Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Animals are eating Devon's car

What would you do, if animals were eating your car?

This week on Car Talk, we got a call from Devon in Michigan. (You can hear her call right here.) Her '93 Jeep is steadily being munched by animals -- including, most recently, an opossum that gnawed his way through her car's wiring.

How would you stop the feeding frenzy? Devon's mechanic suggested mothballs, but that's clearly not doing the trick. Ray suggested a garage. Or a dog. Or maybe bobcat urine. Or the bobcat himself.

All of which is a way of saying... Tom and Ray really weren't certain. But they do know that someone out there has an answer for Devon that'll work. Could that be you?

What's your suggestion? Share it right here -- and thanks.

My parents spent their summers in the wilds of northern Michigan. Car-eating critters were a common problem for their guests, since extra cars had to park outside overnight. The solution was a large battery, 4 stakes, and wire. Every night, my father would go out and assemble a low-to-the-ground electric fence around each car. The usual culprit there was porcupines.

My wife and I store two cars each year in the winter in rural Iowa. To keep the mice, and other creatures from eating all the seat foam and wires in the vehicles we place dryer sheets every where. My wife’s uncle who has a antique car collection was the one to tell us. After a few years of using them I can confidently say it works for us.

Try cayenne pepper, sprinkled on the ground around the car. Get the eumongous economy size at Sam’s Club.

You could also try one of those pest-repelling boxes that you plug in and set to different intensities of unpleasant sound. They supposedly emit sounds at frequencies that animals from rodents up to raccoons find noxious. I know they’re definitely noxious to humans! – and my mom plugged it in religiously whenever we left the house. It’s not something you want to listen to, but if you put it right under the car you might not be able to hear it in the house.

I moved from the city to the country (northwest WI). The first fall I had mice building nests under the hood of my Mazda. The next year I bought a new Toyota Corolla and they invaded the car as soon as the temps dropped. This time they were able to get inside the car. Everywhere. When I opened the trunk, acorns fell out. Acorns are in the door panels, behind the dash, the liner above my head. Many people suggested fabric softener sheets, peppermint-oil soaked cotton balls, even a scent that can be purchased just for this purpose. I tried them all, and it does seem to keep them away for a few days. My theory is that the critters are attracted to food scents (I don’t eat in my car, but I think lingering grocery odors attract them. In Devon’s case, babies often nibble on crackers, smell like food and milk and juice.) that are trapped in your car, and any scents you can add will confuse them or cover it up. But unfortunately the best solution for me is setting traps every evening. In the trunk and on the passenger floor. I caught at least 20 mice last winter. One day I was driving and a mouse ran across the floor!! I know this isn’t about mice, but I’m thinking the attractors for mice and opossum might be the same. I’m wondering about massive scents that you keep swapping out, plus a possible live trap? I"m actually trying scentsy right now, because I even have mice in the summer. If you have a baby leaving a food trail, you could wipe down the baby seat daily to make sure there are no crumbs or gooey gunk left behind.

The urine should work. It has worked for me in keeping ground hogs away from my garden. In case you did not know, the moth balls are considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of as such. Good luck!

According to my wife, the reason animals are attacking your vehicle and not the neighbors is because the animals can smell the baby food and milk that you give to the baby while in the car. Suggestions: 1. Wash the car seats well, 2. Place a towel under the car seat to catch food or milk and then take it out often to wash it, 3. Use a hand vacuum to get out any food that falls on the floor or in the crack between the seat and the back of the seat. As for moth balls, place them in a pan underneath the vehicle. As for clothes dryer sheets, place the in the car or underneath a screen under the car so they do not blow away. There are also products you can buy to spray on the hoses and such underneath your vehicle. I’ve seen an assortment of them at Meijers stores. Good luck!

I love the dryer sheet idea, a lovely non toxic solution and much easier than mine.
If neighbors don’t have the problem, you should be sure you don’t have anything in the car or around the car that might attract them. Food would be the most attractive either dropped or left in the car, otherwise is it parked in an area that is particularly attractive to critters?
I keep mice from nesting in the air cleaner of my lawn tractor by leaving the hood open so the engine compartment is a less snug place, but I have it under cover so it doesn’t get rained on.

I suggest placing poison bait stations around your car and house. You can buy these at Tractor Supply store or have a proffesional pest control service place them for you. We have used these for years around our house and have eliminated all the previous problems we had with mice and other animals getting into our house and garage.


Try painting the wires with Tabasco sauce. It has worked for us. we were amused when it first happened …the work order at the shop said “critters under the hood”

I tried Fresh Cab. It does smell good, and seemed to work for maybe a month. But it’s pretty expensive if you have to keep buying it.

To deter animals from the the area around the car try this: Put ammonia soaked rags in a coffee can (or similar) punch holes in it and put in the area where want animals to leave. Maybe place the cans under the car, not in the car, making certain not to fumigate the car interior.
it is unlikely that an opossum is eating wiring. Opossums eat bugs and carrion. Please also know that they do not carry rabies–it is physically impossible as their body temp is too low to sustain the disease.
Getting a dog will be a sad solution for all parties. the Dog will kill the opossum. Making room for another opossum to move in. Result will be much unnecessary death.
Using predator urines might work, however these substances are not humanely collected and are sometimes inappropriate.
Poison traps will endanger everyone who lives with or near you, pets, children, you. Poisons travel up the food chain. And kill more than we all know–including family pets.
Eviction service is also not a long term solution as removal of an animal will make a space for another opossum, or other, to move in. You will spend unending amount of money on eviction because it does not solve the problem.
Good Luck.

I, too, live in the country–I heard from the street rod people who store their vehicles over the winter to use Iris Spring soap—I put a bar of this soap (or any with a “loud” fragrance in the front under the passenger seat and under the mats in the back seat (if you have one) It successfully keeps out mice and most bugs—I think that is a better solution than the animal urine—ug–that smells almost as bad as the moth balls. A million years ago, my husband used moth balls and we had to sell the car—yewweee what a stink!!! thanks, lindab

When I lived in Colorado, all the neighbors had rodent problems - but no dogs. I had dogs (collies) and no rodents. I recommend you borrow a biggish dog and let it pee and poop in the yard for a few days. I left dog poop around the perimeter of the yard - Voila! No rodents. The canned bobcat pee might work, but real predator poop might work better.

I have a 1976 MGB my husband says costs $300/mile to drive. It is sometimes parked in a mouse habitat in Mt. Sterling< Missouri. My mechanic suggested that I leave dryer sheets in the car to keep rodents away. The mice never ate anything in my car,so it might be worth trying those dryer sheets. Deborah with 7 letters

A better male predator urine! Here’s what an organic gardening book suggests (The Ann Lovejoy Handbook of Northwest Gardening, page 210):

(begin quote) Coyote urine is sold in nurseries and is a highly effective deer repellent…
Pro: It really works.
Con: The coyotes are penned in inhumane conditions in order to collect their urine.
Solution: Many of us keep a male predator around the house. Humans are even higher on the food chain than coyotes. If you have access to a free supply of male predator urine, by all means, give this organic technique a try. (end quote)

I don’t think your male 6-month-old produces the necessary deterrent hormones. If your house doesn’t come with one post-pubescent male, try inviting some male buddies over for pizza and beers…

Irish Spring Soap
This works.Ivory soap doesn’t. The creatures actually chewed on the Ivory.
I have 4 bars of Irish Spring. Each in an old, cut-off sock. I have these tied in safe spots in the engine compartment. Not only have there been no creatures chewing parts under the hood. I have the best smelling engine compartment. This soap trick also helps to keep the deer off of young fruit trees.

I too have rodent and squirrel problems in my car engine. The last time they chewed the wires for my air bags and this is a very expensive repair. I called my auto insurance company and it is covered under my comprehensive insurance, and all I have to pay is the 50/deductible. That can help. I also found a product called that you spray on the engine regularly/ weekly? and it is supposed to work. He has been selling this for 11 years now. You could try that. I just sprayed my engine last night and have my fingers crossed.