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 A class-action lawsuit was filed this week on behalf of thousands of Toyota owners who say rodents are eating car wires coated with soy-based materials, causing thousands of dollars in damage.

"Toyota incorporates soy- or bio-based ingredients in the wiring ... that bait rodents – including rats, squirrels and other animals," the lawsuit says. Honda is facing a similar suit.

In an effort to reduce waste, some car manufacturers wrap wires in a soy-based material.

Rupert Welch of Falls Church, Virginia, was surprised to learn what caused his car trouble three times over the course of a few weeks. Rodents had a feast at his expense, causing $10,000 in damage.

“I took the car back, but the next day all the lights went on, and the car wouldn't start, and I had to call a tow truck,” Welch said.

Some car owners want the auto manufacturers foot the bill for the repairs.

“I think it was well intentioned when they went to soy-based insulation, but I think they have to rethink their strategy here,” Welch said.

The lawsuit filed against Toyota includes vehicles manufactured between 2012 and 2016. Honda's lawsuit includes vehicles produced between 2012 and 2015.

“Toyota is refusing to repair these cars under warranty, and these are also expensive repairs,” said Benjamin Johns, the attorney representing the class action. “There are real damages here, and we’re trying to get, at a minimum, these kinds of repairs covered by the warranty.”

Honda would not comment on the pending litigation, but a spokesperson said, “The facts that rodents are drawn to chew on wiring in homes, cars or anywhere else significantly predates the introduction of soy-based wiring by several decades."

Toyota also said it can’t comment on the pending lawsuit but did say "rodent damage to vehicle wiring occurs across the industry and the issue is not brand- or model-specific.”

Welch said his mechanic wrapped tape around his wires as a deterrent. He also read peppermint spray works and the rodents seem to be keeping their distance.

The average cost of repairing chewed wires is $1,200. Most insurance companies pay for it, but the car owner is stuck with the deductible.

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How To Protect Your Car From Rodents

Rats! You can buy the most reliable car on Earth and still find convoluted electrical gremlins, fluid leaks, and even outright failure when rodents take up residence and begin chewing on wiring, hoses, plastic, and other critical car parts. But we’ve found a deterrent for these four-legged terrorists.

Rodent-inflicted damage is an age-old problem that some observers say is increasing as automakers use more plant-based biodegradable materials to reduce waste. It turns out that rodents sharpening their teeth and feasting on cars is more prevalent than you might think. We uncovered various technical service bulletins from Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota, and Subaru instructing their technicians how to remedy chewed wiring harnesses. So many people have been looking for solutions that the topic was trending on Reddit recently.

Readers posted several solutions, from covering the wires with a metal mesh to painting them with hot sauce. Some Consumer Reports staffers also have stories of small furry creatures chewing through power steering lines, filling engine intakes with acorns, and plugging up air-conditioning ducts with their nests.

What you can do

We found a clever solution in a TSB from Honda: rodent-deterrent tape, essentially an electrical tape treated with super-spicy capsaicin, which Honda describes as “the stuff that puts the fire in a bowl of five-alarm chili.” The tape (part number 4019-2317) is available through dealers for about $36 for a 20-meter roll, about 22 yards.

We bought a roll of rodent-deterrent tape to check out. Beyond the cute rodent graphics and gray color, it deceptively seems like regular electrical tape to us humans. There is no tear-inducing odor, but it does carry a label that warns against prolonged exposure to skin. Despite dares and double dares, we did not taste it and will trust that it is potent enough to deter even the most ravenous varmint.

Other suggestions for dealing with rodents under your hood include installing a metal mesh around wiring harnesses and rubber hoses and across any openings where rodents could crawl into your ventilation or intake systems. 

Even if these measures don’t work, you can take heart: “A mouse ate my wiring harness” excuse at least sounds more creative than “The dog ate my homework.”

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Rodents Wired to Infest Vehicles

The National Pest Management Association explains why rodents invade cars

 FAIRFAX, VA – Many causes are possible when vehicles experience problems, but it might surprise motorists to learn that a rodent infestation could be one of them.  According to the National Pest Management Association, several innate factors drive rodents under the hood, leading to car damage, particularly during wintertime.

“Vehicles possess the ideal attributes that attract rodents in winter, including shelter and built-up warmth from commutes,” says Michael Bentley, Ph.D., a staff entomologist at NPMA. “Rodents hate being out in the open where they are vulnerable to predators, so when they see a car holding freshly generated heat that also offers protection from the great outdoors, they are drawn to it for cover.”

Entering into cars is easy — a mouse, for example, can squeeze through openings as small as a dime. Once inside, any crumbs the owner leaves behind, or other chewable items, will hold rodents’ attention, and that includes wires.

“Rodents are instinctively avid chewers. About three percent of their daily activity is just gnawing on objects like wires,” says Bentley. “Unfortunately, cars have an abundance of materials that rodents enjoy chewing through.”

Changes in car design may also attract rodents. Recently, numerous consumers have reported experiencing rodent infestations in their cars, attributing them to the materials manufacturers are using in their eco-friendly models, such as soy-based wiring, which is especially appealing to a rodent’s palate.

Costly car repairs aside, rodents can also have negative effects on human health. They can, for example, cause respiratory issues, including asthma and allergy symptoms.

To eliminate the likelihood of rodents infesting a vehicle, keep trash in tightly closed containers and seal up points of entry into the garage. Drivers should also regularly look under the hood for gnawed materials, nests, droppings and frayed wires.

Source: http://www.pestworld.org/news-hub/press-releases/rodents-wired-to-infest-vehicles/

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