By on July 8, 2018

We previously discussed how the implementation of bio-plastics in the automotive industry contributed to new claims that rodents have developed a penchant for wiring insulation. While rats gnawing on wires of cars isn’t a novel problem, some believe that the new materials used have exacerbated the issue.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed against various manufacturers on the grounds that the soy-based compounds used in modern-day wiring is irresistible to rodents. One of the more recent legal bouts involves Toyota. Brian Kabateck, a Los Angeles attorney involved in a class-action lawsuit against Toyota Motor Sales, filed on behalf of an Indiana resident after their Toyota Tundra become a meal for rodents three times. The total damage was estimated at roughly $1,500, which Kabateck said Toyota refused to cover.

The case, which involves multiple plaintiffs all represented by Kabateck, has been dismissed without leave to amend — meaning it cannot be refiled. Is this an unfair victory for Toyota and hoards of hungry rats, or are these wiring claims lacking the substantive elements required to be taken seriously? 

“Over the course of litigation, we’ve discovered the problem of rodents eating through soy-covered wiring is frequent and widespread, impacting tens of thousands of drivers nationwide,” Kabateck said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “Toyota apparently isn’t willing to fix this defect or compensate customers who have paid significant amounts of money to mechanics to repair damage caused by rats, squirrels and mice. People purchased these vehicles because they believed they were buying a reliable product, but Toyota refuses to acknowledge this problem even exists — or cover the damage under its warranty program.”

Based upon the number of online complaints, the issue does appear to have grown over the last decade for all manufacturers. However, whether that’s due to automakers swapping to bio-plastics or the fact that there are more people online willing to complain is unclear. Bio-plastics started becoming increasingly popular after the mid-2000s, which is roughly the same time the internet reached the majority of U.S. households.

Prior to the dismissal of the Toyota wiring case last month, a nearly identical lawsuit filed against Honda was dismissed by the plaintiffs in 2016. In fact, these types of suits have become increasingly common over the last few years. Plaintiff victories, however, have not.

One of the problems is that a lot of evidence surrounding rodents’ preference for the newer bio-plastics is anecdotal. For example, a woman owning a 2016 Volvo XC60 from San Diego claimed rats had repeatedly eaten through the wiring despite her going to great lengths to deter them. But the vintage MR2 sitting next to it in the same driveway went untouched. While it’s a compelling story, a scientific study would probably prove more helpful in a court case. But, even then, would the judge find a manufacturer liable for what is basically an animal attack?

“We are gratified that, after repeated failures to allege facts that would support their defect claims, the Court dismissed plaintiffs’ meritless claims without leave to amend,” Toyota said.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

57 Comments on “Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Rodents Eating Automotive Wiring...”


  • avatar
    mtunofun

    Not giving the automakers an out as they should sdress this, but this type of thing is covered by your auto insurance policy if you have comprehensive. Wiring harnesses are crazy expensive, especially with the labor these dealerships charge.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Oh, rats!
    Does this mean that even under warranty it’s not covered? I would certainly think twice before buying such a vehicle. I live in a rural area and the critters around me would have a field day with my edible car

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      Is that a vehicle with wiring? Pretty hard to do unless your chosen vehicle is a bigwheel.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Yes. My mazda dealer said that if rodents eat anything in the car – call insurance. In my car they chewed insulation under engine cover. T?his $h1t is real and such judges should be purged as they don’t serve justice.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    BS wins the day because recalls are too expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      This has nothing to do with recalls. In the auto service industry, we haven’t seen a spike in issues. We always had rodents damaging wiring, and always will. There haven’t been any noticable increases. The only BS are the ambulance chasers that bring on these stupid lawsuits and add costs to every product we buy. Good on the courts for dropping these cases.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        There have been a number of issues in the past few years from spiders to rodents damaging vehicles because of poor materials choices. If a suit were to be allowed it paves the way for a potential recall, or did you really think it was just a handful of loud owners who were affected?

        Mazda did in fact issue a recall for a similar pest issue in 2014:

        http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2014/04/07/mazda_issues_recall_because_spiders_invade_fuel_tank_causing_fire_risk.html

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        “We always had rodents damaging wiring, and always will”

        wait, this is a generality and has nothing to do with the issue.
        it is the numbers here that have meaning. are there more these days?
        I think, if i read your comment below, you’ve seen lots of readily driven cars with this problem.

        having just put our 500 and my insurance another 2K to have a harness repaired, i feel pretty personal about this.
        an insurance agent says he sees tons of this these days. so much more than his early years in the biz.

        not ONLY the wiring, he says, but the insulation in the roof liner as well as firewalls all are rodent attracting foods.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        mbella

        i don’t think you know what you are complaining about.
        first, they say the numbers can’t be verified yet, then you jump in with unverifiable opinion.

        read white shadow below…he works in the industry, so i tend to believe him a bit.

        I work in the plastics industry and with many OEM automotive suppliers. It’s widely known in the industry that this is a real problem and they are working on a solution. As it had already been said, cars that are <10 years old are by far most at risk for rodent damage. And it's not just Toyota either"

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          No, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve just spent my entire professional career in automotive service, first at the shop and dealership level, and now for a auto manufacturer directly. There has been no noticable increase in rodents in today’s vehicles. A car is a good environment for a rodent to shelter itself. The engine bay is easily accessible for them, and contains a heat source. There are plenty of crevices for them to make nests. Usually we find them in an air intake either for the engine or cabin. Most of the time we don’t actually find wiring damage, but suggest rat traps to the customer. The repair prices might be going up, because wiring harnesses are becoming more complex.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            logically, why wouldn’t there be an increase IF the wiring and insulation were made of a more attractive food product?
            I mean, how could there not be…
            Are you suggesting if the materials were made of a more detesting, horrible flavor to these rodents there would be no changes as well?

      • 0 avatar
        baggins

        I had a 2002 Ford Taurus with wiring chewed by rats, and my neighbor had a 2010 Honda Odyssey.

        I did a lot of research. Here are tips to prevent

        1) dont park next to cover (bushes, high grass, etc) Rats and mice dont like to cross open ground,

        Leave a light on in your garage. They dont like well lit areas

        Keep a trap or two in the corners of your garage, up against the wall. Once in a while you’ll go into the garage in the AM, and find a little surprise. If you have rats, make sure you get rat traps. Needless to say, they do the job on mice as well. However a mouse trap is in sufficient for a rat.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yes there has been a significant increase in rodent damaged wiring. It used to be uncommon unless you had a Subaru. It was so common with 80’s and 90’s Subarus that it even made it into an episode of My Name is Earl. Meanwhile it was very very rare to see it in other brands.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Drive your car at least once a week and rodents won’t be a problem.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      That’s not true. I’ve seen plenty of daily drivers affected by rodents.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      I drive my 2014 Honda Accord more than once a week, but that did not prevent two mice from somehow getting into the HVAC system and expiring on the inlet side of the cabin air filter. THe odor of decaying flesh led me to remove the cabin air filter where I found the two dessicated rotent bodies.
      I never had this happen with a number of other cars parked in the same place on my paved driveway.
      I miss my departed cat who kept these critters in check. I still can’t find the pathway the mice used to get into the ventilation ductwork.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        When I was living out in the rural area (2012-2017) rodents repeatedly got into the cabin air-filter box of my Toyota Highlander. A dryer sheet actually deterred them (and confused the hell out of the guys at the dealership oil change place.)

        I’ve moved into the city and apparently because nesting places are so abundant they don’t care to get into the filter anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      Bill Zardus

      Whoever gave you this information has no idea what they are talking about.
      What is your source for this ?

  • avatar
    Urlik

    For some reason I’m not sad that an “ambulance chasing” class action attorney got slapped down.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Try keeping your slum property clean and free of clutter and you won’t have this problem. If you park on the overgrown lawn of a flophouse don’t blame it on the automakers. Good grief. I’m sure the rodents didn’t migrate to anyone’s driveway to avail themselves of the wiring bounty.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      Get real. Mice are found on the cleanest of properties.

      I keep my property up, and haven’t had problems with rodents in my vehicles. I did, however, find fecal evidence of rodents in my garage when the field across the street was cleared for development. I suppose they were displaced when their habitat was disturbed, and I was able to trap and eradicate them fairly easily. How they got in the garage is anyone’s guess, but I’m sure there are small cracks and gaps even in the best constructed buildings, and then there’s the opportunity for entry when the door is open to allow the car to go in and out.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      I park my cars in my garage, which has a floor that’s almost as clean as a hospital surgery room (seriously, no kidding) and it’s tiled with Racedeck flooring. The driveway in front of the garage is 35′ wide. Only after that 35′ of asphalt do you get to grass. My garage is 100% free of any kind of clutter. The only thing in the garage are three cars and my work bench. Despite this, the occasional field mouse or mole somehow finds its way into my garage. With no real source of food present, I don’t know why they find their way into the garage, but they do. I’ve had to put glue traps at the corner of each door to catch the critters just because I don’t want them munching on the wires in my cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Bill Zardus

        Please let us know when this happens to you, or someone in your family,
        so the rest of us can then begin getting serious about this problem.

        I never worry about any problem unless some lunatic calling himself
        “white shadow” experiences it.

        WRZ

    • 0 avatar
      "scarey"

      Any other tips for living you can give us, Subaru 600 ? Every year when it gets cold, mice get into our garage and provide about two weeks worth of mouse take-in for our cats. I can’t keep them from getting into the garage, but the cats keep the cars from getting gnawed on.

  • avatar
    DaJoNel

    This is purely anecdotal, but I’ve only heard about this personally happening to my brother – and others he knows – and they all own Toyotas. Perhaps there’s something particularly tasty about Toyota wiring harnesses or could it be that Toyota leaves these parts more exposed than other manufacturers? Regardless, it’s good this case was thrown out since it’s really difficult to assign blame to an automaker for rodent attacks. My brother’s solution was to place animal traps; that’s the cheapest and most logical solution to the problem.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Don’t sue Toyota for it, stop buying Toyotas ’til they fix it. Make it a public spectacle. Generate a meme that Toyota is Rat-friendly and use those chewed wires as the evidence. If Toyota sales start falling off, then Toyota will fix the problem and do their damndest to get their old customers back

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      Nah, there fix will be 1- nothing or 2- just putting some heat shrink around any exposed wiring (before assembly) to say the problem is solved! then, anyone claiming rat infestation isn’t living in a clean environment!

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    A friend recently moved to a somewhat rural area, and the wiring in her ten year old Prius was hit by mice. I believe insurance covered the rewiring, but she was worried that they might decide to total the car. I wonder if soy based wire covering was used that long ago. Anyone know?

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I’m waiting for PETA to sue Toyota for giving rats indigestion from eating the non-soy based part of the wiring. For the rats protection, Toyota should switch to 100% organic soy wiring.

  • avatar
    EAF

    The solution here is for everyone to drive classic muscle cars.

  • avatar
    TW5

    Tricky situation. On the one hand, people need to keep take responsibility for securing their own property. On the other hand, manufacturers shouldn’t be allowed to make wiring from food stock and then shrug their shoulders when it creates a public safety crisis, underwritten by their loyal customers.

    This may have to be something that is handled by the market. If Toyotas become food stock for rats, mice, squirrels, etc., the market will eventually respond, even if the courts do not.

  • avatar

    Back in 90s I stored several sacks of potato during winter time in my garage just in case of food shortages if there happens nuclear war or economic collapse, the last one being pretty common thing in 90s. It attracted mice and I waged war against rodents but they never touched my cars. Probably potato was more attractive target or their lifespan in garage was pretty short.

    *Removed nonsense political statements. – Mod

  • avatar
    enors

    I’m an insurance adjuster. Fairly common claim. Sometimes multiple claims same vehicle. Some people put dryer sheets and some other items in the engine bay. They said they found the info on google. I’ve also looked at vehicles for non rodent claims and had to warn the owner. One example is a Chevy volt that had tons of god food between the hood and the hood insulator. Owner stores dog food in garage. Rodents were hiding it in the hood for later. Don’t really recall looking at any Toyota wiring. Mostly fords and Mazda’s. Most harnesses can be repaired. But if replacement is needed it’s normally $2k at least. Also they eat fender liners, washer hoses, washer reservoirs etc

  • avatar
    dantes_inferno

    It was only a matter of time before the two middle-school cliques (a.k.a. the left and the right) inject politics into the discussion.

    Has it ever occurred to everyone that rodents just love the taste of wiring these days? Nature has a way of adapting with the times.

  • avatar
    hirostates12

    Simply tying a cat to each corner of your vehicle will eliminate this issue.

  • avatar
    gtem

    My brother just dealt with this on a customer’s Altima that had been parked for a month while they traveled. He’s also had issues with a car parked overnight in his open lot out in the country. His mechanic buddies likewise deal with this stuff, apparently Honda had engineered a special wire harness wrap with rodent repellent a few years back and some indie guys just keep a roll of that on hand at the shop. If the rodents got in once, there’s a decent chance they’ll come back for more.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    There is no mention of why the case was dismissed. I’d think that would be pretty important in an article like this.

  • avatar
    turf3

    “Hordes” of rodents, not “Hoards” of rodents.

    I rarely pick on spelling errors of the general commenters, but if you put yourself forward as a professional writer, you need to be better than just relying on auto-spell-check.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The old man’s Aurora got some eaten wire – at the time he was living out in the woods; the nearest “town” didn’t even have a stoplight. The car was covered outside during the winter months and became a haven for rodents.

    My own experience – I had a 1994 Nissan truck during the time I was renting a house. The landlord left all of the old carpet in the garage which became a big ol’ mouse nest. And those same mice decided to build a nest in the air box of my truck. I didn’t find out until I took a road trip to Chicago and couldn’t figure out why the engine was running so poorly.

  • avatar
    LTDwedge

    Has anyone given thought to possibly using
    ultrasonic devices that deter rodents & insects ?
    Especially in a closed garage environment, I would
    think that this could be just the ticket to stop all
    forms of life from a free snack bar that is your car.

  • avatar
    Znueni

    In southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland it’s a common problem. Not the mice living in the car; instead, pesky Martens (somewhat like a mink or ferret) which likes to especially gnaw on plastic antennas, electrical cables, and water hoses. Has nothing to do with food, they like the smell of certain plastics.
    Market has lots of ads for electrical or high-frequency sound devices and deterrent sprays (which don’t really work)
    A while back a newspaper printed some insurance stats – seems May/June were worst months, Renault/Toyota/Ford favourite plastics, and BMW/Audi/Mercedes apparently had the least tasty plastic.

  • avatar
    Bill Zardus

    This could never happen to me because grey squirrels don’t hang around
    very long in our neighborhood and now I have recently begun trapping mice
    at night, outdoors as well.

    The easiest way to protect bird feeders, homes, power lines and car wires is to
    trap grey squirrels with a Havahart model 1083 and then put them in a fish
    tank for about 10 minutes. I’ve sent more than 200 grey squirrels to squirrel
    heaven in less than 4 years. The 1083 is much more effective than the
    old fashioned Havahart traps. It can be set with one hand in less than
    10 seconds.

    Then at night I reconfigure my squirrel traps by placing Thomcat saw,
    toothed plastic mouse traps inside them and placing them near the fence line. I’ve caught 42 mice since Nov 1 in a suburban neighborhood that I would never have guessed had a mouse infestation. (I only noticed this because something began stealing the peanut butter from my squirrel traps at night and deductive reasoning led me to mousetraps.)

    I place the mouse traps inside the squirrel traps to protect small birds
    and other wildlife from being killed in my traps. Mice are the only
    animals small enough to enter through the wires of a closed squirrel trap.
    When I wake up, I then set the traps for squirrels again. If you wait to see
    mice inside your home before you set traps, you are setting yourself up for
    a big problem.

    Local governments and/or power companies should be paying people a
    bounty to trap grey squirrels. Most people are too lazy and/or too
    stupid to do this without some financial incentive

    If you go to YouTube and search on Shawn Woods and or “Mousetrap Monday”
    you will find a couple hundred reviews of Mousetraps and many of them also work for rats and squirrels. It seems like the moderator for this website and Shawn could be cross-promoting each other. But he already has over a million subscribers and I’m not sure if he would do that.

    Bill Z
    Delaware County, PA
    devilsadvacat at gmail
    .

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • dal20402: bjokote, you skated right over my point: all the marketing copy and lawyer warnings in the world make zero...
  • DenverMike: jmo, if it’s your family that’s killed in an Autopilot caused crash, would you be OK with...
  • Corey Lewis: You’re making the argument against Autopilot all on your own. 1-4 occurred and still the Autopilot...
  • 28-Cars-Later: @Dan “Either their customers are tremendous idiots OR the tech is tremendously flawed.”...
  • SPPPP: Hmm, why is the coolant rust colored? Also, try letting the car warm up to operating temperature with the hood...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States