British Columbia

Rat-a-tat! Noisy car could be housing rodents

That banging noise you're hearing in your dashboard could be a rat.

Vancouver Island auto shop says 30% of its customers have had rodent damage in the past 2 years

A pest control expert says this winter the rat population has gone up 40 to 60 per cent in Nanaimo. (Reg Mckenna/Wikimedia Commons)

Is your car clunking or making an unpleasant sound? Not running right? Did a half-eaten apple mysteriously appear on your dashboard?

It could be rats.

Laura Heron owns an automotive repair shop in Courtenay on Vancouver Island and said that rats can easily chew their way from the hood into the car cabin.

It was one of Heron's customers who found a half-eaten apple on her dashboard.

"You have a filter that filters air into the vehicle and that's how they get into the dash and they come out from there," she explained. "You can tell when they've chewed around."

One sign you have rats: they will often bring in leaves and other debris as 'bedding' under the hood of a car. (Alex Wilcox)

Chewed wires are the first sign of the presence of rodents, she said, but sometimes the rats make bedding or leave food in different areas.

Once the wires are chewed through, drivers might start to notice their cars malfunctioning. 

"The most dangerous part is when they get into where the cabin air filters are, and you put your heater on and you start breathing their feces and everything in."

She estimated that 30 per cent of her customers have had some sort of rodent damage.

"The last two years, it's been extremely bad," she said. "We had one that when we were working on the vehicle, it jumped out from the vehicle from underneath the hood. That gave us quite a scare."

The rats tend to choose vehicles for warmth. The wires in newer vehicles are also especially attractive. Heron thinks it's because the wires in newer vehicles have a soy-based coating.

"It seems like that is the kind of wire that they really like to chew," she said.

Rats love chewing wires, particularly the black-coated wires in the newer cars. (Alex Wilcox)

What to do if you have rats in your car

If you suspect you have rats, Heron has a few recommendations.

  • Set out traps: "There's not much you can do because you can't kill every one of them ... all you can do is trap."
  • Do not leave garbage out: "Any of that kind of stuff, rats are going to go towards."
  • Don't feed birds outside: "The worst you can do is start feeding your birds outside, especially in these bird feeders in the trees. Rats fixate towards that."
  • Try putting a dryer sheet in your cabin air filter: "As far as I'm concerned, that has helped a few of our clients. Of course, you go on the internet and they say it doesn't work, but it seems to be a deterrent."

With files from All Points West

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Vancouver Island auto shop warns against rats under the hood