This story was originally published in December 2018.
For many rural dwellers, seasonal vehicles – cars for the summer roads and more rugged 4x4s for the winter months – are not uncommon. It is also not uncommon for mice and other rodents to move into vehicles out of season, especially in winter when they need a place to hide.
Unfortunately, these tiny furry creatures are able to wreak havoc on mechanical components and interior upholstery.
This is why car owners must be constantly vigilant to ensure that mice and other rodents do not nest in the myriad of small spaces and cavities in a vehicle.
“They definitely have a tendency to get into a car in search of shelter from the snow and rain,” said Griffin Dill, pest control professional at the University of Maine at Cooperative Extension. “They love to nest in the winter and cars and other vehicles provide ideal shelter for mice and small mammals as they have small spaces that provide shelter from the wind and protection from predators.”
These spaces become even more desirable rodent real estate if a vehicle has been recently driven and the spaces around the engine are toasty.
“Mice can really find this very inviting,” Dill said.
What do mice do to a car?
Once inside a vehicle, mice and other small mammals can become more than just a nuisance, they can create dangerous situations.
“They can get into the engine and chew on wires,” said mechanic Kassey Michaud, owner of Madawaska Auto Parts-NAPA in Madawaska. “They also like to get into and clog air filters.”
Mice and other rodents will build nests or store food in spaces such as air filters, Michaud said, often wrapping the materials so tightly that they disrupt or block the flow of air through the filter. the car and create vehicle performance issues.
“I saw them go into the heating and ventilation units of a car,” Michaud said. “Then when you turn on your heater, small dusty bits of the nest or their food fly out of the vents directly towards you. “
And although Michaud has never seen it, online rodent control sites like JP Pest Control Services in New Hampshire refer to the danger of mice or other vermin gnawing at the hoses of a vehicle that carry vital fluids like brake fluid, transmission fluid, or coolant and causing leaks. These leaks can mean loss of brakes, steering or overheating of a vehicle.
Do mice create a mess?
At the very least, mice or other rodents living in a vehicle can create damage, according to Michaud.
“It’ll smell,” he said. “I had mice nesting in my snow removal truck and the first time I turned on the heat that winter the smell was bad enough to make me vomit. “
This unpleasant odor is the result of animal waste accumulating in the engine, in air vents, and even in upholstery as it makes its way to nests in seats or rugs.
Odors are also created by rodent food caches containing seeds, nuts, and other edibles that they gather and store in crevices of a car.
How do you prevent mice from entering a car?
The best defense against a rodent hijacking is a good offense, according to Dill.
“Parking your cars in a secure, mouse-proof garage is ideal,” said Dill. “But a lot of us don’t park our cars there and sometimes, if it’s a vehicle that we don’t use all the time, it’s parked next to a garage or away from a building in tall grass. “
This, Dill said, simply puts a vehicle in the middle of the mouse habitat.
“Areas like this make your car really vulnerable,” he said. “Once you place it in or near its natural habitat, it becomes quite inviting. “
Mice can squeeze through openings as small as the diameter of a pencil, Dill said, and they will take advantage of any point of entry into a parked car.
“The areas around the vents, the steering column and the pedals provide access to the interior of the car,” he said. “And most areas of the engine block are also accessible.”
Once the presence of mice is detected with dill, these toxic traps or baits can be used to control or eradicate them.
To keep more mice out, Michaud said he swears by the sheets of Bounce dryer fabric.
“I put them between the seats of a vehicle or seat cracks in a [stored] boat, ”he said. “They don’t seem to like the smell and since I started doing this I haven’t had any issues with mice.”
But Michaud said it’s a good idea to regularly check a vehicle’s air filters to make sure a rodent hasn’t gotten into them, despite traps, poison or drying leaves.
Dill said that in addition to cars, boats, lawn mowers, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles can be damaged by mice and should be checked regularly.
And although he had never personally had a problem with a mouse vehicle, he said he knew what they could do.
“In our old [Extension] office, we had this chipmunk who loved to get in parked cars, ”he said. “But he hasn’t moved into our new office, so I can only assume he’s someone else’s problem now.”