mechanic holds wires damaged by rodents.

It sounds like a problem that you shouldn’t need to worry about. But when mice, rats, squirrels and other rodents get into your vehicle, they can wreak havoc. And after we heard about what happened to a local Pennsylvania driver, we thought it best to warn our followers.

In October, a Pennsylvania smelled something burning and heard a strange sound while she was driving. After pulling over and popping the hood, she found a hoard of stored walnuts around the car’s engine, according to local news. The car owner later discovered that a squirrel had been stashing its nuts there for the winter. Fortunately, no long-term damage was done to the vehicle. This story should serve as a lesson for all of us though.

How & Why Rodents Enter Vehicles

Mice and other animals are extremely nimble and flexible; they are able to fit into very small spaces. Rodents can squeeze through entry points that seem impossible. They might enter through air-intake vents, pedal shafts, the steering column, or squeeze between other parts and components.

Animals are more likely to seek shelter in a parked car when the temperatures drop and the weather is bad. So, we often see more of these little invaders in the fall and winter months. It’s also more common for nocturnal animals to be found inside a car.

Hazards Caused by Rodents

Though they may seem harmless, these little critters can cause a lot of problems for car owners. Clearly, they can cause an accident if they frighten or distract the driver while the car is in motion. But, even in a parked, rodents are not welcomed guests.


Rodents are known for using their sharp teeth to chew through any number of materials. Inside a vehicle, they may chew right through electrical wires, hoses, seat fabric, and plastic components. This can be a real problem and may require a mechanic to repair the damage. Animal damage is also a common source of faulty electrical problems which lead to vehicle fires.


Car owners may find evidence of an invader in the form nests. Rats and mice create nests in materials like carpeting, upholstery, air filters, and liner insulation. Sometimes rodents, and even cats, seeking a warm place to sleep will simply curl up near the car’s engine compartment or heater blower when it’s still hot. This can end tragically for the animal if the car starts moving before it has time to escape.


You may not know that you have an unwanted resident in your car until you find droppings on the interiors. Mice and rats defecate and urinate wherever they go. Obviously, this is a gross problem for car owners to deal with, but it can also be a health risk. These animals are often carriers of salmonella and hantavirus, according to the CDC.


Another health concern is represented by the real risk of getting bitten by a rodent. It’s possible to contract diseases such as tetanus, leptospirosis, rat-bite fever, and even illnesses carried by fleas.

How to Keep Rodents Out of Your Car

Prevent furry critters from infesting your auto and doing damage by following these recommendations:

  • Park or store the vehicle in a garage whenever possible.
  • Avoid parking near tall grass or thick vegetation.
  • Avoid parking close to sources of food, such as dumpsters, bird feeders, and pet food storage.
  • Shut the windows overnight.
  • Don’t store food inside the car.
  • Vacuum carpets regularly and keep the inside of the car clean and clutter-free.
  • Knock on the hood of the vehicle before starting the engine to scare away any animals that might be sleeping there.
  • Use a rodent repellent spray or ultrasonic pest control device.
  • Protect critical engine components and cables with rodent repellent coating.

What to Do If You Find Evidence of Rodent Activity

If you have already found droppings, nests, or chewed items in your car, it’s a good idea to act fast. Here are the steps you should take:

  • Open the car completely and let it air out.
  • Then, clean the area using rubber gloves and a bleach mixture.
  • Next, set traps around the car and leave the car parked overnight. In addition to snap traps, there are also adhesive mouse traps and live cage traps available. Use a food, like cheese or peanut butter, that is fragrant and attractive to animals as bait.
  • Another strategy is to use heat or cold to encourage evacuation. In the summer, try parking the car in the sun and opening all the doors. In the winter, leave it out in the cold with the hood proped open.
  • You could also try placing packets of cedar chips around the car. This scent is a natural repellent for rodents. Other household items that might work as rodent deterrents include cayenne pepper, dryer sheets, and peppermint oil.

Check out the Top 10 Surprising Things that Can Damage Car Paint.

Badell’s Collision – Always Looking out for Car Owners

Our collision repair shop is a local, family-owned business. Badell’s Collision is a proud member of our community and we care about our customers and their cars. You can request an estimate online or contact our Aston or Malvern, Pennsylvania locations to speak with an automotive specialist.

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