The Year of the Rat? RAC Say Critters are Causing Damage

2023 was declared the 'Unofficial Year of the Rodent' by the RAC due to a significant increase in animal-related car breakdowns. The conventional notion of a car breakdown leading to a hefty repair bill is challenged by new data from the RAC, revealing that it's not always major engine failures or head gasket issues causing financial strain. Surprisingly, small creatures like mice, rats, and foxes have emerged as unexpected culprits, leading to substantial problems for vehicle owners.

The Data has Been Studied

Upon reviewing thousands of breakdown reports dating back to 2016, the RAC observed a noteworthy surge in breakdowns caused by rodents in 2023. The number of incidents rose by 55%, from 196 in the first 11 months of 2018 to a record 303 during the same period in 2023. This increase in breakdowns caused by rodents exhibits a seasonal pattern, with a 66% rise from summer to autumn over the last five years, underscoring the severity of the issue during specific times of the year.

Rats are the Biggest Culprit

Rats, in particular, accounted for a significant portion of animal damage incidents, causing 51% of the total cases. Their voracious appetite led them to gnaw on fuel hoses, infest engine bays, and damage headlights. Foxes were also reported causing troubles by chewing on speed sensor wiring, windscreen wiper blades, and brake hoses underneath cars.

Drivers Can Mitigate the Chances of Being a Victim

Leaving food inside or near unattended vehicles attracts rodents, with open bags of pet feed stored in garages serves as a lure for mice and rats. These rodents damage essential components because they are attracted to the peanut and soy-based oils and waxes found in vehicle piping.

Vehicles left unattended for extended periods may become homes for rodents seeking warmth and security. RAC patrols shared unusual experiences, from finding squirrels storing nuts in air boxes to retrieving a baby pet python residing behind a wheel trim.

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Alice Simpson advises checking vehicles if left unused for a week or more to mitigate the risk of animal damage risk. Recommendations include ensuring no food is left inside, storing foodstuff in airtight containers, and being attentive to unusual smells or persistent dashboard warning lights. Even starting the car could help deter uninvited visitors, so even if you do not need to go somewhere or are too unwell to leave the house, getting the car started is a good idea. A neighbour or relative could help if you are laid up for any period if you make them aware of the situation.

Contact Your Insurance Company if Damage Occurs

In case of suspected vehicle damage, contacting a reputable mobile mechanic or using the RAC's Approved Garage Network for quality repairs is recommended. While car insurance covers animal damage, it's advisable to assess the extent of the damage before making a claim.