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Did You Know Your Car Had Edible Parts?

Chewed Wiring

Chewed Wiring

Discovering My Car Is Edible to Rats

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

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.

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 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 meantime, we found rat droppings on 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 would be a minimum of $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, peanut butter, or mixed birdseed. He also told me to pre-bait them. This means putting 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 leftover Snickers bars.

Catching the Culprit

The next day, I checked the traps and found that one of them had a dead rat in it. Rigor mortis 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 below, but if you are the faint of heart, don't look.

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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 cost 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.

Pros and Cons of Sustainable Materials

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 be 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 That Taste Good to Rodents

  • Incredible Edible Car
    How vehicles can be damaged by rodents and why using soy in seats and wiring is dangerous. This is great factual reference material to back up my story.

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:

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

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

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

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

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.

300: Recycled plastic in console and center stack.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Dead Rat

Dead Rat

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: I have a 2019 Toyota Sienna. It has $12,558.53 in damage to components under the hood. The Toyota dealer in Seaford New York, didn't do a proper job of repairing the damage. I am going to contact my insurance company to straighten this out. Do you think I should get rat traps?

Answer: Yes, you should get rat traps and you should get rat repellent devices as well. You can buy battery operated devices to install under the hood. They generate signals that repel rats. I have two cars and mounted these devices under the hoods of both of them and have not been bothered with a rat problem since then. You can google where to buy those devices, probably on Amazon.

© 2016 Mike Russo

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