Home [Not So] Sweet Home: Critters

One late-fall day years ago, I happened to see a squirrel run along the length of the driver’s side of my father’s parked ‘91 Oldsmobile station wagon, and disappear into the wheel well. Unsure and not able to see where exactly the squirrel had gone off to, I sent a text my father’s way, informing him of the rogue squirrel’s path and a suggestion along the lines of checking over the car before his next trip.

On Saturday morning, a squirrel was not found, but this image was sent in its stead:

Within less than 48 hours (I had borrowed it the day before the squirrel disappeared), the engine bay was filled with black walnuts. A few Home Depot buckets later (to give you a little frame of reference on exactly how many walnuts were really stuffed in that engine bay), the walnuts were accounted for and it was safe to start and operate the wagon. However, had he tried to start it without having checked first, he would have experienced some significant damage.

Here at DeNooyer, we’ve seen and had our fair share of critter encounters personally and/or due to our customer’s unfortunate luck. Everything from mice popping up from duct work, nests, chewed wires and the remains of animals have been found and handled. 

And as the weather begins to cool, the surrounding wildlife is also preparing for the cold temperatures, and could very well leave you with a freeloading, dangerous roommate for the span of the winter months ahead, which is why we’re here, to tell you why they may call your car or truck home, what to look for and what to do from there.

So, what attracts them to your vehicle?

  1. Food. This includes trash bin in your garage or by your driveway, unsealed dog food bags, food in your vehicle or parking/living near farms
  2. Soy-based wiring coatings (not as likely, but it does happen)
  3. Makes for a unique hiding place and cozy abode

What are the signs you have a critter calling your vehicle home?

  1. Footprints inside the hood/across the engine cover
  2. Abandoned nests (the offending animal doesn’t tend to hang out)
  3. Sections or pieces of the hood insulation missing or frayed (one customer was missing her entire bit of insulation except the part pinned down into the hood–basically just leaving the “crust” of the insulation…)
  4. Animal excrement and nests found in air filter compartments during inspection
  5. Putrid odor like decay, increasing in strength and offensiveness when fan speed is adjusted or the heat is on
  6. Electrical issues; Difficulty starting/operating the vehicle

So you have a critter in your vehicle (or suspect one). What next?

  1. Remove any nesting materials found
  2. Removing any remains of animals found (recommending gloves, trash/plastic bag and potentially something to scrape bits of animals off surfaces as animals tend to especially stick to hot surfaces)
  3. Mothballs hung in and around the engine bay (highly recommended)
  4. Irish Spring bar soap hung in and around the engine bay (also highly recommended)
  5. Removing any potential food sources away from your vehicle as well as out of your parked vehicle
  6. Rodent/critter-repellent products such as tapes, sprays and oils
  7. Schedule an appointment with our Service Team and we’ll do the dirty work.

When all else fails and you don’t want to have to endure this experience alone, we are always here to help. And sometimes, there may be a few of us waiting to catch something when we have to open that hood to get things started.


“For the Miles Ahead” is the DeNooyer Chevrolet blog series dedicated to demystifying automotive maintenance and service needs for the friends, family and customers of DeNooyer. If you have a question about service maintenance or car-related troubles, write to Motor Maven at MotorMaven@denooyer.com, and it could be included in the next publishing of “Ask Motor Maven.”

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