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OPINION | Flip Putthoff: Ounce of prevention keeps pests away

by Flip Putthoff | May 23, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
An ounce of prevention may keep critters from gnawing on vehicle wires resulting in expensive repairs. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

It's easy to love wildlife. That is, until some four-legged furry critters start costing you money.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth awhile back when I headed out the door, coffee mug in hand, eager to get another work day going. Sliding into the seat and turning the ignition key, the car started all right, but the engine let out a slow groan. Toeing the gas pedal, the motor revved oh so slowly, like it was on life support with only two cylinders firing instead of four.

I was barely able to back out of the carport, summon a tow truck and phone the dealership to tell them one sick ride was on its way to their repair shop. The service manager said he'd call when they figured out the problem.

Luckily my trusty old Dodge pickup saved the day. The odometer just turned over 252,000 miles, and the gas mileage isn't the greatest. About the only time I drive it is to pull my boat four miles to Beaver Lake or haul canoes and kayaks.

The truck fired right up, and I was off to the salt mine before my coffee got cold. That afternoon my phone pinged. It was the service manager texting me a picture of some frayed wires on the engine. Turned out a field mouse, pack rat or similar critter had chewed the wiring on the ignition coil.

Fixing it cost a couple hundred bucks, which isn't all that bad in the world of auto repairs. It could have been worse, the service guy said, if a toothy critter had chewed some other wiring.

"This happens more than you'd think," he said when I went to pick up my car. "We get about two vehicles every month like this."

Crazy thing is, the wiring insulation on some cars is vegetable based, the service guy said. "Critters can smell it."

His advice was to take action to prevent it from happening again, particularly since my shack-ri-la is out in the country, home to a menagerie of four-legged fur balls.

Next morning I was at the farm store shopping for items to kill or repel rodents. I stocked up on some repellent granules and a can of repellent spray. A bit of research showed that rodents don't like mint, which was a main ingredient in the two things I bought.

This wasn't my first rodent versus vehicle rodeo. Many moons ago, a critter chewed my truck's wiring, also gnawing on the ignition coil. I've been parking cars in the same carport for decades, so hopefully it will be that long or never before it happens again.

I started asking others what they do about this. One neighbor said he puts pans of ammonia on the carport floor under the engine. A computer search recommended moth balls in the engine compartment. Another tip was to periodically spray a cleaner such as Pine-Sol on the engine.

The best tip came from a mechanic friend. Not sure he was serious or joking when he said coyote urine works well.

So I've got fingers and toes crossed that rodent repellent is the ticket. Otherwise I may have to run down a coyote that's ready for a restroom break.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at [email protected]

Print Headline: Fine dining for critters not always nuts, berries


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