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 a past partner 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.
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.