The rats got into my car and chewed everything up. Will the insurance cover it?

Having rodents under the hood isn’t the first thought that comes to mind when your car won’t start or run smoothly. Still, these little critters can create big headaches for drivers by chewing on the wires around the engine.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that vermin problems can occur to any vehicle in both urban and rural areas of the country. When rodents damage your car, who pays for the repairs? Keep reading to learn more about insurance coverage that could help ease your financial burden when the mechanic says rats are the reason for your engine problem.

Why do rodents gnaw car wires?

Gnawing is a natural behavior of mice, rats, chipmunks and squirrels. A rodent’s teeth keep growing and, like your fingernails, they need to be trimmed. Since they can’t use clippers, these creatures chew on things to help keep their incisors filed and manageable.

Another essential rodent survival skill is locating dark, dry, warm places that are safe from predators. Your car’s engine compartment meets these requirements — and more.

When you lift the hood of your car, you’ll see a lot of rubber and plastic – the main ingredients of a buffet that vermin can gnaw while hiding around your engine. They can satisfy the need to sharpen their teeth inside the shelter instead of going outside to chew on sticks and bark.

Some people believe that today’s car wires covered with soy-based material attract rodents because they taste better than older wires with petroleum-based insulation. There is no scientific evidence to support this. The critters do not chew the material for food or to please their taste buds. Instead, rodents gnaw on car wires and other materials just to help keep their teeth in good working order.

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How do rodents harm your car?

Damage to the vehicle caused by rodents can be minor or major if the pests are not stopped. Their instinctive gnawing can damage essential parts under the hood:

  • Son

  • Belts

  • Cables

  • Pipes

  • Filters

If your vehicle sits for long periods of inactivity, rodents can take up residence by building a nest in your car. In addition to being out of sight and difficult to locate, a hidden nest can prevent proper vehicle operation. Rodents have built nests in all car areas:

  • Engine compartment

  • Under the center console

  • Air conditioning ducts

  • behind the panels

  • Trunk

Rodents use anything they can find for nesting material, such as twigs and leaves. Some car owners have reported discovering nests made from the insulation salvaged from hood liners and vehicle carpeting.

The creatures also used parked vehicles as storage units for their winter food supply. A North Dakota squirrel hid 182 pounds of nuts in a Chevrolet Avalanche.

Although a rodent’s mouth and teeth can damage your car, what comes from the other side is not good for your health. Rodent droppings and urine – as well as dander – can carry disease. You don’t want any of those unsanitary things in your car vents.

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What is the cost of rodent damage?

Fixing rodent encounters in vehicles isn’t always expensive, but they can be.

Consider this scenario: A rodent has broken into your car’s heating and air conditioning system. He filled the vents with dead grass, tiny twigs and fabric from the insulation under the carpet. Her cozy winter wonderland created a blockage that reduced airflow through the ductwork.

Undoing what the creature did will require a week of repair:

  • Remove the dashboard

  • Clean or replace ducts

  • Replace fan motor

  • Remove the front seats to disinfect the carpet (in case there is urine and feces)

  • Replace the hood screen and a list of other issues.

The estimate to fix this unusual but realistic situation is around $4,000.

Does insurance pay for damage caused by rodents?

A car insurance policy with comprehensive coverage can help save the day when you face a costly repair due to rodent damage. Some comprehensive policies won’t protect against rodents chewing through wiring, so check with your insurer to make sure you’re covered.

Comprehensive coverage is an optional product if you own your car. Finance companies usually require full coverage when you lease your vehicle or are still paying off a car loan.

Fire, theft, vandalism, glass breakage, falling tree branches, animal strike, as well as damage caused by wind and flooding are situations covered by full coverage. Remember that each policy is unique. Your insurance agent can confirm coverage.

If the estimates to repair, clean, and sanitize your vehicle cost more than your deductible, you may decide to file a claim. If the repair costs are close to your deductible amount, consider paying the cost of the repair to avoid a potential increase in your insurance premium.

Be sure to document any damage with photographs and get detailed repair estimates in writing.

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How to Prevent Rodent Damage to Vehicles

Nobody likes to make an insurance claim. Having rodents rummaging around your car is even less desirable. Take steps to avoid potential rodent damage to the vehicle:

  • Move your vehicle regularly; stored vehicles become easy targets.
  • Leave the hood of your car open if you park in a garage.
  • Fill small holes in the garage; use traps if the presence of rodents is detected.
  • Secure pet food and birdseed which can attract critters.
  • Keep trash away from where you park the vehicles.
  • Avoid parking in areas with thick undergrowth.

You can also try one of the many rodent repellents on the market. If rodents are a big problem on your property, contact a professional pest control service for a solution.

This story originally took place on KBB.com.

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