Rats make a meal out of cars causing thousands of dollars in damage

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Rats make a meal out of cars causing thousands of dollars in damage

By Georgie Burgess

When southern Tasmanian resident Jacqui Rostron caught five rats in six days inside her car she knew she had a problem.

Key points:

  • Rats are causing significant damage to cars in Tasmania
  • A mechanic says it’s a common problem, especially during the colder months
  • Vehicle owners are trying all sorts of ways to get rid of the rodents

There wasn’t much of her car they didn’t take a bite out of. They chewed through wires, hoses, seatbelts and upholstery.

Not even Ms Rostron’s glove box was safe. The pesky rodents nibbled through it and ate a collection of receipts.

“They’ll just eat anything,” Ms Rostron told Lucie Cutting on ABC Radio Hobart.

“They’ve eaten the carpet. They just love it.”

Hobart mechanic Scott Hayne says it’s a common problem, especially during cold weather.

“We’ve just had a run of a lot of rat damage coming through here but it’s something you’ll see all year round,” he said.

“We notify a lot of customers that there are rats living in their vehicles and it’s the first they’ve heard of it.”

Mr Hayne said rats don’t discriminate between city and country living, nor makes, models and years of car.

He’s seen rats cause $9,000 worth of damage to vehicles.

“It can write a car off, quite easily,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s not just the damage, it’s the smell.”

‘This is a really big problem’

Ms Rostron, who lives in a rural area, noticed something wasn’t right with her car and took it in for a service.

The mechanic found rat poo in the engine and advised her to put out bait.

She didn’t want to harm wildlife in her area and tried trapping the rodents.

“I’ve tried all sorts of traps, but I found the rats are too big to fit into the traps,” she said.

The problems continued, and more trips to the mechanic were needed.

“All the lights came on the dash and wouldn’t go off,” she said.

“I started to think this is really a big problem.”

Another car owner Nicolá Goc had similar issues.

“They did serious damage to my wiring,” she said.

“Like [Jacqui] I prefer deterrents that won’t impact on wildlife.

“The one that is working is toy snakes placed in the engine and on the bonnet and under the car bought from the discount stores.”

She hasn’t had any issues for the past three months.

“They have been the best deterrent,” she said.

“No further damage or expensive insurance claims, yet I know they are still about.”

Other creative rat solutions

Ms Rostron had success using electronic traps, and put them on the engine overnight.

She caught five rats in six days, and caught more days later.

“I have caught 11 rats in my car and two on the outside,” she said.

“They certainly just like this car. I’ve got four cars here and it’s the only car I have a problem with.”

Mr Hayne says he’s seen some creative rat solutions over the years.

“We see a lot of things tied up under bonnets to try and stop them,” he said.

“I have people swear by peppermint oil, moth balls. I’ve even seen rat traps actually screwed into the inside of a vehicle.”

Several ABC Radio Hobart listeners suggested leaving the bonnet up overnight in an attempt to make the engine less cosy.

Mr Hayne said the rats were looking for warms places to live.

“As soon as we get cold snaps they are looking for nice warm engines,” he said.

Get on top of the problem

Mr Hayne suggested moving food sources like bins away from cars.

He said vehicle owners should look for rodent signs like poo and footprints on the engine.

“If you start to see anything more than that, you know they’re starting to do damage and they are eating through plastics to enter into the car to eat carpets, seats, wiring looms,” he said.

He recommended the rats be eradicated before repairs were done.

“We’ve had an issue where we fixed it, it’s cost a lot of money, and it came back the next day on a tow truck because the rats had eaten the exact same hoses in the exact same spots overnight,” he said.

“It doesn’t take long for them to do the damage once they get in there.”

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