Something's been living in my engine compartment

I opened the hood on my '87 Toyota pickup today to find lots of dried-out prickly pear fruit (that’s what grows nearby) and some dried leaves, pine needles, etc. on top of the air cleaner and in the corners against the firewall. Oddly I didn’t find anything that looked like used-alimentary-canal excreta. I tried to imagine that someone had done it as a prank but couldn’t. As near as I can see they didn’t gnaw on any wires or hoses. I drove last March 15.

Is there damage I should look for?

Is there anything I should do to discourage future squatting? I’ve parked in this spot for 11 years; this hasn’t happened before.

Be sure you look IN the air cleaner canister as well. And until you figure out what it is, wear thick leather gloves. It could be a snake or spider that you don’t want to get bit by.

Finding out what it is will be the first step to getting rid of it. Contact your state’s Department of Agriculture office in your state capital with photos. They have experts in bugs, serpents, and other critters in your area as well as expertise in eradicating them. They’re free, and I’ve found them to be a great help. They’ll know by the materials and the initial attempts what’s trying to nest there and how eliminate them. They’ve built their careers helping farmers with these things.

When an animal builds a nest, it’ll have an outhouse away from the nest.

First, find out what type critter has taken up residence, and then go here to see if they sell something that’ll deter it from coming back.

Then the critter will move to the neighbors vehicle.


More than likely rats although that is a guess only. I also agree with mountainbike about checking the inside of the air cleaner housing.

A VW was towed in to us once that would barely run and was belching black smoke. The cause was an air cleaner housing packed full of dried dog food.
Rats had gnawed a hole in a tube leading to the air cleaner canister and were storing Purina in there.

The car owner lived on a farm and raised dogs so they kept multiple large sacks of dried dog food stored in the barn. The rats apparently liked their new digs in the car better…

Don’t forget to inspect the cold air intake duct. That’s a popular spot for rodents to build a vacation condo.

I found a nest inside my dash, on top of the cabin air filter.

And if you don’t have a cabin air filter, you’ll often find a nest or a food cache in the HVAC blower motor chamber. That needs to be dealt with quickly before you run the air conditioner, because the blower will blow food dust into the next chamber over, which is the AC evaporator. That gets very damp when the AC works. Damp + food dust yields insect larvae and a godawful stench.

Many years ago, I had a rat that decided to live under the hood of my malibu. Besides the garbage that i found all over the engine compartment, the rodent chewed through the oil pressure sender wire. Fortunately, that was easy to fix. My dog took care of the rat.

I had ground squirrels get under the hood of my 1978 Olds Cutlass and gnawed holes in the neoprene fuel line on the inlet side of the fuel pump.
Also, cats like the warmth of a motor that has been run. Our garage door of our attached garage is always closed. We came home late one evening and I went out to the garage later and a little black kitten scurried across the floor. I finally trapped the kitten. She became our pet for 17 years until she died last summer. The only way she could have gotten into the garage was to have ridden in under the hood of the car.

Back in the ‘80s I had a shed out back away from the house in which I put the garbage bags all week until I took them to the dump on Saturday. My wife at the time left the sliding doors open about a foot one night, something I never did and she should have known better than to do. The next day, and for the next weeks, the garbage bags kept getting ripped open. I finally cleared all the equipment out of the shed, piece by piece, and when I rolled the snowblower back there it was… a big ol’ skunk. I couldn’t get him to leave… he’d moved in for all time… and ended up ending him. I don’t like killing things, but I had no choice. Dragged his carcass well back into my woods and the odor eventually went away.

I learned the valuable lesson about closing doors to keep critters out as a kid growing up in the desert southwest. I never thought it was a big deal to leave the doors open because, hey, it’s not like it’s likely to rain right?

One day my dad went into my parents’ bedroom and found a good-sized rattlesnake in there. Dad grew up in Louisiana, and therefore had a well-founded deathly fear of all snakes. He ran for the shotgun and mom had to physically restrain him from blowing a hole in the bedroom wall. She got a rake and a cardboard box and shoved the snake in it, took it outside, and beat it to death (of my parents, mom almost always was the one wearing the “badass” mantle).

I got a good yelling out of it and never left the doors open again.

Then a week later because I was an evil little kid, I spent something like half an hour figuring out exactly where on the ceiling fan blade to put the rubber snake so that it would fly straight at dad’s face when he flipped the light switch on. I never knew anyone could jump backwards that far. I’m probably still grounded for that one.

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Richard ‘The Bugman’ Fagerlund wrote in the recent ‘Albuquerque Free Press’:

'If mice or other rodents are getting under the hood of your vehicle and chewing on wires, you should read this. The best - and only - way I know to prevent automobile infestation follows: Soak some cotton balls in peppermint essential oil, and place them in little paper cups under the hood, especially near wiring. Rodents won't go where it smells like peppermint. It's a respectively more effective and nontoxic option than traps or rodenticides.'

Do you realize you revived a long dead discussion . . . ?!

Interesting but I’ve never cared about non-toxic when it comes to rodents and I’m not sure how you would affix the little cups in the engine compartment. It can get pretty windy under there on the highway. Actually lawn mowers can be pretty effective not only by keeping the grasses down but once in a while actually run over one.

Ask them to sign a lease.

There were 4 men from Georgia staying in a tent in my daughter’s backyard in Western NY. My 7 year old granddaughter put a large rubber snake at the entrance to the tent before they got up.
The tent collapsed when they all tried to run out the back of it.
I grew up in Western NY, but down by the Pa/ border and we had rattlesnakes and copperheads and an occasional cottonmouth but for some reason, fear of snakes doesn’t run in my family.

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I know this is an old thread, but some may appreciate the story. Something, probably either a rat or a squirrel, gnawed two holes in the fuel line on my lawn tractor. It left either end of the line attached, but placed the now disconnected center section of the line neatly on the hood of the tractor. I think it was trying to tell me that the fuel line was shot. Thanks whoever you are, critter!

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I think maybe they just wanted you to get some new gas line for them to chew on.

Yeah I know this is old but it was still fun looking back at the comments.

Maybe they smelled the tiger in the tank.