San Diego

How to Keep Rats From Seeking Refuge In Your Car Engine

NBC 7 Responds looks at the problem and explores some potential solutions.

What’s under the hood of your car?

An engine, a radiator, and...rats?

As winter sets in, even the San Diego winter, rats and other rodents could be seeking refuge under the hood of your car. Making matters worse, many automakers have turned to more plant-based biodegradable products to coat wiring instead of plastic. Oftentimes the rats and rodents looking for a safe haven mistake the wiring for food, gnawing their way through wires and other important components on your car.

“One morning I jumped into the vehicle to take my son to school and the car hesitated,” says San Carlos resident Eric Battaglia. “It shifted from first gear to third gear and I realized something was wrong.”

Battaglia put his Toyota minivan in park and popped open the hood. He looked inside. He says seeds and rat droppings were scattered throughout the engine.

He took the car to the mechanic and the mechanic told him a rat had chewed through the wiring harness. A new harness would cost him nearly $4,000.

Luckily for Battaglia the mechanic was able to solder the wires together for a fraction of the cost, just under $400.

That’s when Battaglia jumped into action. He set up a motion activated video camera under his minivan. He woke up to find this video…

Battaglia says he parks his car on the street, away from the palm tree that towers over his driveway, and more importantly, the seeds the palm tree drops.

“It’s no laughing matter,” says Battaglia. “No, it’s not funny at all, not to the wallet, that’s for sure.”

Yet while some say the soy and plant-based materials are to blame, local pest expert Roger Platt from Centurion Pest Control says rodents are more likely looking for a warm place to eat and a safe place to do so away from predators.

“It provides them a little bit of harborage,” says Platt. “If they climb up into the engine compartment there’s nothing that can really get to them, no coyotes, no owls, nothing like that.”

Blatt says Battaglia is correct that parking his car on the street is often a better idea, away from trees and bushes and the activity from passing cars could deter them from climbing or jumping up into the engine.

Many auto parts stores sell repellants, typically liquids or tape that will keep rats out of the engine but they are not permanent solutions. The only permanent solution, Platt says, is parking inside the garage, that is if it’s tightly sealed and rat-free.

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