Breakdowns caused by rodents have risen by 55 per cent from 196 incidents in the first 11 months of 2018 to a record 303 over the same period in 2023, RAC figures show.
The problem worsens significantly as the seasons change, averaging a 66 per cent increase from summer to autumn over the last five years.
This year, patrol reports show rats had the biggest appetite for automobile parts and caused half (51 per cent) of all animal damage incidents by gnawing fuel hoses, infesting engine bays and damaging headlights.
Patrols also reported numerous cases of foxes chewing speed sensor wiring, windscreen wiper blades and brake hoses underneath cars.
Food left inside or in the vicinity of an unattended vehicle is a sure-fire way to attract unwanted visitors.
Open bags of pet feed stored in garages can lure mice and rats into a vehicle’s piping where they’re drawn to their very own ‘biting point’ – peanut and soy-based oils and waxes used on parts including diesel injector wires, gearbox insulation and primer bulbs.
If left standing and unattended for long periods, vehicles can even become home to rodents and lost pets alike as they seek a bit of warmth and security.
Alister Hughes, an RAC patrol in Cornwall, remembers an incident from this year where a cat managed to disconnect a battery in a Peugeot van.
“The curious cat crawled onto the engine, disconnecting the quick release battery terminal in the process.
“The van wouldn’t start, but the biggest giveaway was all the leftover fur and the neighbour telling me they’d been calling their cat the previous evening.”
Minimising the risk:
RAC Breakdown spokesperson Alice Simpson said: “To reduce the risk of animal damage, check your car if it hasn’t been driven for a week or more. The best advice is to make sure no food – for pets or humans – is left inside. Also check for unusual smells in the vehicle and be mindful of any dashboard warning lights that don’t disappear after a minute or two. Any foodstuff in garages should be kept in airtight containers or locked in metal bins.
“If you suspect your vehicle has sustained animal damage, whether that’s chewed cables, clogged air filters or a nibbled diesel priming bulb, you should contact a reputable mobile mechanic or use the RAC’s Approved Garage Network to find a local garage that provides quality repairs. Car insurance does cover animal damage, but it’s worth checking before you claim to see if the damage justifies the expense.”