You Dirtier Rat!

Today, CBC Radio’s morning show in Ottawa carried a story about a local Honda owner who’s having trouble with squirrels eating the soy-based plastic in his car. “Meals on Wheels,” some wag named the piece. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Squirrel eating berry from flame bush.

Squirrel enjoying non-soy-based berry in lieu of wire insulation.

Now, this played neatly into my own biases against squirrels, and my views which really are not fit for family conversations. But in looking for the link to this piece, I naively Googled “squirrels eating soy-based plastic.” That oughta do it, right?

Wrong. I had to add “CBC Radio” to get the story I heard. There are other stories. Many others. And this is not just a Squirrel Issue: It appears to be a Rodent-Wide Problem.

Here’s one report from Jan 2017 about rats chewing on Hondas, Toyotas, and Subarus.

Here’s a comprehensive piece from Feb 2017 that ups the ante to include Kia, Hyundai, and Volvo (linking to a site detailing class-action suits against car companies) and that offers on-the-ground tips:

  • On how to trap rats and mice dining out in your engine compartment
  • On how to identify rat droppings in your engine compartment
  • On whether peppermint oil or mothballs will deter the little beggars from dining or dropping

Here’s an article from Jan 2018 from a funky source: Hackaday.

They’re putting soy in your wires, man.

Here’s another from Apr 2018 from a less funky but slightly plaintive source: The Globe and Mail.

Why is there soy in my electric wiring?

And here are some helpful hints from Google for related searches:

  • Cars with soy-based wiring (OK, I get this request.)
  • Cars without soy-based wiring (I really like this guy – he asks for what he really wants.)
  • List of cars with soy-based wiring (This guy is subtle. I can’t tell whether he wants such a car, or not.)
  • Does Ford/Nissan/Toyota/Subaru use soy-based wiring? (I’m hoping these guys are in the shopping phase, and not the “I’m in the driveway and my car won’t start” phase.)
  • Does Toyota *still* use soy-based wiring? (Emphasis added, but can’t you just hear the frustration?)

Helpful, yes, but also somewhat alarming, due to the sheer number and variety of searches. This is not a small problem. That impression is substantiated by just a little reading.

In researching this, I was blown away by the number of complaints on websites, articles and forums of people reporting rodent damage on their newer cars. To be honest, both of my cars that were attacked are newer (2015 Honda, $2,400+ in damages, and 2012 Hyundai, $9,300+ in damages). – Hackaday

There are dark comments about bio-plastics being cheaper to produce. Blame the manufacturers’ heedless pursuit of lower costs! It’s hard to argue with that suspicion-cum-analysis.

But some suggest that it’s a deliberate manufacturing strategy, using tasty (well, edible at least) insulation, thereby creating recurring work for dealerships to repair damage not covered under the warranty. Now that would be nefarious. Talk about your rats.

But no, let’s not be paranoid. It must just be that manufacturers are trying to be eco-conscious.

In an effort to be more friendly to the environment, companies are making more and more automotive components out of renewable materials, such as soy or even cannabis. Unfortunately, a side effect of building cars out of edible materials is that rodents are eating them, reports the Detroit Free Press.
The Drive (emphasis added)

I can only imagine what the side effects will be of rodents of all stripes getting into cannabis-based materials. Stay tuned . . .


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10 Responses to You Dirtier Rat!

  1. Yikes! One more reason to keep our old — but still great… — Toyota.

  2. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – who knew cars have gone vegan??

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – LOL. Who knew they *could* go vegan?

      • John Whitman says:

        Maybe it would be more accurate to say that cars can now be part of a vegan diet. Just imagine being stuck in the snow somewhere and being able to eat your car’s wiring in order to survive.

        Personally though, I prefer the winter survival pack that I keep in my SUV during the winter. That survival pack consists of granola bars.

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          John – Yes, that sounds better: cars OK for a vegan diet. Sort of. My view of granola bars is that they’re not much tastier than the soy-based insulation of my imagination, but they’re definitely more convenient and accessible.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    A friend in Guelph had mice build a nest in his car engine. They chewed through the wiring. Cost him a good passel of money for new wiring plus a new alternator. Come to find out, the attraction for the mice was the soy-based wiring.

    I had never heard of that before.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – No, it was a first for me too, but there’s a lot of angst about it online, as you can imagine. Not hardly funny. I expect it will get fixed after a class-action lawsuit or two.

  4. We have a porcupine in our large and partially wooded backyard that seems to have made itself increasingly drunk on fermented apples over the past few days. I wonder if the pile of discarded apples is protecting the car as the more choice feast. I think we must transport “The Donald” before it can walk steadily enough to reach the driveway where the car is parked.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Ooh. A porcupine. (Can’t quite get the naming logic. :-)) We have skunks. Wanna trade?

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