Rats in the car!
March 5, 2007 8:18 PM   Subscribe

Twice in 2 months rats have chewed the transmission cable in my girlfriend's car, how do we get them to stop!

The car is parked in Boston's Back Bay overnight in a parking spot in the alley behind where we live. It's been parked there overnight since 2003 and this is the 1st year that we've had this problem. Twice in 2 months rats (or mice) have chewed through the transmission cable and we've had to have the car towed and repaired. We've also started to find food debris left in the engine compartment from the rodents (some really weird nasty crap).

We want to deter the rats from getting into the engine compartment and undercarriage, and my google-fu has turned up contradictory suggestions such as moth-ball & peppermint essence or various sprays.

If you've been in a alley in Back Bay on trash day, you'll know that it's a mess of trash and food stuffs from ripped open trash bags, hence the rats. Plus. we've neighbouring buildings that improperly store their rubbish, and one of the landlords of one of rental units in our building insists on using a cheap barrel for their trash that the tenants that is left at the back door and it never seems to be sealed, leading to numerous buffets for rodents. We've asked the landlord numerous times about this to no affect, the city won't ticket the owner but will ticket the building which doesn't discourage the owner or tenants... and so far phoning the city about the rats and the trash has been futile. So getting rid of the rats is going to be friggin' tough.

So how can we try and keep the rats out of the car or rat-proof the cables or the car?
posted by zaphod to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Was looking out the window the other night and was wondering why the neighbour exterior light was flashing off and on. It's motion activated and the rats were setting it off ....
posted by zaphod at 8:43 PM on March 5, 2007

Why the hell was I not made aware of the rat & centipede problems of the Boston area??

Perhaps ask the people at the garage? I know it's not in their best interest, but they *might* know of something.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:46 PM on March 5, 2007

Rats can't vomit, so they are hyper-suspicious about food they do eat, and there is evidence they will pass along socially their learned aversions to food sources. If you can coat the cable in a poison that wouldn't wash off, you'd be golden, and quite possibly, they'd give your whole car a wide berth thereafter.

So I suggest investing in some foam tape, some strychnine pellets, and some rubber gloves. Work the strychnine pellets into the foam tape, as you spiral wrap the tape around the cable. You might not even have to do the whole thing, thanks to rats being so hypervigilant about food sources. You might put some more strychnine pellets around in the engine compartment, on horizontal surfaces.
posted by paulsc at 9:01 PM on March 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks mathowie for fixing the formatting.

FlamingBore: Due to the population explosion of centiped yuppies the rats have an almost limitless food source and need to gnaw on the car wires to pare down their ever growing teeth ... ;)

The car isn't parked in a garage but behind the building in what is euphemistically labeled a parking spot, we call it "The Pit". So it's out in the open.
posted by zaphod at 9:21 PM on March 5, 2007

You know, this was going down in my grandparent's truck at their farm. Packrats were chewing through the wiring along the truck frame and the truck had to be taken in to the mechanics twice. In the end, they moved the wiring to the other side of gas tank, with the idea that the rats were only chewing through the wiring to get to somewhere else. (Maybe to the engine compartment, where it's warm.) However, after the wires were moved and a few traps were put into the truck frame, the problem went away. Plus, my grandpa tore up and burned the packrat nests in the barns.

Sooo... anywho, I dont think that anecdote helps a whole lot - unless you want me to see if I can get my grandpa to come to Boston and start some fires. Let me know.

(Actually, there might be a helpful hint in there if maybe the rats are trying to get to the hot engine block after you've parked the car? Maybe.)
posted by cusack at 9:28 PM on March 5, 2007

To keep squirrels from eating my fall pumpkins and indian corn cobs, I use an oily spray repellant called Get Away that works fabulously. Squirrels are, after all, just rats with fluffy tails, right? Because it's oily, it's water resistant and stays put. It may just do the trick. Good luck.
posted by dudiggy at 9:55 PM on March 5, 2007

The rats aren't out because there's food. Normally the cat-sized monsters live happily in burrows under the ground, but in Boston's case, the Big Dig uprooted them from their homes and they invaded the city streets en masse. Unfortunately, they're much better survivors than we are, and are wickedly clever bastards to boot. I would guess that they're using your car's innards for nesting materials (that or they've got a sweet tooth for car coolant—if this is the case, let them have at it, since it's deadly poisonous).

When I lived in the Back Bay they were Nazi's about keeping trash inside until the night before trash day, and fines were issued all the time. As you say, however, these fines are issued to the dwelling, not the tenant in particular. I would keep complaining—if the city doesn't get paid for the infractions, they'll eventually go to the owner of the building, and at that point their tenants will most definitely hear about it.

Other than that, I'd just go the simple-route and place peanut-butter laced snap-traps all around the area. And get the car cleaned. Also, if you've got a parking spot behind a building, you could try sub-leasing it, then taking that money and getting a parking pass for the garage under the Common. I'm sure there are plenty of people who live in neighboring buildings that would give their right nut to have a guaranteed parking space in a back alley. Just put up a couple of notices or slip them in the mail slots letting people know there's a spot available.

IIRC, the parking area under the Common cost about $300/mo. for a "working" space (in after 4pm, out before 9am).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:55 AM on March 6, 2007

My parents had a similar problems with field mice and a Honda. The mechanic recommended mothballs - sprinkle them all around "The Pit" - others may be having similar problems but not noticed yet. A word of caution - beware of tracking them into the car or house, the stench of mothballs in a closed car with the heat on is unbearable. YMMV, but they haven't had any more problems.
posted by blackkar at 4:38 AM on March 6, 2007

I lived in 02116 for six years (but just across Colombus Avenue, so South End REPRASENT!) The rats didn't get bad until about 2002, when you could see them running around like little dogs in Copley Square after dusk. As mentioned, they got displaced by the Big Dig, but also by the repair of the George Washington statue in the Public Garden which was, according to the Globe, sitting on top of a burren of 20,000 rats.

Anyway, my neighbors next door ran a very nice B and B out of their bowfront and threw down some pellets called "Rat-Away" every garbage day to keep the little bastards from sticking around and disturbing their guests. They swore by it. Perhaps you could buy some and chuck a few handfuls under the car on Trash Day Eve.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:00 AM on March 6, 2007

I wonder what would happen if you went down to the animal shelter, got six or seven alley cats and put their food and some sort of lodging for them by your car every night? If nothing else it might make for some interesting YouTube fodder.
posted by bkeene12 at 6:24 AM on March 6, 2007

I am not so sure that a cat could take a rat. I would go with foxes instead. Actually the Rat Away stuff sounds pretty good.
posted by caddis at 9:03 AM on March 6, 2007

Response by poster: I think we'll start with the moth balls and escalate as necessary. Unless someone knows that moth balls don't work?
posted by zaphod at 6:58 PM on March 6, 2007

I don't have experience with rats, thankfully, but we had groundhogs under our shed and a box or two of mothballs had little or no effect. A gallon of ammonia on the other hand routed those plant eating bastards. I suppose you could squirt some ammonia up there now and then. It cleans grease as well. You have to love dual use products.
posted by caddis at 7:08 PM on March 6, 2007

I recall this was a recent question answered on Car Talk on NPR. Their site might have some leads.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:25 PM on March 6, 2007

« Older Issues facing physiotherapists in BC?   |   (Persoanlized) Mail Merge Emails Without Outlook Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.