How to stop rats from living under your hood, ruining your car and leaving you with a big repair bill

  • Rats are taking refuge in cars, chewing through wires and leaving owners with big repair bills.
  • One expert says pet owners may be more prone to finding rodents around their homes.
  • There are three things you can do to help prevent rats from living under the hood of your car.

If you’re one of the many drivers whose cars have been damaged by rats chewing through wires, you may be able to partly blame the pandemic.

The New York Times interviewed 28 mechanics in New York and they reported an increase in the number of rodents found in cars.

That may be partly due to the common use of soy-based wiring in modern vehicles, and a 19% rise in car registrations by New Yorkers between 2019 and 2021, but it’s not the whole story.

Michael Parsons, an urban rat expert and research scholar at Fordham University, told Insider that rats had to find other ways to get food when COVID-19 lockdowns were imposed. “They weren’t hanging around the restaurant areas as much anymore, but they were attracted to people’s home – where food was,” he said.

Calls fell in the first six months of the pandemic, which seemed odd until his colleagues realized that rats had not departed for the suburbs but “rather they were moving really close to the closed restaurants.”

Between 2000 and 2021, calls to the 311 citizens’ hotline increased sharply, according to NYC Open Data.

While we have largely returned to normal life after the pandemic, rats have not, Parsons said, with some now even attacking pigeons. More rats sightings usually reflect poor garbage hygiene, because rodents are simply looking for food.

What can you do to prevent rats from nesting in your car?

Parsons said there are three key tactics to stop rodents bedding under your car hood:

    1. Even if you work from home, do not leave the car sitting unused for long periods of time – drive around the block and repark. At the very least, use a remote starter to make some noise under the hood, and open it from time to time.
    2. Do not park above or near storm drain basins or openings to sewers – Norway rats are called sewer rats for a reason.
    3. Understand that cars provide refuge, and in some cases, feeding opportunities for rats. They like soy-based wiring but will also seek out discarded candy wrappers too.

Failure to heed this advice could leave you facing a bill for hundreds of dollars. One woman told The Times that a rat chewed through a sensor wire in her car, which cost $700 to fix.

Ozzy Dayan, a mechanic at Manhattan Auto Repair in Hell’s Kitchen, told the newspaper: “I see new cars, old cars, everyone is coming in now with these rat problems. It brings me a lot of business, but it’s disgusting.”

It’s not always known that rats also need to constantly grind down their teeth, which grow in the same way that our fingernails do.

Pet owners should be even more wary. Rats are highly attracted to homes with animals because pet food is highly aromatic and arousing to rats, and pet waste contain essential nutrients, according to research Parsons co-authored for the Journal of Urban Ecology.

It’s a misconception that leaving food out for your pet all day is the right thing to do. “What they’re doing is inadvertently attracting rats or other rodents onto the property,” he said.

And don’t expect your pet to chase rodents away. “We’ve got research that shows that cats don’t always control rats. If anything, a well-fed cat might actually even share dish with a rat.”