Why Do Rodents Chew on Car Wires (And How Do I Stop It)?

Rodents are known for their habit of chewing on nearly everything in sight, which becomes problematic when they’re living… in your engine bay. While it’s not a very common issue, many have unexpectedly opened their hood to find wires that have been mysteriously stripped down and ruined, causing electrical issues that could render your vehicle undrivable. 

So what causes them to do this, how does it affect your vehicle, and how should you prevent it in the future? 

Why Do Rodents Chew Wires?

While it’s hard to know exactly why rodents enjoy the taste of wire insulation, there are a few things that may make it enticing for these unwanted furry friends. 

First of all, rodents just like to chew. It helps them file down their teeth and keep them at a healthy length, so they’re programmed to chew anything and everything that might help them do so. If they build a nest in the engine bay (such as in vehicles that have sat for a long time), there’s a good chance they’ll chew the surrounding wires. 

Another contributing factor is the material that makes up the wires’ insulating coating. As manufacturers move towards using more environmentally friendly and renewable materials, many have made use of soy-based coating for their wires rather than traditional petroleum-based insulation. 

Wiring harness removed from vehicle

While this might not be enticing for our tastebuds, it could seem like a Michelin star meal to a rodent. These organically sourced petroleum replacements emit a sweet smell that attracts hungry rodents looking for something to eat and a place to set up shop for a while. 

The introduction of eco-friendly wire insulation may have caused these incidents to occur at a much higher rate than previously (although there is no hard proof of this) and has caused concern among vehicle owners about unexpected pets. 

What Could Happen If My Wires Are Chewed?

Predictably, if your wires are chewed through by a rodent, it can cause a host of issues for your vehicle. This may cause check-engine or other warning lights, or prevent you from driving the vehicle at all. 

How Do I Stop My Wires From Being Chewed?

Keep Your Car Sealed Away

The most obvious (and probably effective) way to keep your wires protected from small animals is to make it harder for them to reach your vehicle. This is easily accomplished by putting your car in the garage overnight rather than leaving it outside where it’s more accessible. 

If they still manage to reach your vehicle while inside, you should check your garage for holes or gaps that may be letting animals in. If it continues, it may be in your best interest to have a pest-control expert come and check out your garage.

Keep Your Vehicle Tidy

One thing that could be attracting rodents around your vehicle is leftover food packaging and remnants. 

So clean up those fast food bags and candy wrappers, as they may be inviting unwanted visitors to your vehicle. Using a vacuum to suck up the remaining crumbs and food debris is a good way to cover all your bases and ensure your interior is entirely clean. 

Use Scents to Your Advantage

Another easy and inexpensive way of driving away rodents is to use scents around your vehicle that are known to repel rodents. 

Cayenne pepper on the tires, lavender/peppermint oil around the wires, and heavily scented soap are just a few of the ways to make your vehicle seem less-than-appealing to a hungry rodent. 

You can also find off-the-shelf rodent-repelling sprays that use the same principle, though these may not be as cost-effective. 

All of these repellents will need to be reapplied regularly to continue being effective. 

Keep Your Engine Clean

Rodents prefer dark and warm environments to build their nest in, so you can make it as uninhabitable as possible with consistent cleaning and airing out your engine bay.

If clearing out pre-existing nesting, use a vacuum or brush to remove what’s there while wearing long-sleeved clothing and a medical mask (you don’t want to breathe this stuff in). Follow up with a strong disinfectant to remove whatever residue is left over.

Automotive Rodent Repelling Tape

For those looking for a more automotive-specific solution, Honda has you covered. 

At over $43 a roll, Honda’s parts website sells a specially designed tape to ward off rodents in your engine bay. While pricey, this tape uses concentrated capsaicin (the stuff that makes peppers hot) to deter even the most stubborn animals.

Electrical System Repair at Becker Service Center

If you’ve experienced failing wires due to an unexpected varmint, trust the experts at Becker Service Center in Naperville, Illinois to track down the affected wires and repair what’s been damaged. Give us a call or schedule online today!