FRISCO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - As temperatures cool down, your car could face a pricey threat caused by a culprit you might not expect.
Whatever messed with Paco Aguirre's van was bold, cunning and quick. But one thing he was not, was discreet.
"When you first open the hood, you can see feet marks everywhere, you can see feces everywhere," Aguirre said.
Aguirre said a rat nibbled right through the cables before eating his air filter.
The rat rendezvous was not cheap. Repairs cost Aguirre more than $700.
"It's incredible," Aguirre said. "I would never think that a rodent would cause that much damage."
Consumers who own newer vehicles could face the same issue.
In recent years, some carmakers have opted for soy wiring, which is a cheaper alternative.
Not only is soy eco-friendly, apparently it's also rodent-friendly.
"When you use a soy-based oil, now all these wires smell like food," said Travis Gates, an entomologist with ABC Home & Commercial Services.
Gates said soy serves as the gateway, leading rodents to other auto parts.
"We'll also find evidence they chewed on the insulation for the radiator, hoses, sometimes they'll chew into the tank with wiper fluid for a drink, they can tell there's liquid inside," Gates said.
Some of the biggest names in the auto industry have faced class action lawsuits over this issue.
Customers of Toyota, Honda and Hyundai claimed the carmakers knew the wiring was defective, arguing their warranties should cover the damage.
But every case was dismissed, with the companies asserting they were not responsible for the rodents.
Aguirre is now taking a proactive approach. He's leaving fake snakes on his property in hopes of keeping his car intact.
"I got frustrated," Aguirre said. "I never expected that, never encountered that before."
Regardless where you park your vehicle, your car is at risk if it is parked in a place rodents can reach.
Leaves and garbage are popular nesting places for rodents, so move any piles away from your home or car.
Toyota, Hyundai and Honda all issued statements, refuting the claim they are responsible for rodent damage.
"Rodent damage to vehicle wiring occurs across the industry and is not related to a specific brand or model," said Tania Saldana, a spokeswoman for Toyota. "We are currently not aware of any scientific evidence that demonstrates rodents are attracted to automotive wiring because of alleged soy-based content. As such, we have no plans to change the materials used in our vehicles' wiring."
"It is not a new phenomenon for rats or other rodents to chew the wiring of vehicles (or, for that matter, wood or drywall) as they seek shelter," said Michael Stewart, a spokesman for Hyundai Motor America. "This often occurs during the winter months and is typically a result of the location where the vehicle is parked and its duration there. The materials that make up the wire coating of Hyundai vehicles are not attracting rats or causing them to do any damage that isn't common among all makes, models and wiring materials."
Chris Martin, a spokesman for American Honda Motor Co., Inc., issued the following statement:
"It is a long established fact that rodents are drawn to chew on electrical wiring in homes, cars, or anywhere else where they may choose to nest. Honda introduced a rodent-deterrent tape a few years ago to help combat this age-old issue for customers who live in areas where rodents have caused prior damage. This tape is available through Honda dealers and can be wrapped around wiring if a customer so chooses. It contains Capsaicin, an active component of chili peppers."
"Honda sources parts, including electrical wiring and wire harnesses, from several different suppliers who each have their own proprietary formula for wire insulation and wire harnesses. Honda is not aware of studies or information indicating that any of the wiring insulation or other components used for Honda vehicles are derived from substances that attract rodents or increase their propensity to chew on wiring or other components in engine compartments. It is Honda's understanding that rodents may seek shelter in engine components and once inside, can cause damage as a natural result of their need to chew and use material that has been chewed for nesting. Honda is not aware of any information suggesting rodents use wire insulation as a food source."
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