Critters can be a problem…even at the trail head.
Yesterday, my car engine would not turn over.
It was a blustery, windy and snowy day and rather cold day in Colorado. SOB!
I did the usual: checked the battery connections and other wiring and did not see anything readily apparent. Did I mention it was cold , snowy and windy? 🙂
I have seen a similar behavior before when a fuel pump went bad in my old S-10 pickup.
My someone and I have AAA, so we called the friendly folks. Our car was towed to the mechanic a few minutes walk way and I worked from home yesterday. I was fortunate this happened in my complex’s parking lot and not at a remote trailhead, that I can work from home if need be and that the mechanic is an easy walk from where I live.
Earlier today, the mechanic called and wanted me to check out the damage.
Underneath the wiring harness, and not readily noticed, by the engine block was a mouse nest a few days old at most. The mice chewed the wiring and made a nice home for themselves by the warm engine block.
In the past, this same mechanic has seen MARMOT damage from people like myself who spend time in the backcountry and leave their cars parked.
I think of all the trips my friend and I have done collectively where our cars have been parked in remote areas. Imagine if this incident had happened in Utah in the middle of nowhere? Even for an overnight trip, it only takes a few hours (at most) for a rodent to chew through wires. Apparently many modern wire casings have soy coating so they actually taste good to rodents as well. Wowsers!
After some Googling, I found out this damage is more common than I realized.
Here is one thread from Reddit. And another from a consumer auto site.
Long story short, avoid several hundred dollars of costly repair with some easy tips.
- Capsaicin infused tape around the wiring. About $40 or less a roll. Probably works best for every day use versus some of the tips below.
- Chicken coop wire in other strategic places in the vehicle is also suggested. Would work for everyday use as well.
- Another good idea from a reader: Bobcat urine from a hunting store
- Moth balls in mesh bags around the engine block…with a reminder note to remove the bags on the dash.
- Chicken coop wire fencing around the car when parked at suspect trailheads.
- Bob Gross from BPL suggested this tip. A tarp is multi-use and good to have in the car for emergencies, so I may use this idea: The second method [versus chicken coop wire fencing], which I found easier, is to use a woven blue tarp. I stretch it out flat on the parking area, then drive my car over it, keeping it very centered. Then I pull the edges up a foot or two and secure them with long ropes or bungee cords. In effect, it makes a large blue diaper on the car.
(Expensive) Lesson learned.
UPDATE: Most comprehensive auto insurance will cover critter damage to the wiring minus the deductible.
I am sharing this information and incident because, again, many of us have been to places where this type of damage could be a major issue. I feel lucky it happened in my complex parking lot instead of say, Hovenweep in Utah.
Going forward, you can be sure I will use some or all of the suggestions above! I suggest other people do, too.
Paul – For 25(?) years I’ve used moth balls to deter rodents, and particularly porcupines. But the engine bloc isn’t the only vulnerable area. Brake hoses (front AND rear), gas and transmission lines – ALL are fair game for the little nibblers. My solution – mothballs under the car, particularly around the wheels which is where they gain access to all those tender parts. Put’em down when you park, pick’em up before you leave. I carry I# of them in an empty airtight plastic jar. Don’t recommend leaving behind a 2″ high ring all around were your car “was” parked… Read more »
It was an expensive lesson for me. Believe me. I like the idea of a tarp as it is multi use and less toxic than mothballs (esp if I park at a popular trailhead). Though the bobcat urine crystals someone suggested may be an option as well.
The point being
A) I don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars again (ouch!)
B) Get stuck at some remote trailhead
wrt mothball toxicity – that’s why I use the empty airtight plastic jar (empty instant coffee jar in this case) – so I don’t have to smell them except for the time spent putting them down and picking them up. I lost my tolerance for strong smells a long time ago.
Chicken wire would be a waste of time for mice. They can easily get through a 3/4″ hole. I don’t know that the tarp would really prevent them from getting in, since they can chew right through it and climb right up a wall. I like the scent idea and think that a combination of scents might be the best. Moth balls could be kept min some sort of container that would allow the scent to get out, but keep the moth balls in. It would be best if it were something with a heavy bottom that wouldn’t blow around.… Read more »
The chicken wire idea was more for marmot’s than mice I believe. At least in the Sierra. I know several hikes, including a High Sierra veteran, who swear by the tarp idea.
Something not mentioned that I have been using for years, after an incident with a squirrel, are cotton balls/pads soaked with Peppermint Oil. Not extract, oil. The stuff is pungent and will get your eyes flowing pronto.
Stores like Whole Foods and natural food stores will have this in the health & beauty area. The stuff’s not cheap, but it works. I’ve even started using it in my house to ward off mice.