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Aug. 16, 2022, 5:02 a.m. EDT

Car trouble? Blame the rats.

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By Sean Tucker

Your car is full of wires. Tasty, tasty wires. More than ever, rats are making an expensive meal of them.

The New York Times reports, “Rats bedding down under car hoods is nothing new for New Yorkers, but over the last two years, many of the city’s auto body shops have seen the number of drivers coming in with rodent-related issues climb significantly.”

Rats either getting more common or bolder

It’s not just New York. The city came in third in Orkin’s most recent ranking of the 50 Rattiest Cities (yes, they rank that). It’s based on the number of extermination calls the pest control company gets asking them to deal with rodent problems. It lists Chicago and Los Angeles ahead of the Big Apple, but cities in 33 states and the District of Columbia made the list.

Rat populations may have exploded during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic , or we may simply be seeing more than we’re used to because their behavior changed. The Associated Press explains, “whether the rat population has increased is up for debate, but the pandemic might have made the situation more visible.”

With restaurants shut down, rats sought out new food sources. They found, incredibly enough, wires.

Also see: A drain, power outlets and a secret door are just some of the things in the ‘frunk’ of the Ford F-150 Lightning

There are soybeans in your engine

Michael H. Parsons, a rat researcher from Fordham University, told the Times that soy-based insulation used in most car wiring is “basically catnip for rodents.”

“Until roughly a decade ago, most car companies used wiring insulation that was petroleum based,” Car and Driver explains. “The introduction of soy-based wire insulation was meant to have a twofold benefit: It was less expensive for automakers and, because it used soy instead of oil, it was better for the environment.”

However, it has unexpectedly left cars as tasty treats for rats and even squirrels. Comprehensive auto insurance may cover rodent damage. But if you’re carrying anything less than a comprehensive plan, you’re likely on your own with the bill.

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How to protect your car:

Experts recommend a few steps that can protect your car from rodent damage.

  • Park inside if possible

  • If you must park outside, move your car regularly. Cars that sit still for days on end make tempting nests

  • Avoid parking near overgrown bushes or trash cans

Some mechanics recommend spraying exposed wires with a rodent deterrent, like bitter apple or peppermint oil, if you suspect there’s a problem.

But, Parsons told the Times, nothing will help like changing  our  social behaviors to get the rats to change theirs. “We have to change the way we think about how we take care of our neighborhoods, and we’ll be able to get rid of the rats.”

Automakers could also find a less tasty wire wrapping. Car and Driver notes, “The issue has become so widespread that several class-action lawsuits have been levied at automakers, with some of the highest-profile cases involving Honda /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -1.47% and Toyota.” /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM -3.22%

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