A growing number of consumer reports and complaints are raising concerns that automotive wiring made from soy and other biodegradable food-based materials is transforming car engines into the ultimate bed and breakfasts for rodents, usually causing extensive and costly damage.
One Arizona resident told Phoenix’s KTVK that rats chowing down on the wires in her Toyota Prius have made life a nightmare.
When her car stopped functioning, she discovered that rats had crawled through the engine compartment and gnawed through the car’s electronic wiring system. She had the Prius repaired to the tune of more than $8,000 out of pocket – an expense her insurance wouldn’t commit to paying.
The Prius owner set out rat poison in her carport when she got her repaired vehicle back. Just six days later, she found a rat that had died in her car, but not before it chewed through the wires once again.
The Toyota Prius is just one of dozens of vehicle models whose soy-based wires tend to attract rodents, but it seems to be the source of most complaints. One partial list of “cars that taste good” to rodents compiled by synthetic lubricant company SynLube shows that rodent damage to wires has been reported in more than a dozen types of Toyota vehicles.
Some car experts theorize that wires coated with plastics made from soy and other natural components, such as rice husks, wood, peanut oil, straw, and various sugars may entice rodents with their aroma. Car engines also provide an ideal nesting environment for rats and mice, at least until the ignition is turned on.
Once rodents start gnawing on wires with natural coatings, they may discover they taste good and seek out other vehicles with similar wiring. Rats especially are social creatures and likely communicate their finds to the larger rat community, thereby spreading the word as well as the problem.
The edible wire problem also may be exacerbated by the inclusion of other plastics made from biodegradable sources instead of petroleum; namely, car seat foam and engine insulation, both of which can provide great-tasting bedding and nesting materials.
The result: broken electrical connections, short circuits, damaged electronics, and other harm caused by food items that rodents may store in the engine.
One mechanic who specializes in repairing Prius vehicles told AxleAddict that he has discovered “elaborate nests” in the intake manifolds of cars, and even baby mice nesting in air cleaners stuffed with bedding material. One nest incorporated part of a broom handle and another car engine was stuffed with “a couple pounds of dog food.”
According to AxleAddict, rodents lured into the engine by tasty wires may even cause sudden unintended acceleration incidents:
“An acorn, rolling into a crevice after a driver stepped on the gas pedal, can keep the throttle open. The driver of a late model Ford truck was taken for a wild ride on a winding country road, and severely damaged his brakes before he could shut off the power.”