Today I am making my comments before the questions. Every spring I get numerous e-mails about squirrels, mice, groundhogs, woodchucks, rabbits and unidentified chewing critters. And every year, when I answer one reader's query, I get scads of suggested solutions — some clever and some not so much. Here are samples from my inbox.
Q: Regarding rodents building nests in car engines, I had a big rodent nest that I had to chip out by hand. Very nasty. I then took the car to the repair shop. They suggested peppermints. I melted 15 red/white peppermints in 2 cups of hot water and put the mixture into a spray bottle. A quick spray into each wheel well when putting the car into the garage has worked wonders. No more critters, and it smells good.
Q: The problem of rodents chewing wires is not isolated. They are attracted to the soybean-based insulation in newer vehicles. There is a solution that works. Bounce dryer sheets have a smell that rodents find offensive. It works in campers and on the dashboards of seldom-used machinery. They are Inexpensive and contain no poisons.
Q: Rodents got me twice at a cost of $500 each time (my insurance deductible). They not only ate wiring, they filled the inner wheel wells with nesting materials and had babies. One died in the air intake vent and made for a smelly long trip. I was able to evacuate them with peppermint oil spray; they hate it. A GM mechanic suggested Messina Squirrel Stopper and cayenne pepper. Spray the wiring and then sprinkle it around nearby parts. It looks bad, and future mechanics might need to hose it off. But the problem has been solved on my last two vehicles.
Q: As for squirrels, I have good luck using mothballs to keep rabbits from under my wheelchair ramp. I think it will work for other mammals. It's easy to try.
Q: If you have a problem with varmints chewing on engine components, the best answer is to get all the junk out of your garage and store your car where it was meant to be stored. And once the car is in there, keep the door closed. It's a simple answer, except for hoarders.
Q: Squirrels are not endangered. They are urban vermin — cute, but vermin. Kill them and empty their nests. When they started nibbling on the wiring of my GTO, I shot them. I allowed my cats out at night. They found their nests and I killed the rest of them. Killing them is 100% effective. Haven't seen one since I started. I spent less than $30 in ammunition.
A: While I offer the other suggestions without comment, I must point out that in many cities, discharging a firearm might get rid of the squirrels in your driveway, but it also will bring the police to your front door.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to email@example.com.