How Do You Stop Squirrels from Nesting in Your Car?

Anyone who’s woken up to chewed wires or nesting materials in their car knows that squirrels can be more than just a backyard nuisance. These agile creatures can cause significant damage to your car engine. 

In this article, we’ll explore why squirrels are attracted to car engines, how to spot the signs of an infestation and offer a comprehensive guide on prevention and management.

Why Are Squirrels Attracted to Car Engines?

Squirrels, as with many small mammals, seek warmth and shelter. The enclosed space of a car engine provides an ideal haven, especially during colder months. Additionally, the materials found in many car engines, such as wires, can be mistaken by squirrels for nesting materials or food sources.

Signs of Squirrel Infestation in Cars:

If squirrels have taken up residence in your car engine, you might notice:

Nesting materials like leaves, twigs, or even shredded paper or cloth.

Chewed wires or rubber components.

Unusual noises, like scratching or scurrying, when you approach the car.

Preventative Measures:

Natural Repellents for Squirrels:

Numerous natural repellents can deter squirrels. Essential oils like peppermint or eucalyptus can be dabbed onto cotton balls and placed around the car. Remember, however, to replace these regularly as the scent fades.

Electronic and Ultrasonic Repellents:

These devices emit a high-pitched sound uncomfortable for squirrels but typically inaudible to humans. Place these near your parking spot for maximum effectiveness. However, research the specific brand’s effectiveness, as not all devices are equal.

Physical Barriers:

Consider investing in rodent-resistant tape or wraps for your wires. Additionally, vehicle covers that fit snugly can act as a deterrent, making it harder for squirrels to access the engine.

Safe Methods and Solutions:

Parking in well-lit areas or spaces with high human traffic can deter squirrels. Regularly cleaning your car’s surroundings, ensuring no food sources are available, and checking your engine compartment regularly can also help.

Dealing with an Existing Infestation:

If you’ve identified an existing squirrel infestation in your car:

Remove nesting materials with gloves.

Consider seeking professional assistance if the damage appears extensive.

Check your car’s functionality to ensure no critical systems have been compromised.

The Squirrel’s Calendar: Mating and Nesting Seasons

Squirrels typically have two mating seasons yearly: one in mid-summer and another in late winter. After mating, female squirrels will search for a safe and warm location to nest as they prepare to give birth.

Depending on the species and region, gestation periods may last from 29 days to nearly 60 days. This means that late spring and early fall can be peak times for newborn squirrels seeking shelter.

Understanding these mating cycles can inform vehicle owners of the most likely times squirrels might seek refuge in their cars.

Cars: A Squirrel’s Unexpected Hideout

Beyond the allure of warmth and shelter, vehicles, especially those infrequently used, provide a quiet and relatively undisturbed environment. 

The residual engine warmth, especially in colder months, can mimic the natural warmth squirrels seek in tree hollows. 

Also, the compact spaces, many hiding nooks, and abundant chewable materials make cars almost irresistible for these creatures.

DIY Ways Of Getting The Squirrels Out:

1. The Open Hood Tactic

One of the simplest ways to discourage squirrels from nesting in your car is to pop the hood. This exposes the dark, warm engine compartment to light and potential predators, making it a less appealing nesting spot. If parking your vehicle for extended periods, keeping the hood open during daylight hours can be a deterrent.

2. Shining the Spotlight: 

Placing a bright LED light or flashlight in the engine compartment or under the vehicle at night can deter squirrels. Remember to ensure that the light source is safe and won’t cause any harm to the vehicle or its components.

3. The Sounds of Deterrence:

Playing a radio near your parked vehicle, especially on talk stations, can be an effective deterrent. The sound of human voices is typically unsettling to wildlife. Alternatively, specific ultrasonic repellents are designed to deter pests, including squirrels, by emitting frequencies unpleasant to their ears.

4. Nature’s Perfumes: Scents to Repel:

Apart from the previously mentioned natural repellents like essential oils, other smells can deter squirrels. Mothballs, for instance, have a strong odor that most pests dislike. 

Placing a few in a mesh bag and positioning them around the vehicle (ensuring they don’t directly touch the vehicle) can act as a repellent. However, use caution, as mothballs contain chemicals harmful to pets and children.

When to Seek Expert Help:

If DIY methods aren’t yielding results or the squirrel infestation becomes a recurrent issue, it might be time to seek professional help. Pest control experts can offer solutions tailored to your specific situation and ensure squirrels are removed humanely. 

Moreover, they can provide insights into long-term preventive strategies tailored to your locale and the specific squirrel species you’re dealing with.

Tips for Long-term Prevention:

A holistic approach is best for long-term squirrel deterrence. This involves:

  • Regularly checking for signs.
  • Using a mix of natural and technological repellents.
  • Being mindful of where and how you park.

While often seen as harmless garden visitors, squirrels can pose a significant risk to car engines. You can safeguard your vehicle by understanding its behavior, recognizing the signs of infestation, and implementing preventative and reactive measures.

A Deeper Dive into Squirrel Behavior:

Squirrels, particularly in urban environments, are adaptable creatures. They’ve evolved over time to exploit the niches and resources urban landscapes offer. 

Cars, especially those parked for extended periods, provide shelter from predators, warmth during colder days, and a hidden space to store food. This behavior is not just about nesting; it’s about survival.

Food Storage: Squirrels have a habit of hoarding food. A car’s engine, with its nooks and crannies, is a secure pantry for them. This behavior increases, particularly in the lead-up to winter, when they’re gathering food supplies.

Teething Relief: Squirrels, especially the young ones, often chew on objects to alleviate the discomfort of their growing teeth. Car wires coated with soy-based materials can sometimes be irresistible to them.

Advanced Prevention Strategies:

Car Covers: Using a car cover can be a simple yet effective deterrent. It acts as an additional barrier, making it harder for squirrels to access the engine.

Electronic Devices: Motion-activated devices on the market can emit ultrasonic sounds, deterring squirrels from approaching. These sounds are inaudible to humans but can be bothersome to small critters.

Natural Predators: If feasible, allowing natural predators like cats to roam around your car parking area can deter squirrels. The scent of these predators can often keep squirrels at bay.

The Damage They Can Cause:

While the primary concern might be nesting, it’s essential to understand the potential damages squirrels can inflict:

  • Wire Damage: Squirrels can chew through car wires, leading to malfunctions in-car systems or even making the vehicle undrivable. This repair can be costly.
  • Ventilation Issues: Squirrels can sometimes enter a car’s ventilation system, leading to blockages and potential malfunctions.
  • Health Concerns: Squirrels, like all wild animals, can carry diseases. If left in and around the car, their droppings can pose health risks.

Assessing the Situation:

Look for footprints, droppings, or stored food items around the car’s engine area. These are clear signs of squirrel activity. Occasionally, if you listen closely, you can hear the scurrying or movement of a squirrel inside. 

If you’re unsure or believe the infestation is severe, consider getting a professional to inspect your car. They can provide a clear assessment and help with removal if necessary.

Expert Tip: Thwarting Squirrel Sabotage

From personal experience, squirrels have an uncanny attraction to the warmth and seclusion of a car engine. One winter, I discovered my car’s starting issues were due to these furry invaders chewing through my wires.

To counteract this, I combined a few techniques: parking in a well-lit area, using a peppermint oil spray (which they detest) around the perimeter of the car and under the hood, and placing mothballs in strategic locations (ensuring they were away from areas that get hot). 

Within a week, the squirrels moved on. Regular checks and prompt removal of any nesting materials, combined with these preventive measures, have kept my engine squirrel-free since.

Frequently Asked Question

Do ultrasonic squirrel repellents work for automobiles?

Yes, but their effectiveness can vary. It’s essential to ensure the device covers the vehicle’s radius and is from a reputable brand.

How can I repair chewed wires?

If squirrels have damaged the wires, consulting with a professional mechanic is best. DIY repairs might not be safe or long-lasting.

About The Author
Hi 👋, I’m Billy Thomas, a passionate wildlife biologist with over 10 years of experience. With my expertise in wildlife biology and as a proud owner of over 20 squirrels as pets, I aim to provide reliable information, fun facts, and insights into the world of squirrels.

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