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What’s the deal with squirrels wreaking havoc under the hood?

A number of car owners in London, Ont., are wondering why this year’s crop of squirrels are wreaking havoc on their vehicles’ engines, costing them hundreds of dollars in repairs after rodents chewed through wiring under their hoods.

“The first time I noticed anything was after lifting my hood and noticing the engine cover was being gnawed away at,” said Anna Chamberlain who first spent $700 repairing her car’s damaged wiring harness last summer.

It looked like teeth marks from a rodent of some kind, she said.

Then, last month, she popped the hood of her car again while she was parked outdoors at work. She was surprised to find piles of branches laid out on top of her engine.

It cost Anna Chamberlain $700 to repair the damage to her car after a rodent chewed through the vehicle's wiring harness.
It cost Chamberlain $700 to repair the damage to her car after a rodent chewed through the vehicle’s wiring harness. (Submitted by Anna Chamberlain)

“I looked under the hood and there was a bed of pine boughs that you or I could have lied down on and had a nap,” she laughed. “It was that thick.”

Chamberlain said two co-workers had similar problems. It cost one of them $3,000 to repair.

It’s definitely squirrels, said Chamberlain’s mechanic, Dean Watson of Dean Watson’s Auto Repairs.

“You can tell by the size of the nests they’re building,” he said. “We’ve had many customers in the last five to six weeks with the same issue as Anna Chamberlain.

“It’s not as bad as people taking catalytic converters, but it’s getting there,” said Watson.

Are the wires tasty?

“Are the squirrels lacking something in their diet?” he asked. “Why all of a sudden are they going under the hoods of vehicles and chewing off wiring harnesses. I don’t understand it.”

The squirrels are often after the plastic covering, said Ben Dantzer, a University of Michigan biology associate professor who specializes in rodents.

“Whether they’re getting something tasteful, it’s hard to say,” he said.

Wires may contain sodium salts, which can be attractive to squirrels, although some companies are now producing wires that will actually repel small animals.

Meanwhile, both Watson and Chamberlain suggest using some home remedies.

Try sprinkling cayenne pepper over your engine, said Watson.

Dean Watson of Dean Watson's Auto Repair, says in the last three months he's seen about eight cars where a squirrel has chewed through the vehicle's wiring harness.
Dean Watson of Dean Watson’s Auto Repair says that in the last three months, he’s seen about eight cars damaged after a squirrel chewed through the wiring harness. (Submitted by Dean Watson)

“Do it every two or three days. Some people mix it with some type of water solution and then boom, they don’t bother it anymore cause they hate cayenne pepper.”

Chamberlain has been testing peppermint oil and dryer sheets, and suggests “dipping cotton balls in peppermint oil and scattering them underneath the hood. Also using dryer sheets and shoving them near your engine so they’re turned away by that.”

Anna Chamberlain recently discovered a nest of cedar boughs on her engine, after she'd already paid $700 to fix chewed up wires.
Chamberlain recently discovered a nest of pine boughs on her engine after she had already paid $700 to fix chewed-up wires. (Submitted by Anna Chamberlain)

London Mornings7:09Squirrels are causing hundreds of dollars in damage to car wiring

London Morning host Rebecca Zandbergen unravels the mystery of why the wiring in Anna Chamberlain’s car was destroyed. Zandbergen turned to Chamberlain’s mechanic Dean Watson to find out nesting squirrels that are wreaking havoc on cars throughout the Forest City.

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