Rodents May Have Flavor Fetish For the Wiring Insulation in Newer Vehicles

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
rodents may have flavor fetish for the wiring insulation in newer vehicles

Shortly after the dawn of new millennium, automakers started implementing bio-plastics made from corn starch, genetically engineered bacteria, or vegetable fats and oils. The rationale for this was that sustainably sourced materials were better for the environment and lowered dependency on petrochemicals. Unsurprisingly, bio-plastics gained in popularity at roughly the same time as ethanol.

Since at least 2010, soy-based bio-plastics have been a popular alternative for wiring insulation in automobiles. But there’s a problem — rodents love how it tastes. This has allegedly resulted in a surprisingly high number of owners reporting that rats chewed through the wiring inside their automobile.

While the problem isn’t entirely new, the frequency of the incidents appears to have been spurred by automakers using more palatable materials. In fact, the issue has grown so bad in recent years, numerous lawsuits have cropped up demanding manufacturers pay for damages. Honda was named in a suit from two years ago involving 2012 to 2015 model year vehicles, and Toyota was hit with one for cars produced between 2012 to 2016.

Bio-plastics were in widespread use at this point. Both Kia and Hyundai were named in subsequent rodent-related lawsuits, and practically every major manufacturer uses plant-based plastics on at least a few models built within the last decade. It sounds benign but, considering that rats eating your car typically isn’t covered under a vehicle’s warranty, owners have to shell out hundreds if their insurer isn’t interested.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the growing rat problem isn’t the result of paranoia, either. John Pappas, owner of Main & Hudson Service in Royal Oak, Michigan, claims he sees at least one vehicle every month with gnawed-on wires. “They’re going environmental on the wires,” he said. “There’s good and bad in everything. It is a common issue.”

Jim Stevens, a sales representative at Suburban Ford of Ferndale, stated finding rats chewing through wires “is a pretty common thing around here,” with around two or three vehicles coming in a month.

Brian Kabateck, a Los Angeles attorney is involved in a class-action lawsuit against Toyota Motor Sales, filed on behalf of an Indiana resident who watched his 2012 Toyota Tundra become a meal for rodents three times. Total damage was estimated at roughly $1,500, which Kabateck said Toyota won’t cover.

“Our contention, why soy is certainly — it’s laudable — they’re trying to be more green, at the same time, it’s becoming a potential food product for rats,” the attorney said, adding he’s not looking to make everyone rich. The suit is simply seeking reimbursement for damages and a new policy that would cover rat-damage under Toyota’s warrantee.

However, we don’t need to take the word of lawyers or service center employees. Owners are are willing to express their concerns on practically every online automotive forum. A cursory search for the term “rat” in numerous brand forums returned dozens of first-hand accounts from affected owners. Vehicles range from a Nissan Versa to a Jaguar XKR, but the vast majority share one common trait — they were built after 2005. Maybe it’s not telling, as fewer owners are worried about older cars. Still, there are decidedly fewer mentions on older threads.

Toyota claims rodent damage to vehicle wiring occurs across the industry, and the issue is not brand- or model-specific (which is true). It also noted that it was not familiar with any scientific evidence that rodents are attracted to automotive wiring due to alleged soy-based content.

Neither are we, but that isn’t stopping the public’s growing worry. Entire websites are devoted exclusively to tips on how to keep rats from eating car wiring. In the Free Press article, Janice Perzigian witnessed rodents do $600 worth of damage to her 2017 Ford Mustang. As a result, she takes time out of every day to surround the car with Pine-Sol, stuff the interior with dryer sheets, and spray down the tires with essential oils.

Forum solutions are frequently just as elaborate, often including plots to kill the varmints before they can get comfortable inside the engine bay. Our favorite reoccurring recommendation involves coating every single centimeter of wiring with hot sauce on a weekly basis.

[Image: Holger Kirk/Shutterstock]

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  • Redmondjp Redmondjp on May 18, 2018

    When I was on the VW forums 10-15 years ago, this problem came up, and somebody found out that VW in Europe offered an actual factory anti-rodent wiring harness option (complete with a picture of an actual rat biting on a wire, right in the option brochure - imagine ever seeing that in this country!).

  • Stingray65 Stingray65 on May 18, 2018

    I wonder if the wiring on a Tesla is covered with this stuff - might lead to some char-broiled rats and mice, and some lawsuits by the EPA or the Interior Department for violating the endangered species act - at least until Trump can drain the swamp of all the Obama holdovers.

    • See 2 previous
    • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on May 19, 2018

      @30-mile fetch Were any of the lies in your dream world whoppers like the ones Obama told to destroy our healthcare system? Were they told in an effort to nuclearize Iran? Were they told make people hate one another irrationally?

  • Fred Private equity is only concerned with making money. Not in content. The only way to deal with it, is to choose your sites wisely. Even that doesn't work out. Just look at AM/FM radio for a failing business model that is dominated by a few large corporations.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Lots of dynamics here:[list][*]people are creatures of habit, they will stick with one or two web sites, one or two magazines, etc; and will only look at something different if recommended by others[/*][*]Generation Y & Z is not "car crazy" like Baby Boomers. We saw a car as freedom and still do. Today, most youth text or face call, and are focused on their cell phone. Some don't even leave the house with virtual learning[/*][*]New car/truck introductions are passé; COVID knocked a hole in car shows; spectacular vehicle introductions are history.[/*][*]I was in the market for a replacement vehicle, but got scared off by the current used and new prices. I'll wait another 12 to 18 months. By that time, the car I was interested in will be obsolete or no longer available. Therefore, no reason to research till the market calms down. [/*][*]the number of auto related web sites has ballooned in the last 10 to 15 years. However, there are a diminishing number of taps on their servers as the Baby Boomers and Gen X fall off the radar scope. [/*][/list]Based on the above, the whole auto publishing industry (magazine, web sites, catalogs, brochures, etc) is taking a hit. The loss of editors and writers is apparent in all of publishing. This is structural, no way around it.
  • Dukeisduke I still think the name Bzzzzzzzzzzt! would have been better.
  • Dukeisduke I subscribed to both Road & Track and Car and Driver for over 25 years, but it's been close to 20 years since I dropped both. I tried their digital versions with their reader software (can't remember the name now), but it wasn't the same. I let it lapse after a year.From what I've seen of R&T's print version, it's turned into more of a lifestyle thing like The Robb Report. I haven't seen an issue of C/D in a while.I enjoyed both magazines a lot when I was subscribing. R&T for the road tests (especially the April Fools road tests), used car reviews, historical articles, and columns like Peter Egan's Side Glances and Dennis Simanitis's Technical Correspondence. And C/D for the road tests and pithy commentary, and columns like Gordon Baxter's, and Jean Shepherd's (that goes way back to the early '70s).
  • Steve Biro It takes very clever or amusing content for me to sit through a video vehicle review. And most do not include that.Tim, you wrote :"Niche titles aren't dying because of a lack of interest from enthusiasts, but because of broader changes in the economics of media, at least in this author's opinion."You're right about the broader changes in economics. But the truth is that there IS a lack of interest from enthusiasts. Part of it is demographics. Young people coming up are generally not car and truck fans. That doesn't mean there are no young enthusiasts but the numbers are much smaller. And even those who consider themselves enthusiasts seem to have mixed feelings. Just take a look at Jalopnik.And then we come to the real problem: The vast majority of new vehicles coming out today are not interesting to enthusiasts, are not fun to drive and/or are just not affordable.You can argue that EVs are technically interesting and should create enthusiasm. But the truth is they are not fun to drive, don't work well enough yet for most people and are very expensive.EVs on the race track? Have you ever been to a Formula E race? Please.And even if we set EVs aside, the electronic nannies that are being forced on us pretty much preclude a satisfying driving experience in any brand-new vehicle, regardless of propulsion system. Sure, many consumers who view cars as transportation appliances may welcome this technology. But they are not enthusiasts. I don't know about you, but I and most car fans I know don't want smart phones on wheels.There is simply not that much of interest to write about. Car and Driver and Road & Track are dipping deeper into nostalgia and their archives as a result. R&T is big on sponsoring road trips for enthusiasts - which is a great idea. But only people with money to burn need apply.And then there is the problem of quality in automotive writing. As more experienced people are let go and more money is cut from publications, the quality and length of pieces keeps going down, leading to the inevitable self-fulfilling prophecy.Even the output on this site is sharply reduced from its peak. And the number of responses to posts seems a small fraction of what it used to be. This is my first comment since the site was recently relaunched. I don't expect to be making many in the future.Frankly Tim - and it gives me no pleasure to write this - but your post makes me feel as though the people running this site have run out of ideas and TTAC's days may be numbered.Cutbacks in automotive journalism are upsetting. But, until there is something exciting and fun to write about, they are going to continue. Perhaps automotive enthusiasm really was a 20th century phenomenon..
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