rodent causes car trouble

Never mind snakes on a plane; it’s rats in cars you have to be worried about.

Last year, we were fortunate to be the proud owners of a new car. (Well, new for us.) My kids promptly named our new set of wheels “Marshmallow” — which wasn’t nearly as creative as the family who named their big red van “Clifford,” but not bad.

Anyhow … Life was good. Life was GRAND. All car doors open. The wheels fairly glide over potholes, unlike my previous car, which was known to induce labor. The windows are not (yet) decorated in stickers from the doctor’s office. And most importantly, it drove like a dream.

Until suddenly it didn’t. 

A few weeks ago, I stuck the key in and, oh no, déjà vu. It wouldn’t start. 

Marshmallow was duly towed to the mechanic who did some digging — and surprise— turned out a critter had made its home underneath the engine and spent happy hours chewing on the wires, which shorted out my car.

A few weeks ago, the Detroit Free Press ran an article that warned about this very issue. Apparently, it’s become extremely common because when cars sit in driveways for months at a time, not going anywhere at all, animals tend to think, Hmm, that would be the perfect place to park my fancy tail after a hard day of foraging for nuts and racing around tree trunks.

Who knew the “staying home/staying safe” guidelines would have such unexpected consequences? 

The article also said some car brands like Toyota use a soy-coated wiring for the cars. 

Another fun fact I discovered from this fascinating article by Jamie L. LaReus was this: Critters who move in under car hoods tend to have exceptionally good teeth! He quoted University of Michigan psychology professor Ben Dantzer, who said, “All rodents have these ever-growing teeth and they need to chew on things to keep them from getting long … Never once do you find a wild squirrel that has teeth that are screwed up … But rats used in biomedical research, their teeth are long and out of control because they haven’t had anything hard to chew on.”

So not only did we provide some animal with a cozy new dwelling, with edible chocolate-covered wires, but we also provided him with preventative dental care. 

A few days later, and several hundred dollars poorer, we were able to pick up Marshmallow from the mechanic. The good news: The animal had been evicted. The bad news: The car reeked. 

At first, we suspected that our unwanted tenant had died somewhere in the car, but nope, turned out it was one of those tiny bottles of milk we’d picked up from a food distribution area the week before. One had somehow lodged itself under a seat, where it sat for a jolly few days while the mechanic worked his expensive magic. 

And then the 90-degree weather turned up. Things turned ugly fast. The milk fermented and a most horrific shade of the most fetid odor filled the car. Yet another unexpected consequence of the pandemic!

So if you happen to see a white van gliding smoothly down the street, with a bunch of kids gagging out the wide open windows, with about 25 of those tree shaped vanilla-scented air fresheners flapping in the breeze, that would be me.

Beep and say hi!