Juan Recacarren has been fixing cars in his Richmond garage for more than 20 years, but in all that time he hadn't seen the scale of damage rats could cause — until this spring.

The owner of a Porsche Panamera had stored his car in a garage over the winter — but when it didn't start up in the spring, it was towed to Recacarren's shop.

"We found lots of damage in the wiring and engine bay — there was a lot of damage in the suspension area, and some of the exhaust wiring," said Recacarren. "Basically there was damage everywhere."

The damage so extensive, the repair bill totaled $15,000.

Rats seek out warm engines

Recacarren says when the weather starts turning cooler, rats will seek out the warmth of an engine, especially when cars are parked outside over night.

Recacarren's wife, Stephanie Varren, manages the front office of Juan's Auto Service and says the garage has repaired 25 rat damaged cars so far this year. She says once rats get into a car, there's plenty to chew on.

"This year has definitely been the worst we've ever seen," she said. "They have gone through the air bags, even the roof — the damage is like a domino effect, with one problem leading to another."

But does a garage mechanic ever get used to the thought there might be a rat ready to spring out when they open the hood?

No, says Recacarren, recounting a recent experience.

"I open the hood and literally the rat jumped towards me, and I basically went sideways and the rat kept going," he said, laughing.

"And the guy behind me started screaming, and before you know it we're all screaming like babies — it was awful. It was really awful."

rat damaged car

ICBC says car owners are protected for rat damage repairs under their comprehensive coverage. (Juan's Auto Service)

Don't worry, you're covered

ICBC says if car owners experience costly damage repairs from rats in their engines, the repairs are covered under their comprehensive coverage

"We've had some drivers come to us after they've paid for their repairs, not knowing that they had such coverage," wrote ICBC spokesperson Joanna Linsangan in a statement. 

"In those cases, we've simply reimbursed them, less the deductible."

Varren suggests getting your car regularly serviced and adding a clean scent in the engine to help ward off the critters.

"What we suggest people do is put either Irish Spring soap on the top of the engine or mothballs or sometimes Bounce sheets," she said.

"When there's a strong clean smell, rats would prefer not to go to that area." 

When asked if rats could get into the area of the car where drivers and passengers are, Recacarren said that would be impossible.

Why? "Because they can't open the door," he said.