An AOL Autos reader, Andrea Preziotti from Brooklyn, N.Y., wrote us about a problem with large carpenter ants in and on her 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV. They infiltrated the heating and air-conditioning system. (She has documented her ordeal on her blog, here, which actually resulted in her getting a new car from the dealer when she showed the ants were in the car when she bought it.) Her dealer initially suggested a chemical fumigation of the car, but she did not feel comfortable with that. I have found several methods of ridding ants, which I will outline here, as well as the ways to prevent an infestation if you live in a spot that is prone to insect and rodent invasion.
Getting rid of ants
First, what causes ant infestation? According to several reports I read, the main cause is usually food or something sweet left inside the vehicle. The ants smell this and find a way into the vehicle. Then, because the food source is close, the insects set up shop in the form of an ant colony. If you set up bait in the form of peanut butter laced with boric acid, you will likely kill the colony. What happens is the worker ants will feed on the laced peanut butter, carry it back to the colony to feed other colony members resulting in the Queen, workers and larva dying.
Another way to kill ants is to close up the vehicle tight and set off a bug bomb inside. Some people might not like this method because the vehicle interior will stink for a few days, but it should kill the colony. You will probably want to run the climate control system on high for a few days with the windows open to air out the system and the car. After the colony has been eradicated, you will want to spray an ant repellent on the tires, rocker panels, around the doors, cowl area; trunk deck and anywhere else ants might find a way inside the vehicle from the ground. Oh, and keep the vehicle clean of food, including chip and cookie crumbs.
Rats! What the heck?
Rodents are not just a nuisance, they are destructive to cars and trucks. I have personally repaired vehicles that have been damaged by rogue rodents. These furry little cuties know how to tear up a car. Rodents either find their way under the hood to make a nest or get inside the vehicle through the duct air inlet. Typically, rats, mice and red squirrels set up house in the form of a nest, and then start feeding on the vehicle's wiring, stripping the insulation away to make soft bedding for their nest. Whole wiring harnesses have been totally destroyed as a result of these hungry little terrors.
Additionally, we get many reports of vehicle's duct systems being totally blocked with nesting and bedding materials as a result of mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks (take your pick) setting up shop. Prevention? Cats are great deterrent to rodents, not just as a predator, but also the smell of a cat (and/or it's urine) will cause rodents to steer clear of that house/garage or barn. If you don't have a cat, but know rodents are around, mothballs around the car when it's in the garage, or rodent poison will be effective.
One owner we heard about reported that she had an opossum take up residence in her garage and start feeding on her car. She tried everything to remove the unwanted resident. Finally, she stuffed rags in the door and window seals, started the car and let it run for a long time, asphyxiating the varmint. I do not suggest this for obvious safety reasons, but I found it to be an interesting solution to the problem.
Some vehicles give unobstructed access to critters through fresh-air intake to the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning) system. On vehicles built in such fashion, rodents can easily get up into the duct system and set up house. In such a case, the repair tech must find a way to block the air inlet without inhibiting airflow. Usually, an aluminum screen works just fine. Rodent infestation in duct systems can result in having to completely remove the duct system to eradicate the offending residents! That very expensive work indeed.
Camping and Porcupines
Last year, a friend of mine invited me out to his campground to do some turkey hunting. Before we bedded down for the night, he went out to his truck and surrounded it with an orange plastic snow fence, I asked why? "Porcupines" he responded. "What do you mean?" I asked. He told me that porcupines were notorious for eating the wiring, hoses and anything that was loose on the underside of his truck. It had cost him $700 to rewire his truck and repair damaged hoses eaten by the porcupines. Orange snow fence stopped the invaders.
Will my car insurance cover this?
So, what do you do if your car sustains serious wiring damage from rodents? Check your insurance policy coverage. Often, the comprehensive coverage portion of your vehicle insurance will cover such damage. But don't assume anything. Closely scrutinize your insurance policy before paying for any repairs.
'Til next time ... Keep Rollin'