The New York Times reports: “Rats sleeping under car hoods is nothing new to New Yorkers, but over the past two years many body shops across the city have seen the number of drivers showing up with rodent-related problems increase significantly. ”
Related: Is rodent damage covered by insurance?
Rats become more common or bolder
It’s not just New York. The city came third in Orkin’s latest ranking of the 50 most failed cities (yes, they rank that). It is based on the number of extermination calls the pest control company receives asking them to take care of rodent problems. It lists Chicago and Los Angeles ahead of the Big Apple, but cities in 33 states and the District of Columbia are on the list.
Rat populations may have exploded in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, or we may simply be seeing more of them than we’re used to because their behavior has changed. The Associated Press explains that “whether the rat population has increased is up for debate, but the pandemic could have made the situation more visible.”
With restaurants closing, the rats sought out new food sources. They found, incredibly enough, leads.
There’s soy in your engine
Michael H. Parsons, a Fordham University rat researcher, told The Times that the soy-based insulation used in most car cables is “essentially catnip for rodents.”
“Until about a decade ago, most automakers used petroleum-based wiring insulation,” says Car and Driver. “The introduction of soy-based wire insulation was expected to have a double benefit: it was cheaper for car manufacturers and, because it used soy instead of oil, it was better for the environment. “
Related: How to choose the right car insurance policy
However, he unexpectedly left cars as tasty treats for rats and even squirrels. Comprehensive car insurance can cover rodent damage. But if you have anything less than a comprehensive plan, you’re probably on your own with the bill.
How to protect your car:
Experts recommend a few steps that can protect your car from rodent damage.
- Park inside if possible
- If you must park outside, move your car regularly. Cars that stand still for days make tempting nests
- Avoid parking near overgrown bushes or garbage cans
Some mechanics recommend spraying the exposed wires with a rodent repellent, such as bitter apple or peppermint oil, if you suspect there is a problem.
But, Parsons tells The Times, nothing will help better than changing our social behaviors to get rats to change theirs. “We need to change the way we think about how we take care of our neighborhoods, and we can get rid of the rats.”
Automakers might also find a less flavorful wire wrap. Car and Driver notes: “The problem has become so widespread that several class action lawsuits have been filed against automakers, with some of the most high-profile cases involving Honda and Toyota.”