No more free rides for rodents

When we moved to the country six years ago, I never considered the possibility of having mice as houseguests. It doesn't happen often, but occasionally one will move in for the winter … or even summer. Of course the ones that have moved in are smart mice - they don't eat the poisonous pellets, they store them for later. We've also discovered that they love chocolate - see I told you, smart! Skip the cheese for bait and go right for the chocolate chips. These wise chocolate-loving rodents are not my idea of welcome houseguests. I've always maintained that the first time I see a live one running across my floor is the day I will move. But where will I go? Back to the city? Let me tell you, I have friends that have these furry houseguests in the city - and they've even taken up residence in one friend's kitchen. No matter where you live, there is always the possibility of finding these critters in unwelcome places.

What about you? Have you ever had a mouse in your house? Now, how about in your car? Ahhh, there it is, you knew I'd eventually veer you in the auto direction, right? Over the years I have heard a lot of stories about mice getting into vehicles and causing all sorts of trouble. This is something people don't generally think about. And I don't know if I would have thought to write an article about this if it wasn't for my friend Ted, who emailed me about his recent experience - a situation that may leave his wallet $1500 lighter. Of course, if it can save one person from the trouble he has experienced, I am ready to write. Ted, this is for you!

Rodent Mayhem

Mice can build nests in all sorts of places in your vehicle. Their nests can clog air ducts, hoses or hinder the function of your vehicle in other ways. Mice may also get in your vehicle and find things (that your vehicle needs) to build nests elsewhere. The most disturbing nest I've seen was in the cabin filter of a PT Cruiser. You see, the owner of the vehicle had never had that particular filter replaced. As you know, the cabin filter filters all of the air that comes through your vents - the air you breathe. Yes, she was breathing all sorts of things that the nest was created with. It makes me cough and gag a little just envisioning it.

Mice store things. It's what they do. What if you had a sporty 1962 MG sitting in your garage and those little gray furballs decided to store acorns in your tailpipe, unbeknownst to you. Imagine your surprise when your mechanic gives you the diagnosis and informs you that the little buggers just cost you $400 because they had to cut the exhaust to remove the acorns and replace the muffler. This happened to our customer's vehicle last year.

Vents within your vehicle are open and waiting for small critters to make their way to the craziest places. Imagine one makes his way to a dead end, gets stuck and dies. Have you ever smelled a dead mouse? I have. And the awful smell lingers and lingers and lingers. I can't imagine this happening in my car! And what if you don't know what is causing the odor so you end up having it looked into - there's sometimes no telling how long a mechanic might need to take part of your car apart searching for it. You think it's an unsavory odor - imagine how you would feel about the unsavory cost!

The damage mice can do to other parts of your vehicle like hoses, insulation or wiring can be extreme, as it was in my friend Ted's case. Mice had gotten into an area near his gas tank and chewed wires in his 2013 vehicle. The dealership assumed the problem was a computer and therefore covered under warranty. When the computer was replaced and the vehicle was started, the new computer got "fried." His car was inoperable for over a month until a field engineer with more advanced diagnostic tools was able to come look at it. Yes, those cute little gray furballs wreaked havoc on Ted's car! How unfortunate.

What are they thinking?

You like getting into a warm car in the winter, right? So do mice! The warmth of an engine can lure them just like the warmth and coziness of a fireplace might lure us. They like to chew. They like to store. And they like to build nests. They can have all sorts of fun in your warm vehicle!

Of course chewing may be the most enjoyable of all pastimes for rodents. Mice have 16 teeth. Their front incisors never stop growing. Do you suppose they chew because it soothes as their teeth are growing, just as a baby is soothed by chewing toys when they are teething? Or do you suppose they chew to sharpen their teeth? Or is it simply a natural instinct to keep them at a manageable length since they are always growing? Does it really matter? The fact is, they do it, they cause trouble and we need to be aware.

What should you do?

Perhaps the best way to avoid the cost of the damage mice can cause is to prepare and be rodent aware:

-Don't invite them in by leaving tasty morsels in your car - especially chocolate chips! They will attract mice and let them know where to check in the future.

-Seal entry points - roll up your windows. And if you are storing your car for any length of time, cover the tailpipe and air intake with tape. Just don't forget to remove it when you are ready to drive it again!

-Give traps a try. You can put sticky traps next to walls or behind objects in your garage.

-Try placing mothballs or dryer sheets around. There are some nasty chemicals in these products. Mice don't like them.

-Do regular maintenance on your vehicle. It will allow technicians to open areas that aren't often opened to be sure they are rodent and nest free.

Certainly you can't always stop a problem before it happens. But you can be aware of potential rodent problems and do your best to protect against them.

By Jeana Babcock

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