How to Keep Mice Out of Cars

Use these tips to prevent damage to your vehicle.

It can happen before you know it.

You park your car or truck in your garage. Put your classic car in storage. Store an extra vehicle outside. By the time you discover a mouse or rat lives in the vicinity, it may be too late.

Within just 24 hours, a mouse or rat can crawl into your vehicle and wreak havoc as it gnaws its way through insulation and wires. If the car, truck or van offers a dark, warm escape from the outside elements, it may even become a spot for these rodents to nest. (Ewww!)

Risks from Rodents

While this type of infestation may induce squeamishness, it also carries with it risks to both your vehicle and health. Some damage from mice, rats and other mammals will be cosmetic, but when animals chew through electrical system wiring or nest in key mechanical areas, the damage may get in the way of a vehicle’s safe operation.

A rodent infestation also places you at risk for diseases including the hantavirus. Carried by several rodents, including the deer mouse, white-footed mouse, rice rat and cotton rat in North America, the hantavirus causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in humans. The hantavirus is often found in rodent droppings or nests. This rare disease is fatal in about 50% of cases. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches and fatigue and appear one to five weeks after exposure.

How to Keep Mice Out of Your Car

To avoid the risks of disease and vehicle damage, keep mice out of cars. Among the most effective methods:

  • Avoid parking or storing cars or trucks in areas with rodent problems, especially wooded areas or tall grass. Instead park or store your car on gravel or pavement — and placing a bucket of mothballs under it or sprinkling fox urine powder around it might help, too.
  • Remove any food sources from vehicles.
  • Place deterrents such as cedar wood, dog or human hair, or peppermint oil inside.
  • Set traps inside the vehicle to catch any rodents that enter — or try reputable sound repellant devices.
  • Open the hood of a parked car to eliminate the dark, warm environment that mammals seek when building a nest.

If you must store a car outdoors, setting up an aluminum perimeter around the base may serve as an effective barrier. Research for protecting fields from mice found mice could not scale the metal.

Cleaning a Car Infested by Mice

Because humans contract the hantavirus by breathing it in, it’s important to use extreme care in cleaning a car that has been infested by mice or rats. Don’t sweep or vacuum rodent urine or droppings as airborne particles may carry the hantavirus. Instead, clean any infected areas with liquid disinfectant.

  1. Wear rubber or plastic gloves.
  2. Mix 1½ cups of household bleach with a gallon of water and spray the affected areas until they are very wet.
  3. Allow the bleach mixture to soak into the affected area for 5 minutes.
  4. Wipe the area with a paper towel. Throw the paper towel in the trash.
  5. Sponge the affected area with bleach solution.
  6. Create a second batch of bleach solution and soak gloves in it before removing them.
  7. Wash hands with soap and warm water after removing gloves.

In the case of extreme infestations, an auto detailer may use an ozone-generating machine to deplete the area of breathable oxygen to kill rodents and bacteria. Vehicles are then steamed, disassembled, washed and reassembled.

Know Your Auto Insurance Coverage

Not all auto insurance policies will cover auto damage from rodents. (At Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance, rodent damage is included as part of the Comprehensive coverage in your auto insurance policy.) Check with your insurance company to understand your coverage.