Eeek! There’s A Mouse In My Car?!
Mouse in the house? That’s nothing unusual. But mice in your car?! That can send a driver screaming. Here's what to do if a rodent takes up residence in your vehicle.
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.
My mouse left us a baby in a small Christmas gift bag, thankfully not still housing the actual gift, just a newborn with a visible beating heart in shredded gift fluff. On opening the rear hatch’s storage area underneath the hatch floor mama jumped from near the bag and ran up into the car. So far it’s escaped a traditional mousetrap, leaving a bit of blood, gone back and licked the peanut butter off completely and stolen one clue board which is no where to be found in small car. Mouse dirt is piling up across the front seats and console and evidence of dining under the hood, on delicacy of acorns. My latest trap is a bucket of water with large dab of peanut butter just above the water line and a dishtowel tied on its handle providing a ladder to the top & over the edge. I’m beginning to feel like a situation comedy only I know this critter could do terrible damage to my hybrid car!
Mothballs are cheap and they keep forever in a tightly sealed jar. If you encounter unwanted animals, of any kind in your car, under your house, or in your attic, one Mothball will drive ’em out. When they are gone, remove it, since you don’t want to breath those fumes. Also if you have the neighbor’s Dogs using your yard as a toilet, bury Mothballs, about 6″ deep where they leave their ” gifts ” and that will stop immediatly.
I’m going through this now. I drive a passenger van for my business. And I have found little dropping on the floor of my car and it seems like mi seats are being chewed up I’m going to try some of these methods or all ??
Elsa, it’s very important to remove the nest, and you may need to seek the help of a mechanic. Have them look in the headliner.
i had mice in the door frame of my car. I use to keep cat food in my garage and the mice stored the cat food in there along with the insulation that we had in the garage. Needless to say my car was totaled. Had to buy a new car. The smell was so bad that you couldn’t drive it.
Uggh yes, a staff member has a similar situation of having to replace her car. They certainly can be destructive.
We got a car from a friend that had a blown head gasket and had sat for a while abandoned by it’s owner. We got it for free and restored it to running order. It was a really nice car. BUT, one day after fixing it, my husband went to the garage to finish up on repairs and 2 mice were sitting in either front seat. He tried to swat them out, but they managed to escape. MOUSE TRAPS have been set…waiting now on results! When he told me they were literally sitting on the front seats, my mental picture of these 2 little invaders made me laugh. Oh, you’re outta here little dudes, but you have to give them props for their carefree attitude and readiness for the next road trip.
It has happened to me also. I would find shredded paper in my trunk and my cabin air filter. I once had some tissue in my trunk for over night. The next day seen it had been shredded with something. Thinking it was the bleach i had. I used glue traps in my trunk area , the engine bay and my cabin air filter area. I caught it in my cabin air filter. Try using glue traps there.
I’m fighting them now I have a car I parked for several years until I could restore it and they moved into the air vents lucky for me I intend to replace the interior anyway I’m just trying to get them out to make it easier to work on
What’s worked for me is a light under the engine. Or setting mousetraps on each tire and top of engine with organic peanut butter. Once mice get in, they keep coming back, I think they are attracted to scent of mice urine already in car. However, the light under the car engine at night worked best.
None of the methods work. 2 Audi’s totaled from rodents and 1 BMW devoured by a rabbit. I tried dryer sheets, placed moth balls inside car and outside and on tires and hanging on door handles of the car along with peppermint, bobcat urine, deer and rabbit repellent, traps, and poured Cayenne pepper on the wires and engine and sprinkled around the car. I put everything at one time thinking that would deter them. I even have bobcats come in my yard nothing scares them. I parked my car in the baking hot sun and the little SOB’s still totaled 2 Audi’s less than 2 1/2 months apart. They’re relentless critters. I’m going to try coverseal car cover but I didn’t read great reviews. Even the bobcat itinerary didn’t deter anything squirrels and jackrabbits walking round like with the middle finger in the air to me. Wild Turkeys was the only thing that stayed away. In addition, I have a cat and her scent is in the car but nope that didn’t scare them. Even praying doesn’t work either. I’ve done it all.. and the worthless Extermintaor
Peppermint Essential Oil on cotton balls really does work (be careful not to get it on your hands as it burns when not diluted). My neighbor used it to get rid of mice in his car. You have to remove the nest which often is in engine compartment or ventilation system or have the repair shop remove it for you. Then when you return home add the cotton balls. Also check the area the car is parked to see if anything is attracting mice; tall grasses, bird seed, dog food stored in the garage, and so on. Also, make sure the car isn’t sitting unused for long periods of time. If you don’t use it often. mice are more likely to nest there.
Same problems, had to sell my civic, peppermint oil , all that, doesn’t work, Nothing does!!! there’s only one way. That is the old fashioned way, a CAT. Keep feral cats around and no more rodents. its the only way! Rodents ain’t stupid they going where a cat has marked there territory.
We live in rural area with woods all around the the acorn crop this year has literally blanketed our yard as much as the falling leaves and the mice seem to like to take them and dine on the motors – no visible chewing – no urine puddles – just ground acorns and a few small bits of shells. There’s no way to get rid of the acorns!
2 nights ago I unfortunately found 4 babies that had fallen onto the front passenger floor from the dash. A few minutes later another one fell and after banging on the underside of the dash a 6th fell out. I’ve been sooo freaked out ever since! I called my car dealership and have an appointment for them to clean everything out from the dash and seal up any possible entry points. I’ve set a trap with peanut butter on it and haven’t caught anything in 2 days. Can I assume mama is gone? Will scent draw mice to my SUV now? Is there a proven way to keep them out? Or am I better off to trade my vehicle and buy a new one? I haven’t been driving my car everyday as usual since working from home due to Covid-19. ANY HELP would be appreciated. I never want to deal with this again!!!!!
I’ve never heard of mice in cars! A couple of days ago I noticed shredded tissue on the back floor board of my SUV. At first thought I was like , oh these kids. Next morning, there were coins scattered on the floor, shredded fabric, and droppings. I called my husband and said I know this is going to sound strange but I think there is a mouse on the car! That evening he thoroughly cleaned the car and placed essential oils and several traps. The next morning, the mouse left it’s evidence of droppings, moved coins into sight and shredded stuffing from under the car seat. On the third day, we left the car doors open all day hoping it would run away. That evening, we set the traps plus even more for a total of 10 of various types and styles as well as multiple baits. Being a Saturday night, we were up really late and decided to go check the car. Bam! There it was, much bigger than I thought (maybe 3inch body). Our observation is that by the third night the mouse limited itself to the rear of the car. Coincidence or not but I left a bowl of cotton balls saturated with essential oils- peppermint oil and cinnamon oil in the front seat. The traps with mouse bait treats and cheese were still intact. The trap that contained the mouse was one baited with organic all natural peanut butter. Praying it is a freak deal that the mouse got in the car and there are no more unwanted visitors. For we have never seen evidence of a mouse in our house or garage.
Kim – Oh no! But glad you got the situation under control!
Kim, I recommend you have a mechanic go through the car with a fine tooth comb: under the hood, headliners, etc. They nest in the air filters. Good luck!
Note: I’m not looking for a humane way of getting rid of them I’m past that I sleep on the floor and can’t even use my own toilette to properly defecate without being attacked. Plus they would have no problem infecting me with hantavirus which has a 50/50 chance of survival no cure
Isa, you have to call a professional.
Ok I’m dealing with mice at the moment and what I’m about share it’s going to sound unreal like I’m writing script. There’s at least 4 mice in a mattress in the guest room another 3-4 in my mattress. 3-5 in my sofa, 1 in each dining room cushion seat. This is an infestation no doubt, yet no bad odor no dropping in sight yet everyone feels them in the mattress they have took over my house, when i leave out of town like right now I’m writing this at queen merry two or three will sneak im and before you know it I can feel them in my mattress. Keep in mind I have 3 in my car who attack one of the clings to my back seat and feel him pee or some substance my back has been in pain. Has anyone experienced this ?
Omg i thought i was the only one that had such a sittuation ..yes i too have them in the couch in the matress in the car .also in the livingroom 2 couches and in the cushions of the dinning room..i have tried everything but nothing seems to work.. The worst part is my mom doesnt beleive me she thinks im crazy.. It is discusting the living room wreaks of pee smell from the rats .but she doesnt accept that the house is infested . she leaves cat food in the kitchen oh idid i mention they are in refrigerator and stove as well.i dont eat there or store any food in the refrigerator either. I just cannot get her toaccept that there is a huge infestation problem .. What do i do??
Hi Nancy, you’ll have to show her evidence, or call in a professional for an assessment. Take pictures of droppings. A mouse infestation not only damages a home but is a health hazard. We wish you good luck!
Hello i know exactly what your going thru i am going thru the exact same thing.. And nobody beleives me they think im making it up .i have tried everything and nothing has worked.
Very good article and comments, however we have a dedicated led light wired under the hood above the engine and lay a large solar light on the ground! BTW, we drycamp in the desert southwest and NO the heat is not a deterrent, just leave the hood raised when not driving!
Happened to me last winter. Noticed the poop in my trunk. THEN! one morning, I noticed tiny pieces of tissue in the floor of the driver’s seat. Nice little nest started above the floor mat. More kleenex in the passenger seat …………YIKES! Went straight to the car wash and used the BIG vacuum. Set a trap in the trunk and got one there. No more boxes of tissue in the passenger seat !!!! So far, so good this year.
A little creature chewed fabric shopping bags that were in truck of car! What mess!!
Peppermint oil does NOT work! Neither does citrus smells like lemon or lime – mice are accustomed to human smells and food – I have had them eat chocolate, moth balls, those little packets in medicine or aspirin to keep them from absorbing moisture, even kitty litter, and they never got sick or died – the only way to get rid of them is professional exterminators. Nothing ever suggested here on online gets rid of them
Hi Mikki, our strategies are not designed to kill them but deter them, and make the environment inhospitable so they don’t want to take up residence in your car. Science tells us that certain smells such as peppermint and cedar are great deterrents for rodents’ sensitive noses. The other important factor is they need an exit route. If in your home for example, you’ve set up peppermint-soaked cotton balls (which need to be changed every 2 weeks), if they can’t escape, they’ll just avoid that area and stay where they are. But if those aren’t successful for you, we did suggest traps, which always work.
I agree with you Susan. We’ve used peanut butter (and it wasn’t even organic) in the house before and it catches them in the traps every time. Plain old JIF works fine. When I had a major Ant invasion in the house I used the borax and honey trick to destroy their colony, and found that the mice were attracted to that too. So when they chewed up a tiny container I had under the kitchen sink for the ants, I knew there was one under there. So I parked a trap right in front of the little cup and sure enough, the next morning I had a large dead mouse in the trap. BTW, it took a few weeks with the Borax/honey ant traps, but it worked! There are no more ants, inside or out anymore. The colony is destroyed!!!
Here’s the recipe for the Borax Ant Killer:
1/3 Cup Borax, 1Cup Sugar, 1/4 Cup Water, 1/4 Cup Syrup (like honey, or pancake syrup). This yields about 2 cups. Mix together and spoon into small traps with entrance and exit holes poked into them. (I used disposable shot glass size cups from the dollar store and the ants found them easily). I had around 18 of the little cups and put them everywhere, even outside where they were coming in. It took a few weeks cuz the colony must have been massive. But it worked. The ants eat and take it back to the queen at the main nest and once you kill her, the colony dies. Be patient, it eventually works.