Help! Rats Damaged My Car

A woman is looking under the hood of her car.
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Why do rodents see your car as an ideal home? Under your engine, it’s dark and warm—and if you have dog food and other tasty things stowed near your vehicle, it's even more appealing. In the winter, your vehicle insulates critters from the cold and protects them from predators.

As a car owner, you’ve probably imagined worst-case scenarios involving collisions, bad weather, vandalism, or theft. But you may not have considered the considerable damage that can be caused by rodents.

From chewing on essential wiring to building nests and hiding pounds of food inside your engine, rats and other rodents can cause an incredible amount of damage to your vehicle—and headaches for you.

What Damage Do Rodents Cause?

The main concern with rodents is the wiring issues they cause, which can be particularly tricky for a mechanic to fix. Rodents generally chew on wires close to where they’ve built a nest inside your vehicle, which can be difficult to find and reach.

The nests themselves are also an issue. Rodents move hair, dog food, and anything else that makes an appealing nest into your car's engine, which clogs it. The diseases and bacteria rodents carry are also worrisome.

If rodents have built a nest near your air filter, every time you crank up the air, you’ll get a blast of rat excrement and dander, which can spread airborne viruses.

Is the Damage Covered by My Auto Insurance Policy?

The damage rodents cause to your vehicle can be very expensive. If you had the foresight to purchase comprehensive coverage, you might be in luck. Depending on the specific terms of your auto insurance policy, the damage may be covered.

Comprehensive coverage, which covers non-collision damage to your vehicle, is optional coverage. If you leased your car or used a loan to pay for it, your financing company may require you to carry it.

If the damage is expected to be more than your deductible, you might want to file a claim. If not, it might be better to pay for the damage to avoid a potential increase in insurance premiums.

How to File a Claim

The first step is documenting all of the damage. Take photos of your vehicle that clearly show any visible damage the rodents have caused. Contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible to get the claims process started.

Next, the insurance company will either send a claims adjustor to your home or have you drive to a preapproved auto body repair shop for a vehicle inspection. After your claim has been processed and approved, you'll be issued a check for the cost of repairs or an approved mechanic will perform the necessary repairs. If your claim is denied, contact your insurance agent or a trusted attorney.

If you have a comprehensive policy with a high deductible and your vehicle is still drivable, consider taking your car to a trusted mechanic for a quote on the repairs. If the cost of fixing your vehicle is less than the deductible on your policy, it may be best to bite the bullet and pay for the damage out of pocket.

How to Prevent Rodent Damage to Your Vehicle

If you’ve experienced rodent damage, the next step is prevention. If you live in a rural area, it’s winter, or you have eco-friendly wiring in your vehicle (it’s often made of soy), consider these steps to protect yourself from further damage.

Secure Your Dog Food

Dog food is delicious for dogs—and rodents. If it's not locked up in smell-proof and tamper-proof containers, pet food and birdseed could end up squirreled away by rodents inside your engine, air cleaner, or glove box.

Stay Away From Rodent Zones

Avoid parking your vehicle in an area with a rodent problem, a forest, or tall grass. If you’re parking outside, stick to paved areas or gravel roads.

Hide the Hiding Places

Seal up any mouse holes in your garage and check any plants you store in your garage for rodents. If you have unruly hedges near your parking area, keep them trimmed back.

Protect Your Engine

Block any entrances to the engine with wire screen or by placing traps on top of wheels in the offseason (speak to a mechanic to learn how to do it properly). Though it’s a bit more costly, wrapping your car’s wiring in a rat-proof tape is also a good idea.

If you can and it’s safe to do so, leave your car’s hood up when it’s parked in the garage, which makes it less appealing to rodents. Rodent deterrent sprays and electronic rat repellent devices may also help.

If you want to eliminate rodents, snap traps are your best bet. Live traps and glue traps aren't recommended as the animal will panic and quite possibly spread disease by defecating, urinating, or biting. If you have pets, avoid poisonous bait.

Once you've trapped a rodent, be careful with rodent disposal. Wear gloves when you pick them up and mix a 10% bleach solution to spray down the trap.

Key Takeaways

  • Rodents can cause considerable damage to a vehicle.
  • The damage may be covered if you have comprehensive auto insurance coverage.
  • Once the damage is repaired, take steps to prevent rodent problems. Consider leaving up your hood, sealing holes in your garage, and repelling rodents with sprays or devices.

Article Sources

  1. Popular Mechanics. "What Happens When a Rate Decides to Live in Your Car." Accessed Sept. 13, 2020.

  2. CDC. "Trap Up!" Accessed Sept. 13, 2020.