If you park your car, truck or SUV outdoors at night, beware.
More and more car owners are getting hit with bills in the hundreds -- even thousands -- of dollars for rodent damage.
Connie Schwartz said she recently spotted something strange in her driveway. The fan belt was under her pickup truck.
"A friend came out to fix the belt for me and he said, 'Oh my goodness, you have a bigger problem,'" she said.
It was much more than a missing fan belt that she faced. Mice or chipmunks had eaten through her entire main wiring harness from the alternator.
"It was chewed all the way to the end and bare wires were touching metal," she said.
Years ago this was rarely an issue because automakers used rubber or vinyl wires under the hood.
But lately, more and more of them have been turning to soy coatings, as in soy beans, according to several class action lawsuits filed in recent years.
Saves money for automakers, not so much for drivers
Mechanic Marc Duebber explained that soy-based wiring and harness covers are environmentally friendly and save money.
But soy can lure hungry rodents much more than rubber, he said.
"It is a taste they have and they are drawn to it, therefore they are chewing and eating it," he said. "And we are finding nests created in the air plenums (the plastic air intakes for the engine)."
He displayed an air filter that mice had turned into a nest, using wiring covers as nesting material.
But Schwartz says there was nothing cute about it when she got the bill.
"It ended up coming to $1,500," she said.
Luckily, her insurance paid most of it, but she still had to pay a $500 deductible.
What you can do
If you are in a mice-prone area or live next to woods or a field with tall grass, there are some ways to protect yourself, if you do not have a garage as an option. One entire website, How to Prevent Rats From Eating Car Wires, is devoted to prevention tips.
Other people swear by home remedies, such as spraying peppermint oil on their wiring, taping dryer sheets around wiring harnesses or stuffing mothballs into engine crevices.
A similar class-action suit against Honda was also recently dismissed for lack of factual support.
Schwartz, with her $1,500 bill for mice damage, would disagree.
So it's up to you to protect your car, so you don't waste your money.
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