Will your car be eaten alive?

Posted on June 8th, 2011 by Rob Marshall

The activities of some little things can be deadly. It is reputed that more humans have been killed by mosquitoes than in any war. Yet, the actions of the humble mouse (or rat) are starting to claim an increasing number of our automotive companions.

Picture the scene. Mr Rat is cold and wet. With nowhere to go, he shelters beneath a parked car. With warmth emanating from a recently stopped engine, Mr Rat climbs up onto the wheel, travels along the suspension leg and arrives within a cosy engine bay. Fatigued from his exploration, Mr Rat seeks a place to sleep. After making a comfy nest, from shredding some of the car’s soundproofing, Mr Rat wafts into slumber. Upon awaking, Mr Rat feels rather peckish and indulges in a nibble. Neither rubber nor plastic are to his taste but wiring insulation will sate his appetite…

Will your car be eaten alive?

Naturally, by the time the owner notices that anything is amiss, it is too late and thousands of Pounds’ worth of damage is a consequence. A colleague’s 2010 Skoda Octavia vRS has endured a wiring loom replacement as a result of rodent damage and the primary component alone cost almost £3,000, with labour charges factoring in an additional £2,000. An insurance claim had to be made, the owner having to shoulder a £400.00 excess.

So, who is to blame? We could attempt to accuse car companies for reducing their reliance on petrochemicals, to lessen their carbon footprints. They are using ‘sustainable’ crop-based alternatives, with soy, bamboo and other natural substitute materials as wiring insulation.

The environmental lobby is certainly central to the issue, for placing pressure on car firms to cut the use of fossil fuel-based products. Not only can wiring insulation be a tasty treat but soy foam seat cushions, wheat straw-filled fascia panels and natural-fibre ‘polymers’ also combine to be the perfect buffet for local rodents. Ford USA has announced that it is researching the use of dandelions to produce certain rubber components, which means that Mr Rat’s future generations can look forward to a truly varied menu.

We could also blame local authorities, for extending waste bin collection intervals and it has been reported that this, allied to the use of smaller bins, is one of the reasons that rat populations have exploded. The problem is compounded by cash-strapped councils reducing pest control services. On the other hand, the privatised water companies, which used to carry out preventative maintenance on roadside drains but no longer do so, should also shoulder some of the blame.

Although certain aftermarket accessories are available (none of which have been tested or endorsed by GEM), some car companies (such as Audi) have produced anti-rodent kits as official accessories but it appears that very few have made it to the UK market. Yet, this may change, as recognition of rodent assaults increases. One of the best ways to protect your car is to ensure that it has adequate insurance cover, before it receives a mauling.