Dear PoPville – Rats in my Car Engine!

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

“Dear PoPville,

I have a rather gross question for your readers. Has anyone had an issue with rats in their car engine? I am not talking about chewing wires, which seems somewhat common, but getting caught in moving parts and causing lots of damage (drive belt, timimg belt, tensioners etc). This has happened twice now, within a couple months. The first time was bad enough but after the second time I am wondering if the dealer’s service center is being less than honest since the car is still under warranty. If it happened to me twice it has to have happened to someone else, right? I can deal with rats in the alley but I can’t shell out thousands of dollars on repairs every year! Just curious, either way I am parking on the street from now on.”

39 Comment

  • Happened to me too a few months back. I only found out because I took my car in for unrelated work. They notified me of the “Rodent’s Nest” and that they had cleaned it out for me. It didn’t cause any damage that I know of, but it sure was concerning and really odd. I drive a Toyota corolla & I always park on the street- so I’m not sure if alley VS street will solve the problem. I’m really interested in seeing what others experiences have been too.

    • Parking in the street (as opposed to the alley) doesn’t eliminate the chance of rats getting to your car, but it should significantly reduce it.

      In Park View, I mainly see rats in the alley, since that’s where the trash cans are… but I see them from time to time in the street.

      I’m not sure how it plays out on the streets where trash is collected from the front of the house rather than the rear.

  • stop storing your cheese in your car engine

  • Well, your situation is better than “cats in my rare engine,” which I how I first read the headline.

  • This happened in my old Passat about 5 times. Twice there was serious damage that led to thousands in repairs. I own a parking spot that is off an alley in Columbia Heights. It was a really frustrating problem. Make sure trash in the area is secured. The repairman recommended leaving mothballs under the car which rats hate. I never tried it…doubted it would actually work and the thought of picking up the mothballs every time I moved my car seemed too labor intensive. Rats love to chew the wires in cars leading to locks of costly electrical damage.

  • I had this a while ago, it stinks but can happen in the street too-partly it’s not moving the car very often. I now keep a few mothballs in the engine compartment as they don’t like the smell. of course you have to put up with the smell when you are driving or put them in a sock and pull it out before driving somewhere.

  • I happened to my parents – and because it was at their house the homeowners covered it. You might want to try that route if the warranty/car insurance doesn’t cover it.

  • You can try pouring ammonia over different rat-interesting areas or even paprika. These were suggested by my neighbor mechanic when I had similar problems…

  • I’ve had this happen as well. Once they even made a nest out of the insulation from the hood! My neighbor had them also. She had a little sporty mercedes that was low to the ground but I had a bwm suv so I don’t think it has much to do with what kind of car. My neighbor also was the one that told me about Coyote urine – it comes in a shaker can (like parmesan cheese!) and you buy it at the hardware store (17th St Hardware has it). Sprinkle it on the ground under your car and the rats will think there is a large predator around and they will stay away. Works like a charm…but sometimes your car will have a slight smell. Pick your battles and good luck!

    • Why would a city rat know what coyote urine smells like? Probably just as effective to piss on the engine yourself.

      Rats nesting in engines have been a problem since there were cars in cities. I think they have their own decorating show on HGTV now. Just open your hood once a week and sweep everything out. Put rat poison bait traps out along walls near where you park.

      • you are right, Victoria! only rats with a graduate level education would have knowledge of predators.

        take off your blinders to the world and think outside of your box.

  • happened to me in adams morgan years back, all the junk they had dragged into the engine partially caught fire when I was driving, so its a serious problem!

    I never solved the problem, they killed the car, but I was told antifreeze in a pan under the car would kill them if they stepped in it and licked it off. unfortunately it would also kill cats and dogs if they got into it…

  • my dog will chase rats under cars, they dont come out and the dog begins to bark at the engine. so yeah, rats in engines.

  • i had an issue with this once – i picked up a zipcar to pick up a girl for a date, and the check engine light came on when i stopped in front of her place. i had to move the car to a safe spot to investigate, and by the time i stopped again it smelled awful.

    fortunately, being a zipcar, it really wasn’t my problem to have to deal with too much, aside from getting to a different car on a friday night.

    zipcar did actually call me back to let me know that i had fried a rat on the engine…

    • So did the girl go out with you again? 😉

      • i did. we were more or less dating at the time and if i recall correctly i’m indian was kind enough to pick me up from dulles thus the need for the zipcar. upside: we got a mini cooper for date night.

    • wait, yeah. i want to hear the rest of that story.

    • Thats what you get for trying to take a girl out in a zip car. Were you also planning on using a groupon for dinner?

  • A friend of mine in Columbia Heights had a rats nest in her engine catch fire when she started driving. Can be dangerous…

  • In Mt.P a few years back when I parked in an alley and would get home late in the winter, the engine was warm I guess. I had an entire piece of pizza, french fries, cookies, chicken bones, etc. in my engine from the rats. No damage though.

  • this is the most terrifying post ever. I’ve never heard of this and I can’t even conceive of it.. everytime my “check engine” light comes on, I’m going to be fearful that rats are just chilling under my hood…. this is so gross… off to buy mothballs…

    • They’re not chilling under the hood – they actually have a computer command center to disable your “check engine” light – so if it doesn’t come on. . .you’re in trouble.

  • We had that a few months ago. Our tenants have little terriers who would start barking at our engines when it was in there, so luckily we never decapitated it. But when we opened the hood a big, fat rat was sitting right on top of the engine on top of its nest made out of newspaper and other crap. It dove back into the engine, presumably out the bottom somewhere. It came back one more time.
    I read about paprika and sprinkled a ton on our engine. He hasn’t been back for a while, but it wast he most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.

  • Happened to me a number of years ago during the winter. A big fat rat chewed through the timing belt and was rewarded by being crushed in between the former location of the belt and fan belt (I think, I’m no mechanic). I was not cheap to fix and the guys at the VW shop actually drew straws to see who had to do the work (no kidding). After that, I went on a crusade using those shoe-box looking zap traps. Killed 19 rats in three weeks and I haven’t had any problems since (knock on wood).

  • thank god our alley is filled with alley cats. even though its filled with trash, i haven’t ever seen a rat back there.

    • bfinpetworth

      Ditto. I worship the lady who feeds all the alley cats on my block. One of the cats likes to sleep under my deck at night. I had a possum problem that I eliminated and haven’t seen any pests in a while now.

  • Many years ago my father caught a cat in his radiator fan. Many days dead, before discovering it by smell.

  • I had this problem for a couple of years in Adams Morgan and had to have my engine cleaned twice at the dealership. Check near where you are parking for a dirt yard or park. Rats burrow underground, and when there’s food around, it is almost impossible to eliminate them completely without isolating their burrows. The problem didn’t stop in my alley until one of the neighbors built a wooden fence around her back yard, which kept the rats from being able to leave her yard as easily.

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