Of all the major car-related problems that winter brings, the most overlooked is probably rodent infestation. But it is a problem. To you, your car is transportation. To a mouse, your car is a warm shelter, a source of food, and a treasure trove of nesting supplies.
The signs of mice damage include:
- Chewed-up wires under the hood
- Shredded material in the air vent
- Chewed insulation or upholstery
- Claw markings, droppings, or ragged holes in nonmetal parts
While keeping mice out of your car isn't exactly a tough sell, it's important to acknowledge the safety hazards mice present. Chewing on wires, cables, and fluid lines could leave your car with critical defects at the worst possible time. The problem has only gotten worse; Consumer Reports writes that "plant-based biodegradable materials" have made critical car parts increasingly edible.
So, in the interest of public safety (and in making our readers' lives a little easier), here's how to keep mice out of your car for the winter.
Park Vehicles Away from Food Sources
Before the pandemic, mice could rely on getting food from restaurant waste, so they hung around restaurants. Closures meant mice spread out into other areas to look for food, including vegetable gardens and residential garbage cans. Parking away from these areas as much as possible reduces the odds that a mouse will find shelter in your car.
Thoroughly Remove All Food Waste from the Car
It's easy to leave food wrappers or bits of packaging in the car overnight, but it's vital to clean your car out every afternoon. Mice are most active in the evening, which means any food left overnight in your car could attract them. For winter, keep your car as free from food waste as possible; even an empty wrapper's scent could entice unwanted furry guests.
Use Rodent Deterrent Sprays & Tape
Peppermint oil and cayenne pepper are known to drive away rodents. Using an aerosolized version of either one around the hood and the vehicle would help keep mice away. Honda has developed a clever solution with capsaicin-lined electrical tape, which is the same chemical that makes peppers spicy.
While rat poison and traps could also work, just be sure that no child or pet could accidentally get ahold of them either.
Plug Any Openings
Mice can get into your car through impossibly tiny gaps, including a crack in the grille or the pedal shaft. If there's any damage on your vehicle, including holes in the ductwork or cracks in the body, you need to close those holes as soon as possible. The tailpipe is also a common entrance for mice, so close the tailpipe if you're putting the car in long-term storage. Just don't forget to open it up when you start it up again.
Wrap the Wires in Metal Mesh
Mice chewing on wires and cables can wreak havoc on your car's electronics. One solution is to wrap your wire harness in a metal mesh, which keeps mice from chewing on the soft wiring. You can also install metal mesh over openings in your car, which would prevent mice from getting in. However, you should frequently inspect your car to make sure mice haven't chewed through the mesh.
In general, keeping mice out of your car in winter is about vigilance—as long as you're paying attention to your car's condition and the environment it's in, you'll be able to keep your car mice-free for the duration.