Keep Rats and Mice Out of Your Vehicle: Best Suggestions
When I wrote an article about rodent damage to motor vehicles, I got more than 200 comments - some with suggestions - from people who had experienced this problem.
Damages ranged from chewed and broken wires and tubes and surprise critter encounters in the passenger area, to nests inside the motor, trunk and interior compartments.
Many drivers shared stories of expensive repairs and near catastrophic damage, malfunction and even fires. Several offered opinions on strategies to get rid of rodents.
The original article has been viewed more than 127 thousand times, and of the 530 people who voted in the poll, 87% said they were currently battling the problems of vehicle damage done by mice, rats, squirrels and related species.
So What Can You Do?
People have used biological, chemical, mechanical, and electronic methods to discourage mouselike invasion.
Some tactics are meant to kill or trap the pests, and others just discourage them from making your car a rat hotel.
Listed below is a summary of the various strategies by those engaged in the mouse wars, along with some warnings about possible disadvantages and dangers of each suggestion. What works for one motorist may have no effect for another. Many people fighting this problem try multiple approaches simultaneously.
This is an abbreviated list of some strategies that responders to the initial article mentioned.
- Clear away hiding places
- Clear away food sources
- Use bright lighting- open hood
- Use traps
- Use strong smelling substances
- Block entryways
- Use electronic devices
- Do not let vehicle sit unused
Clearing the Area:
One of the first steps you can take is making sure you are not providing food and comfortable habitat for the culprits.
One woman whose car had been attacked by mice, noticed that her cats were fascinated by movements and noise in a thick vining shrub that covered the side of her garage. She found out that mice were living in the thicket, and some had decided that her car might also be a good nesting spot. Removing the plant helped to solve her problem.
Mice and rats can be attracted to the bags of dog kibble, dry cat food, bird seed, livestock feed, garden seeds or even stored emergency meal supplies that may be kept in a garage. With a handy food supply, rodents often take up residence in a conveniently parked vehicle.
Make sure that all of these edibles are stored in sturdy, sealed, mouse-proof containers. Cardboard cartons and paper, plastic or cloth bags will not stop mouse access.
If you have children who eat goldfish crackers or cherrioats in the car and drop french fries between the seats, you will make local mice very happy. For those who forgetfully leave big bags of dog food in the trunk of your car… you are asking for trouble.
Rodents like to stash acorns, and dog food into places they don't belong in your car, like air filters.
Keeping the garage light on (and car hood open) might help, some rodents can't sleep with the light on. For those who do not park in a garage, leaving the vehicle hood open in the daytime is sometimes recommended to keep the intruders from finding a dark enclosed place to nest.
If you leave your car idle and parked for a few days, it is more susceptible to rodent intrusion. "Gentlemen, start your engines", now and then... You might also try parking in different locations, but if you have a heavy rodent infestation this might not be enough.
What if You Already Have Mice In Your Motor?
First get rid of the rodents, droppings and nests; a shop vacuum is handy.
If you can wash out the engine with a garden hose it will help to remove nesting material and rinse their scent out.
Check for vehicle damage, especially in the engine compartment. Take advice from your mechanic.
Look over the suggestions below to find deterrents and strategies to keep the perpetrators away permanently.
Biologic Deterrents (Your Pets)
Speaking of catastrophic consequences, many people, including a car mechanic, recommended getting a cat to discourage mice.
This might be your answer, if you have a feline with the right hunting instincts and disposition. If you have one of those big sissy kitties that eats from a crystal goblet, maybe not.
With a cat as your main mouse deterrent, make sure you know where she is before turning the ignition key to start up. Cats can get inside your motor, too, and it can be deadly if the car is started.
Other people recommended dogs-- especially Rat Terriers, though one owner reported that his terrier damaged the car by clawing, biting and scratching the vehicle while trying to get at the vermin.
Another "smoke bombed" his car to send the critters scurrying so his dog could catch them. Using a similar smoky ejection technique, one man whacked the fleeing rat with a shovel, which he found to be personally satisfying.
Other biologic deterrents that have been tried, are the use of animal fur (or even human hair) placed around the car or tied in bundles under the hood. The theory is that the critters can sense the presence of predators by the smell of fur or hair.
Building on that theory, there are some commercial products that are supposed to contain fox or coyote urine that apparently dissuades rodents. No, I don't know how they obtain those ingredients. Trying to catch a wild predator is not recommended.
Old Technology: Traps
The familiar snap traps have been used for more than a century. They are very straightforward in their operation.
Bait is put on a lever. A mouse, attracted by the bait, trips the lever and releases a stiff wire bar attached to a strong spring. The bar smashes down on the mouse, trapping and usually killing it instantly.
Some people think this is still the most effective method of dealing with mice and rats. It does, at least, leave evidence of success behind ... plus a bit of a mess to clean up. One reader leaves a baited trap on the passenger side floor, and zaps the varmints before they do damage.
Traditionally, we think of the snap-rat bait as being a chunk of cheese, but most people will tell you that peanut butter -- or a peanut stuck down with a blob of peanut butter-- works even better. Watch your fingers. (If you are a dog who likes peanut butter-- watch your nose.)
Another type of trap is the "sticky strip", which uses a thick gluey adhesive to trap the little creatures. (Don't touch the sticky part .)
The sticky strip has three or four advantages for the user:
- It can be affixed to surfaces inside the engine compartment.
- It may catch more than one mouse at a time.
- It is disposable.
- It does not accidentally snap down on your fingers.
Place traps near and on top of the tires, since that is often the entry point for climbing into the engine. On the other hand, some people object to the fact that the mice probably die a slow and tortured death.
There are also little cage-like traps " Have A Heart" live traps which humanely captures rodents so they can be rehabilitated, given a secret identity and relocated in a far-away area that doesn't have automobiles, where they then can be eaten by hawks and coyotes.
Not many people, who have recently paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for car repairs, are inclined to be so charitable to the perpetrators, but some are just too kind.
Using a Combination approach
This is a list of some specific products that responders to the initial article mentioned.
- Snap type traps
- Sticky traps
- Have a Heart non-kill traps
- Peppermint Essential oil
- Irish Spring Soap
- Pine Sol Cleaning product
- Fresh Cab packets
- Shake Away Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
- Rodent Defense deterrent spray
- Critter Out Rat and Mouse Repellent
- Ultrasonic pest repeller
- Mouse Blocker
- Rid-a-Rat Deterrent
Chemical Agents, Aromatic Oils and Poisons
Mice, rats, squirrels and their many cousins have a well developed sense of smell. Often they can be repelled by strong odors.
1. Irish Spring Soap. Cut in cubes, drill holes and wrap a wire through and around the soap. Then, tie them under the hood in locations where it doesn't get hot. Or, just rub the soap bar around on various surfaces. This soap is also often used to discourage deer.
2. Peppermint oil applied on cotton balls, appropriately fixed or wired in place. Apparently it works as a mouse repellent, but you must remember to reapply the oil every few days. It is strong smelling, possibly repugnant to rodents, but more pleasant smelling to humans than some other oderants. (One person suggested anointing your Rat Terrier with peppermint oil.)
Though many users thought peppermint worked well -- one person said: "I took a cotton rag, soaked it in peppermint oil, then tied it near where mice had been. Next morning, I went out and they had EATEN part of the cloth and pulled it all away from where I had tied it."
3. Laundry dryer sheets such as "Bounce" brand : These are sometimes used as mosquito repellant by mountain campers and hikers. I has been said that putting them under the hood or tying them in certain places in the vehicle made the mice depart the premises. They are also very economical. Replace regularly.
4. Spraying "Pine Sol" cleaner in the car engine compartment has also been sugested. Try to NOT get it on the batteries. Spraying the area around the windshield washer where it's all metal, should send a message. The "Stop The Rodent" or "Critter Ridder" products, used similarly, should be safe everywhere. Check directions.
5. Some recommended using Brillo steel wool scrubbing pads attached beneath the hood. The strong-smelling soap in the pads is likely to remain in place for a time, so it could be a good deterrent.
6. Cayenne pepper, sprinkled around the vehicle tires might help. Pepper of this type is sometimes used in some the commercial spray products.
7. Though some people mentioned it, I’d stay away from the WD-40 and the self-defense pepper spray techniques. The first is dangerously flammable and also evaporates quickly. The second may literally backfire on you.
8. Moth balls- (Paradichlorobenzine) are poisonous to animals and humans, they have toxic vapors and are dangerous to use. Some people say to place them in a can under a vehicle or hang a bagful under the hood -- but there are serious risks for people.
9. Rat poisons can kill natural predators ( foxes, hawks, others) if a sick or poisoned rodent is eaten. Rat bait may work as well, but when it is carried away, you don't know where it goes. It can be terrible if you kill your favorite hunting dog or the neighbors cat using poison.
IAlso, if a rat dies in a hidden space inside your vehicle, will you be able to live with the repulsive rotting cadaver smell that will penetrate the interior?
If you think you know how the mice are getting inside vehicle, you may be able to "put up a fence". Several vehicle models have air intakes or open wheel wells that rodent intrepret as "vacancy" signs.
I have heard of some car owners blocking off those entries with wire mesh, which would take some work. Some people have been able to fasten quarter inch mesh screen over the 3x5 inch air intakes vents and vents in the wheel wells.
Mice can squeeze through an opening that is the size of a U.S. dime, so finding all of the tiny mouse entrances can be daunting.
One driver, tired of replacing chewed spark plug wires, made hand-sewn sleeves for each wire out of a heat resistant material found at an auto parts store. It solved that specific problem.
New Technology: Electronic Devices
There are several kinds of electronic repellers that people have found to be effective. Some plug into a wall socket, some into the car lighter receptacle, and there are even some solar powered models.
Some are ultrasonic, others use a flashing strobe light and a few cause vibration. Some buzz loudly when sensing a slight motion, others send out a variable alarm heard only by rodents.
The small device which sends out rodent- disturbing signals- audio, vibrating or with flashing lights might be your best bet. One advantage is you don't have to keep respraying a solution or refilling bait . electronic deterrent
One difficulty is in finding THE specific thing that works best for your particular circumstance.
The type of rodent, the climate in your area, the frequency of using the vehicle, the proximity of rodent habitat or food sources and many other factors can influence the success of each potential solution.
No single tactic seems to work for everyone, but many people fighting the mouse wars have decided that using a combination of two or three strategies at the same time may be the best possible plan.
I hope some of these tips help you. Please comment below about your battles-- especially if you find the one thing that solves your problem.
Which strategies and products do you think work best for you?
Questions & Answers
What can be done about squirrels in the air conditioning unit of my car? I've repaired it once; they're back again.
I would try one of the electronic devices suggested in this article. They are usually scared off by noise or vibration.