You might be surprised by the number of customers who have asked me that very question in the 36 years I fixed cars. I would wager a guess of somewhere between 75 and 100.
It is not uncommon and there is no simple answer, as it’s very hard to throw out a reasonably accurate number without knowing the model of the car and seeing the extent of the damage.
Still, rodent damage to your car’s wiring might cost you anywhere from $75 to as much as $12K.
Let me assist you by sharing knowledge that you can apply to your particular situation and make an informed decision as to the next steps to take.
Some assumptions about repair costs can be made according to the year, make, and model of the car. The cost to repair damage to a latest BMW model will be a lot more than fixing a ’70s Chevy pickup.
The $75 would be a simple repair on the Chevy pickup, while the $12K repair could be the BMW that smoked 4 onboard computers. There would be absolutely no way to know they were burnt until after repairing the harness. That’s why it’s not possible to give an exact repair estimate upfront.
This article has two objectives:
- To help you gain enough knowledge and understanding to make a confident decision about getting the mouse-chewed wiring in your car fixed.
- Have a game plan to prevent it from happening again.
Table of Contents
Can You Fix the Damage Yourself?
If you are a mechanically inclined person, you may be thinking about fixing the problem yourself. While you can save money this way (possibly a lot), you could also make it end up costing more.
Things to Consider Before Attempting to DIY
Once again the year, make, and model of the car are very important. If the mouse chewed the wires in a ‘77 Pinto and you once put ignition points in your ‘69 Nova, go for it.
Late-model cars are complex. They have many onboard computers controlling multiple electronic systems. People who work on modern cars are no longer mechanics. They are trained technicians.
Leave modern cars to the pros. You may cause more damage than the rodents did.
All modern cars have electronics that can be damaged by the conditions created by rodent damage. Cars made in Europe (i.e. Volkswagen, BMW, Volvo) have extremely sensitive electronics that are easily damaged.
Unless you have extensive knowledge of the operation of electronic control circuits it is my recommendation to have the repairs performed by a certified technician.
If you decide to try the repairs on your own, here is a universal rule that pertains to electrical/electronic repairs. “Battery negative first and last!”
In other words, always disconnect the battery negative cable before you start repairs. Then when the repairs are done, reconnect the negative battery cable.
Does the Car Start and Drive?
Another thing to factor into the cost of repairs is the tow bill. If it still drives or you have roadside assistance, then it is no big deal, but if you do not, the cost to tow it to the shop can range from $150 to $500.
Will Insurance Cover Rodent Damage?
Most full coverage and comprehensive insurance policies have roadside assistance to pay for the tow and most likely cover rodent damage.
The majority of insurance companies require an estimated cost of repairs to process a claim. The diagnosis cost falls on the customer initially but is subtracted from the deductible if the claim is approved.
Average deductible ranges from $250 to $500.
Average diagnostic rates are $120 to $150 per hour.
Read your insurance policy or call your agent to find out before forking out-of-pocket money.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure!
I do not care much for anything cliche, but in this situation, I am going with a double cliche because it is what it is!
Any person who was aware that rodents, rats, mice, or whichever could very likely infiltrate your car, chew on the damn wiring harness, and cause it to not start, would try to prevent it. Wouldn’t they?
It is… what it is!
Education is not free, and your repair bill is proof of that. Let’s not let it go to waste.
How Do You Keep It from Happening Again?
Grab a pen and paper and write down, with as much detail as possible, the conditions when it happened the first time. Then ask yourself:
- Was it parked in its usual spot?
- If not, where was it parked?
- Was it parked near an open field or a park?
- Did it not get driven for an extended period? Overnight? Couple days? A week?
In my experience, environmental and/or geographical surroundings are what influence how often rodents make themself at home in your car. There are more rats near a refuse disposal site than there are on a beach.
Here is a real-life story to illustrate what I mean:
I was the manager of an automotive and equipment repair shop that was bordered by rice fields on three sides and a residential area on the other. Every year, after harvest, the rice fields were set on fire.
Without fail, for the next 4 to 6 weeks, I would see about 4 cars per week with rodent damage. All of them came from the residential area next to the shop. Where they lived got burnt down, so they moved into the cars.
One person from the residential area whose car suffered rodent damage two years in a row came in the next year to tell me he stashed unwrapped candy canes in every nook and cranny he could find in, under, and around his car.
At that point, he had not had a problem. I worked there for two more years and never saw him again. Decide for yourself but it seems to me that rats don’t like peppermint!