for sound-deadening material throughout.

Chrysler
300: Recycled plastic in console and center stack.

Dodge
Charger: Recycled plastic in console and center stack.
Dart: Fabric from recycled denim jeans in trunk liner.

Ford
Edge: Fiber from recycled plastic water bottles in all seat fabric.
Escape: Soy-based foam in headliner, castor-oil foam in instrument panel, bioplastic in door panels, nylon resin from recycled carpets in cylinder-head covers.
Flex: Seals and gaskets made with soy oils and recycled tires; wheat-straw reinforced plastic in storage bins.
Focus: "Water bottle" seat fabric, soy-and-tire seals and gaskets
Fusion: "Water bottle" seat fabric, soy-and-tire seals and gaskets, recycled carpet resin in cylinder-head covers.
F-150: Rice-hull-reinforced composite plastic in engine wiring harness, "water bottle" seat fabric, recycled carpet resin in cylinder-head covers.
Mustang: "Water bottle" seat fabric, recycled carpet resin in cylinder-head covers.

GMC
Sierra: Radiator shroud made from recycled plastics; air and water baffles from recycled tires.

Honda
Accord Hybrid and Accord Plug-In Hybrid: Proprietary Bio-Fabric in seat covers.

Hyundai
Accent: Volcanic rock-based plastic composite in roof support pillars.
Elantra: Soy-based foam seat cushions.

Jeep
Cherokee: Soy-based body sealant.
Wrangler: Recycled plastic in underbody shields and wheelwell liners.

Kia
Rio: Soy-based seat foam.
Soul EV: Cane- and cellulose-based bioplastics in door panels, headliner, seat fabric, roof pillars and carpeting.

Lincoln
MKX: Reinforced plastic using cellulose from sustainably grown trees replaces fiberglass in center console.

Lexus
CT 200h: Bioplastics in carpeting and luggage compartment liner.
RX 450h: Bioplastics in seat cushions.

Mercedes-Benz
C-Class: Recycled plastics in 52 components including wheelwell liners, bumpers, air and water baffles; material from renewable natural fibers used in 76 components including interior trim pieces.
GLA-Class: Recycled plastic in 41 components including wheelwell linings, recycled paper in luggage compartment cover.

Nissan
Leaf: Recycled soft drink and water bottles used in seat cover fabric; recycled jeans and other cloth used for sound-deadening panels; recycled automotive and household plastics used in most plastic components.

Toyota
Camry: Bioplastics in radiator tank.
Corolla: Bioplastics in seat cushions.
Prius: Bioplastics in seat cushions, some trim pieces and air vent registers.
RAV4: Bioplastics in seat cushions.

Volkswagen
Golf: Cotton fiber in floor insulation, recycled paper in cargo are floor, hemp and flax fiber in door panel trim.

Questions & Answers

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      • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

        Mike Russo 

        2 years ago from Placentia California

        Matt: Thanks for your reply. I have installed two battery operated devices that are supposed to repel rodents from a car. That emit a 22 Khz sound every second that rodents are supposed to hate. So far so good. Thanks for the informaiton.

      • profile image

        Matt39 

        2 years ago

        I work at a new car dealership and we see signs of mice EVERY day. They may not have caused problems yet but if you let them remain the eventually will. We have seen damaged wires, fuel lines leaking, flooded cars due to nests being built over drains not to mention the damage to the interior of the vehicles. We recommend the Mouse Blocker to these customers. We have seen great results in deterring the rodents with this type of unit that is powered by the vehicles battery. We cannot raise the hoods of these vehicles as the alarm system is integrated to the hood.

      • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

        Mike Russo 

        2 years ago from Placentia California

        Rochelle: I agree with you. I have a friend who lives in Tuscon AZ. and she says they have installed under hood lights and leave their hoods up at night to repel the critters. Thanks for the reply.

      • Rochelle Frank profile image

        Rochelle Frank 

        2 years ago from California Gold Country

        I have heard others say that the biodegradable products are attractive to rats, and don't doubt that is true, but people who have vehicles without those products are also at risk of rodent invasion. I think the "edible " products are making the problem worse... not only do the critters have a nice cozy nesting place, there's also a free buffet.

      • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

        Mike Russo 

        2 years ago from Placentia California

        Thank you Larry: It's good to hear from you again. Our Toyota dealer said they had three cars come in last month with the same problem.

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 

        2 years ago from Oklahoma

        Just fascinating. I never would have conceived of this problem in a million years.

        Fascinatingly reported!

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        2 years ago from Queensland Australia

        I'll have to look at purchasing one of those....an ounce of prevention etc.

      • peoplepower73 profile imageAUTHOR

        Mike Russo 

        2 years ago from Placentia California

        Jodah: Thank you. They like the coverings on wire harnesses as well. I bought an electronic device that you mount in the engine compartment that is supposed to repel rodents. I bought it online for about $20.00. You can get them at Amazon, but they are a little bit more expensive. They put out a 12 Khz signal that rodents don't like to hear. So far so good.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        2 years ago from Queensland Australia

        Very helpful hub Mike. Good to know this info and be prepared. I have a 2006 Toyota Rav4 so I guess the seat cushions may be the only edible part being bio-plastics. I can certainly see the wisdom of keeping insured however.

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