Well, not the entire car, but apparently enough of the essential wiring to kill the battery and various other essential engine components. Apparently an industrious set of mice made a nest in the engine compartment of my Audi TT while I was on vacation and proceeded to chew through some of the wiring and miscellaneous insulation. If I had known that cheese-flavored wiring would have brought about this mishap, I would never have selected that option when I purchased the car. Who knew?
When I started the car on December 27 after over a week of no operation while I was away on vacation, the Check Engine light came on and stayed on. Otherwise, though, the car showed no indication of a problem. On the advice of the Audi service department at the dealership, I made an appointment for January 13 and continued to drive it.
On January 4, the engine hunted for idle by jumping from 500 to 1500 rpm once per second, so I didn’t drive it to work. When I tried to start it that evening, the battery was dead. The next day I had it towed in to the dealership, assuming the warranty would cover whatever the problem might be.
After charging the battery, one of the junior service techs plugged it into a diagnostic computer and determined that the problem was more complex than what he had been trained to handle. When the head tech finally looked at it Friday afternoon, he found a mice nest in the engine compartment. When I last talked to him, he hadn’t investigated enough to determine if there were still mice in it.
Though Acts of Small Rodents are not covered by the otherwise extensive Audi 4-year warranty, the comprehensive part of my auto insurance covered it, so I should be out only the $250 deductible. Well, that and at least a week without my car. The State Farm insurance claims rep whom I spoke with was very helpful and sympathetic. He said he couldn’t believe it when he got his first case like this one. After about the hundredth one he’s seen come through their regional office, though, it became fairly routine.
Without the benefits of a CSI investigator and DNA testing, I probably won’t be able to identify the source of the rodent. There is a big field next to the parking lot at work, and I park about fifty feet from the field. I have seen a rabbit, a cat, and a mouse in that field (obviously, not at the same time having afternoon tea). Assuming he/she/they could survive the 20 minute drive home, I could well have brought home my car’s nemesis. Of course, the damage might have been completed in a single day’s work while my car was parked at the office.
However, I suspect the damage was done in my garage, since I found some shredded insulation and plastic on the floor below where the engine would normally be. I also found a couple rodent turds. The size and shape indicates a house mouse. While all this stuff could have been transported home before falling off the engine in the garage, it’s more likely that these artifacts were created there during the attack.
You might be wondering, “but what about those giant cats of yours that you write about“? Either they aren’t natural mousers or I haven’t been letting them go into the garage often enough. The cats go down there for about an hour every evening, but the mice probably hear them bounding down the stairs, thus allowing them plenty of time to scurry for cover before the lads can score a dessert.
Update 3/5/2005: Read the exciting conclusion to my tale of woe and lamentation! See if you guess how many thousands of dollars my insurance company paid to have my car fixed. I can almost guarantee your guess will be too low!
Update 5/13/2007:Last week I received some info on rodent control and cleanup from the Alameda County Vector Control Services Department as part of a ballot for increasing their funding. Obviously, I voted for increasing their funding.
The tips for preventing infestation were fairly obvious:
- Seal up holes inside and outside the home to keep rodents out
- Trap rodents around the home to help reduce the population
The info on cleaning up after an infestation was more detailed.
Before cleaning a space, ventilate the area by opening the doors and windows for at least 30 minutes to allow fresh air to enter the area and to remove potentially contaminated air from the area. Use cross-ventilation and leave the area during the airing-out period.
When you begin cleaning, it is important that you do not stir up dust by sweeping or vacuuming droppings, urine, or nesting materials.
- Wear rubber, latex, or vinyl gloves.
- Wear a respiratory protection device such as an approved half-faced mask
- Spray the urine and droppings with a disinfectant and let soak 5 minutes.
- Use a paper towel to pick up the urine and droppings, and dispose of the waste in the garbage
- Clean and disinfect the whole area.
- Remove gloves, and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water.
And here’s a tip for finding out how they get in to your car and where they go. Sprinkle baby powder where ever you think a mouse might walk, then check for paw prints in the morning. Also, if you find a hole that they are coming through, then depending on the surface and the visibility of the hole (i.e., do you care if people see the patch job), steel wool is very good for flexibly patching a hole so a mouse can’t come through.
Update 10/27/2007: A post on Boing Boing titled “Clever non-lethal mousetraps” includes a photo of a scaled down version of a mouse trap described by one of the commenters below. As several of the commenters wrote, the glass in the picture is much too small to prevent a mouse from jumping out. The most useful info in that Boing Boing post is in the comments, so I recommend browsing through all of them.