How can I keep rats away from my car's wiring and hoses?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

We have three vehicles, which are parked in our driveway (we don't have a garage). Rats have hit them pretty hard. I've had to replace the main radiator hose on my Forrester three times in just a few days. My van is now in the shop for numerous hoses and wiring damage. Someone suggested putting mothballs in the engine compartment, which I did. But a rat gnawed a huge hole in the radiator hose, right next to the mothballs. I have a pest guy coming, and I'm sure he'll reduce the local rat population, but I'm worried that my vehicles will eventually get hit again. Any suggestions? -- Jim

RAY: Well, you obviously didn't follow the instructions with the mothballs, Jim. You're supposed to put a big sign next to them that says, "You see what we did to the moths? Well, you guys are next."

TOM: We don't know much about rats, Jim, except that they're persistent ... and adaptable ... and they multiply like crazy. So I think you did the right thing by calling a professional. He'll undoubtedly look around and tell you if there are environmental factors at work, like construction nearby or loose garbage.

RAY: But if there's nothing that's specifically attracting them to your neighborhood or displacing them from their homes nearby, then the pest control probably WILL be only temporary.

TOM: So what do you do? You need some sort of early warning system. Something to let you know when the rats are back for more radiator snacks.

RAY: I've got it! You know how water heaters have "sacrificial anodes" ... pieces of metal that "give themselves up" and rust so that the water heater itself doesn't rust? Well, Jim needs sacrificial radiator hoses.

TOM: Of course! Jim, you need to go to the junkyard and buy 100 old radiator hoses. Then lay them in a circle around all three cars. It'll be like a radiator-hose moat.

RAY: Right. And always park inside the moat. Then when you start to see the "early warning hoses" getting gnawed on, you'll know it's time to call the pest-control guy again. I love it.

TOM: Me, too. I have only one question: Is there even the remotest chance it'll work?

RAY: I don't know. Jim, write back and let us know. We have tons of extra radiator hoses lying around, and if we can repackage them as pest-control devices, it might be our ticket outta this dump!

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