With cooler temperatures taking over, we've had to break out our fall wardrobes in a rush in order to keep warm.
There's a similar shift going on with Mother Nature: This is the time of year when small animals and rodents begin to search for warm winter hideaways, including inside our cars and trucks. And if you've ever seen the results of a mouse's "work," you know they can leave a path of destruction. They don't make any exceptions once they've taken up residence in your vehicle.
Check out three examples of an animal invasion.
Mice like to carry in warm bedding and pack it in places it's not supposed to be, such as your air filter housing. They also have a taste for wires and have been known to chew through random electrical cables and even entire wiring harnesses, an expensive grouping of cables that wind throughout through your vehicle to control all of the electronics and engine computers. If you're lucky, a mouse might move some extra material into a filter house or nibble on one minor wire, leaving you with an electrical gremlin. If you're not so lucky, you could be investing a hundreds of dollars in a new sensor, wiring repairs or worse.
Similarly, squirrels may choose to stockpile their winter harvest inside your vehicle, and in some cases, they will decide the tailpipe is a suitable storage bin. While it may seem like a scene out of a cartoon, it's happened many times. And if there are enough acorns or nuts stuffed into your tailpipe, they could restrict the exhaust system. In return, your car may not start, may stall, run poorly and use more gas than normal. In extreme cases, the vehicle could overheat or blow out a piece of the exhaust system.
Here's what you need to know to ward off winter stowaways:
- A vehicle that sits for long periods of time is more susceptible to rodent damage because they have more time to settle in and "fix the place up" to their liking. If you have a summer sports car or RV or a vehicle reserved for college kids on break, you may want to start and run the engine periodically or occasionally check under the hood for evidence of an invasion.
- If you park in a garage, avoid keeping anything nearby that could be considered a food source. Remember, mice will eat just about anything, and pet food or bird seed are going to be particularly attractive.
- If you park outside, look for sources of food here as well, such as a tree dropping acorns.
When our clients come in for service this time of year, we keep a keen eye open for evidence of a critter living in their engine compartment. We look for chewed wires and plastic, soft materials being assembled for bedding, and rodent droppings (unpleasant, but a surefire sign of trouble).
If you have any reason to believe rodent roomies have moved into your vehicle, ask your automotive technician to take a look and make sure you're in the clear. (And if you don't have a regular shop, feel free to stop by CARS of America for a complimentary inspection.)