Mouse in the house or garage? That’s nothing unusual. But mice in your car?! That can send a driver screaming. It does happen, and it’s not as uncommon as you might think. And it doesn’t necessarily happen to cars that have been put in storage or parked for extended periods. It only takes a few hours for a rodent to weasel into a vehicle, which means it can happen to the car you drive every day, any time of year. So now what?
Mouse in Your Car? How Did This Happen?
First, you need to know how and why it happens. Cars are attractive places for rodents to hole up and hide from predators. Sometimes it happens because cars are parked near convenient food sources like bird feeders, dumpsters, or in a garage where pet food is stored. In these cases, your car just happens to be a handy shelter close to dinner. If you’ve left that half-eaten granola bar on the dash, or if you or your kids have eaten in the car, there will be crumbs that attract these hungry rodents.
Additionally, soy-based insulation that your modern auto wiring is wrapped in, proves to be an irresistible treat to mice, rats, and squirrels.
The warmth of your engine, especially in winter, may also be the reason mice move into your car. But no matter what the weather is like, the dark, confined spaces beneath your car’s hood offer good protection from predators and lots of nice cubbies to build a nest.
What Kind of Damage Can Mice Do To Your Car?
Once inside, these little critters can cause a surprising number of problems. They might chew on wiring and air filters, causing them to need replacing, or you may notice the smell of their urine coming in through the car’s vents. Yeecch! When they slip inside, they can also do a lot of damage to upholstery as they chew and nest.
And it’s not the healthiest of situations, either: mice, rats, and other rodents can carry disease—nasty bugs like hantavirus, salmonella, and leptospirosis, among other things. If there happens to be a nest in or near the car’s air filter, then every time you turn the ventilation system on, you’ll be blowing dander and particles into the car, which can trigger allergies, too. And, if a rodent that has taken up residence in your car suddenly starts running around at your feet while you’re driving, it can be a hazardous situation.
Eviction Notice: How To Deal With Rodents Already In Your Car
If you have noticed signs of rodents in your vehicle—droppings, bird seed on the seats, particles flying through the air when you turn on the heat or A/C, or maybe you’ve seen the critter in the flesh, here’s what to do and tips on how to prevent an infestation in the future.
- Honk the horn! Nobody likes to listen to blaring car horns, and rodents are no exception. Honk a few times to see if the noise encourages them to leave.
- Use temperature to your advantage. Part of what makes a car so attractive is warmth in the winter, and shade in the summer. In the summer, park the car in sunlight and roll up the windows. The heat should drive the pesky critters away. In cold weather, open the hood to make the warm spots around the engine less inviting.
- Try scents. A few scents work well to chase off rodents. Make sachets with cedar wood chips and place in likely spots around the car. You can also tuck a few peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls in vents and wherever you see their signs. But keep this in mind: essential oils will erode plastic so use a baggie to create a barrier. You can also try parking the car over a bag or box of mothballs to let the scent permeate the car which will chase the rodents away (keep away from family pets and children).
- Mousetraps are always effective—provided you have the space to place them and there is no chance of injuring passengers. Place traps under the seats or in the footwells to capture invaders while it’s parked, but make sure that you remove them before you put the car in motion.
- Predator urine will do the trick. It may sound like a gross solution, but if you’re at your wit’s end, predator urine is sure to chase rodents away. You can buy it in dried granules, which you can place in sachets wherever you see signs of rodent infestation. Before you resort to this step, try bundles of cat or dog hair—the scent might be enough to drive mice and other rodents away.
Prevention Is Key!
The shelter that a car offers makes it automatically attractive for rodents, but there are a few things you can do to minimize an infestation.
- Park your car away from other attractive nuisances, like dumpsters, bird feeders, and sources of water.
- If you keep pet food in the garage, where you park your vehicle, consider storing the food in hard plastic storage bins, or elsewhere.
- Pick up dropped food inside the vehicle, and clear out garbage and discarded food wrappers daily.
- Vacuum regularly.
It’s never fun dealing with mice, whether they’re in your home or your car. But if you do happen to find them in your car, these tips should help you get rid of them!
It Happened To Me
Hi, Susan Higgins, Web Content Editor here. In June 2020, I found evidence of rodents in my vehicle. Bird seed was flying out the vents when I turned on the air conditioner, so I knew something was up. In this case, it was chipmunks that were enjoying my bird feeder only a few yards away and using my car, and my neighbor’s car, to nest. They set up shop in the seats, headliner, trunk, and under the hood. They destroyed the air filter. One died in the blower motor and they chewed the wires of my radio. The vehicle was totaled—it would cost more than the car’s value to repair all the damage. So, lesson learned. I never eat in the car now, and now my new vehicle smells like peppermint from the essential oils and so far, so good!
Do you have a story or strategy for dealing with mice in your vehicle? Tell us in the comments below.
Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.