Thoughts and advice on the care and feeding of fine automobiles from Machine Aficionado and bestselling author John Elder Robison, owner of JE Robison Service in Springfield, Massachusetts

We are independent restoration, repair, sales and service for Audi, BMW, Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Rolls-Royce automobiles.

Bentley archives

Land Rovers

When Rodents Come Chewing

Here's a fine 1953 Jaguar XK120 Fixed Head Coupe . . . there's just one little problem . . .

Have you ever had mice eat holes in the upholstery of your car?  Have you ever opened the hood to find rodents have devoured the padding, and possibly the wires too?  Have you perhaps started a car only to have the dash go up in smoke because vermin ate the insulation off the wiring?

Here at Robison Service, we have seen all that and more.

Did you know that comprehensive auto insurance covers rodent damage, in almost every case? 

Here’s an example of what can happen when you store your pride and joy in a cat-free, rodentacious environment:

At first glance, there wasn’t much sign this1953 Jaguar 120 had a problem at all.  Then the owner saw the hole.  Something had chewed a quarter-sized hole through the headliner, just forward of the rear window.

When we took a closer look, we saw a smaller hole on the other side.  Apparently, they burrowed all the way across and started eating their way out the other side.

And that was just the beginning . . .

There are little black streaks all over the outside of the car. Those streaks are arranged in paths, marking the lines where rodents ran back and forth while devouring the car.  The paths make their way into the trunk, and under the hood, where brown grains of mouse poop are littered.

To fix that, we will strip out the interior, and then wash the metal with mild bleach and disinfectant.  Same thing for the outside, after which we use a clay bar to smooth the paint, and glaze and wax.

There is no good way to get mouse urine out of carpets, and the smell will linger forever, so we change the rugs as a set.  The other reason for changing rugs as a set is of course color match.  On a show-grade car that is especially critical.

It’s important not to forget the pads or liners under the rugs when replacing trim.  We’ve learned that the hard way, when we change the parts on top, but odor lingers from the pads below.  That’s why we strip these cars down to metal right at the beginning.

One of the big worries for any insurance appraiser is electrical damage.  Rodents eat the insulation off wires.  That leads to strange malfunctions and even electrical fires.  Luckily this car does not seem to have any of those problems.

This is not just a cosmetic issue - mice are carriers of many diseases, and we now approach these cleanups from that perspective.  The most threatening health issue with mice is their ability to spread Salmonella bacteria in their droppings. This is a common cause of food poisoning. Other transmittable organisms are tapeworms, rat-bite fever, infectious jaundice/leptospirosis/ Weil’s Disease, plague, Hantavirus, and possibly poliomyelitis (polio). Given these potentially life threatening diseases, mice should not be tolerated in the tight confines of your car.

The next time mice chew your wiring, think of Robison Service.  We’re rodent damage remediation experts.

In the image above you see rodent droppings all round the wiring, but by great good fortune, the little beasties left the tasty braided harnesses alone.  This owner is lucky.  So is his insurer.



"Little Bear" said...

Don't forget, another hazard of rodent infestation comes from the dried urine and feces - which can be chock-full of Hantavirus, a family of viruses that cause deadly pneumonia. Hantavirus is called Four Corners Disease in the American southwest, but there are strains everywhere, of varying virulence. Make sure to use gloves and a respirator when cleaning up rodent droppings and dried urine. Better safe than sorry.

gsmac said...

My experience (more with motorcycles than cars) is that the little vermin love making nests inside air boxes/air filters. They will chew through the filter media, and when the engine is started up, it sucks all that crap into the engine. I put a screen (galvanized 1/4" "gardeners cloth" works well) over the air intake to stop them from getting in that way.

I also use prevention - plenty of good old-fashioned snap traps baited with peanut butter, distributed liberally around the outside of the vehicle. They always go for the peanut butter before they go for wiring.

Steven Hsieh said...

May I ask which specific insurance company covered mice chewing engine wires under comprehensive coverage? My insurance with with esurance, and they're denying coverage =(

John Elder Robison said...

Steven, we are in MA, and I've repaired card from NY and every other New England state. In every case, rodent damage was within the scope of comprehensive coverage.

Your state may be different, or there may be an issue with your presentation.

I have never had one of these claims denied at Robison Service

Steven Hsieh said...

Thanks for the response. I called the insurance back again, and this time they said they would cover it under comprehensive coverage. I also got it down in writing so it should be good now. Thanks for the tip!

| Designed by Colorlib